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Niagara Falls (waterfall, United States and Canada)

Niagara Falls, in the Niagara River, W N.Y. and S Ont., Canada; one of the most famous spectacles in North America. The falls are on the international line between the cities of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ont. Goat Island splits the cataract into the American Falls (167 ft/51 m high and 1,060 ft/323 m wide) and the Horseshoe, or Canadian, Falls (158 ft/48 m high and 2,600 ft/792 m wide). The governments of the United States and Canada control the appearance of the surrounding area, much of which has been included in parks since 1885; the falls are a major center of international tourism.

The earliest written description of the falls is that of Louis Hennepin (in Nouvelle Découverte, 1697), who was with the expedition of Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, the French explorer, in 1678. In the 19th cent., daredevils attempted to brave the falls in barrels, boats, and rubber balls. The great Blondin performed (1859) on a tightrope over the gorge below the falls, and Nik Wallenda crossed (2012) a tightrope over the falls' precipice. Historical and natural history material relating to the region is in the Niagara Falls Museum in the city of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Formation

The falls were formed c.10,000 years ago as the retreating glaciers exposed the Niagara escarpment, thus permitting the waters of Lake Erie to flow north, over the scarp, to Lake Ontario. The escarpment has been gradually eroded back toward Lake Erie, a process that has formed the Niagara Gorge (c.7 mi/11 km long); the Whirlpool Rapids and the Whirlpool are there. Horseshoe Falls is eroding upstream at a faster rate than the American Falls because of the greater volume of water passing over it. A great rock slide occurred (1954) at the American Falls and formed a huge talus slope at its base. Water was diverted from the American Falls for several months in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the bedrock and to remove some of the talus.

Hydroelectric Power

International agreements control the diversion of water for hydroelectric power; weirs divert part of the flow above the deeper Canadian Falls to supplement the flow in the shallower American Falls. Hydroelectric-power developments were authorized under the Niagara Diversion Treaty (1950), which stipulated a minimum flow to be reserved for the falls and the equal division of the remaining flow between the United States and Canada. In the United States the project was undertaken by the Power Authority of the State of New York (now New York Power Authority). Water is diverted from the river above the upper rapids into large underground conduits. It is then conveyed overland, dropping 314 ft (96 m) to a point below the lower rapids where, as it returns to the river, the water passes through turbines that power 13 generators of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant (now 2,525,000-kW capacity; opened 1961). Associated with the New York hydroelectric-power project is the construction in the area of new roads, bridges, and parks. In Canada the project was undertaken by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (now Ontario Power Generation). Water is diverted from the river above the falls and is fed into the Sir Adam Beck Generating Stations (now 1,926,000 kW; opened 1954) by way of a series of tunnels and canals.

Bibliography

See I. H. Tesmer, Colossal Cataract: The Geologic History of Niagara Falls (1981); E. McKinsey, Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime (1985); G. Strand, Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies (2008).

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Niagara Falls

NIAGARA FALLS

NIAGARA FALLS is a stunning 167-foot drop between Lakes Erie and Ontario, on the United States-Canada border. A major tourist attraction, it also generates huge amounts of hydroelectric energy. Composed of the American Falls and the Canadian, or Horseshoe, Falls, Niagara Falls obstructed early European navigation, and because Fort Niagara was extremely strategically significant, its portage road was precious to both Britain and France.

During the 1880s, a group of U.S. investment bankers formed the Niagara Falls Power Company and enlisted many eminent scientists and engineers for a hydroelectric project. By 1902 Niagara Falls power stations were producting about one-fifth of the total U.S. electrical energy. In the 1920s technological advances enabled the company to transmit power economically for hundreds of miles, in a large distribution network that established the pattern for twentieth-century electric power. Its abundant, inexpensive power also stimulated massive growth in such energy-intensive industries as the aluminum and carborundum industries. In 1961, after a U.S.-Canadian treaty increased the amount of water allowed for power generation, the Niagara Falls Power Company built a new, 1.95-million kilowatt plant. It was the largest single hydroelectric project in the Western Hemisphere up to that time.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berton, Pierre. Niagara: A History of the Falls. New York: Kodansha International, 1997.

———. A Picture Book of Niagara Falls. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1993.

Irwin, William. The New Niagara: Tourism, Technology, and the Landscape of Niagara Falls, 1776–1917. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.

McKinsey, Elizabeth R. Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Robert W.Bingham

James E.Brittain/d. b.

See alsoCanadian-American Waterways ; Electric Power and Light Industry ; Energy Industry ; Explorations and Expeditions: British ; Explorations and Expeditions: French ; Hydroelectric Power ; Tourism .

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Niagara Falls (city, United States)

Niagara Falls, city (1990 pop. 61,840), Niagara co., W N.Y., at the great falls of the Niagara River opposite Niagara Falls, Ont.; inc. 1892. Tourism is one of its oldest industries, and many state parks are in the area, but in recent years its Canadian sister city has surpassed it as a tourist destination. There is a gambling casino in the city. One of the world's first hydroelectric plants was built there; it was replaced betweeen 1963 and 1965 by a plant now capable of producing 2,525,000 kW. The city is also a port of entry. Several bridges span the river to Canada. Niagara Univ. is there. Historically a maker of abrasives, mechanical and electrochemical products, and paper and aluminum goods, the city saw its industrial base decline severely after World War II, and since the 1960s the population has fallen by nearly half. Settled by Native Americans, the site was occupied by the French in the 1680s, captured by the British in 1759, and settled by Americans in 1805. Lost to the British during the War of 1812, it was regained after the Treaty of Ghent in Dec., 1814.

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Niagara Falls (city, Canada)

Niagara Falls, city (1991 pop. 75,399), S Ont., Canada, on the Niagara River opposite Niagara Falls, N.Y. Formerly called Clifton, it is a port of entry, an important industrial city, and the home of Canadian factories for many well-known U.S. firms. Electric power supplied by the falls supports industries that manufacture chemicals, abrasives, silverware, machinery, sporting equipment, and paper products. The falls are also an international attraction that anchor a tourist industry that includes a casino, hotels, and various amusements. Between the city and the falls and along the gorge below the falls is Queen Victoria Park.

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Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls the waterfalls on the Niagara River, consisting of two principal parts separated by Goat Island: the Horseshoe Falls adjoining the west (Canadian) bank, which fall 47 m (158 ft), and the American Falls adjoining the east (American) bank, which fall 50 m (167 ft). They are a popular tourist venue, especially for honeymooners, and an attraction for various stunts.

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Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls Waterfalls on the Niagara River on the border of the USA (w New York) and Canada (se Ontario); divided into the Horseshoe, or Canadian, Falls, and the American Falls. The Canadian Falls are 48m (158ft) high and 792m (2600ft), wide; the American Falls are 51m (167ft) high and 305m (1000ft) wide.

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Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Heart-shaped bathtubs and romantic overlooks define the contemporary vision of the greatest waterfall of North America. Linked with romantic honeymooning, Niagara Falls has become a tourist mecca that happens to contain an awesome natural wonder. The wonder of the falls has attracted visitors to this site for hundreds of years; however, the onlookers' interest has been enhanced by a host of attractions. With their natural grandeur, the falls have impressed business developers looking for sources of power and exhibitionists looking for a wondrous thrill.

Many Americans refer to Niagara Falls as the first scenic wonder of North America. In fact, it attracted native people to the area for many years. Settlers converted the site into a primitive tourist destination, complete with dangerous catwalks leading out into the falls' mists. As the early republic strained to find ways of defining itself and impressing Europeans, many Americans of the early 1800s turned to natural wonders or oddities. Chief among such icons, Niagara Falls rapidly became one of the nation's first attractions.

As the European-Americans gazed at the crashing falls, some saw unrealized profit, and water-powered milling quickly took shape above the falls. The awesome force of the water offered entrepreneurs a bit of a free-for-all, as each pursued power generation. This avenue of progress continued to be developed in haphazard fashion throughout the nineteenth century. The tourist industry also turned more intrusive during the mid 1800s, leading to the haphazard construction of hotels and motels as well as roads and bridges to access them. Such developments so close to the nation's preeminent natural wonder spurred a new type of reaction among Americans, and it became one of the first focuses of American preservationists. While outraged tourists bypassed the industrialized Niagara for more pristine or peaceful resorts, socially conservative, highly cultured reformers came to Niagara's aid beginning in the 1870s. Led by Frederick Law Olmsted, the leader of American landscape architecture and planning, the preservationists sought to secure lands adjacent to the falls on both the American and Canadian sides. By 1887 the Niagara Preservation Movement had secured these lands, and New York established a state reservation at the site in 1885. Soon, the preservationists realized that they also needed to prohibit development upriver from the Falls; the state initially resisted. The "Free Niagara" movement continued through the early 1900s.

In tandem with its appeal as a majestic natural wonder, Niagara has consistently appealed to American culture's fascination with the bizarre. The feature films Niagara and Superman were partly filmed near the falls, and H. G. Wells was so impressed with the electrical dynamos in place after 1900 that he made the falls an important part of some of his science fiction. This became a fairly familiar characteristic of sci-fi stories, including Flash Gordon, which used the falls as the unique place on Earth from which to achieve interplanetary travel. Finally, a number of individuals have "shot," or ridden over, the falls since 1901, some successful, some not. The devices have ranged from barrels and balls to, more recently, a jet ski.

—Brian Black

Further Reading:

Irwin, William. The New Niagara. University Park, Penn State University Press, 1996.

McGreevy, Patrick V. Imagining Niagara. Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.

McKinsey, Elizabeth. Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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