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Niagara Falls Melting Ice Expected To Bring Spectacular Water Rushing Over Falls Spring 2014

Sources indicate that the frozen Niagara Falls is likely to bring spectacular rushes of water for visitors as the ice thaws during the Spring of 2014.  This should make for spectacular sights for Niagara Falls visitors in 2014.

Niagara Falls, New York

Niagara Falls is one of most popular attractions in New York and around the world. The majestic power of immense volumes of water spilling over the falls and plunging to the rocks and river below is an awesome physical and visual experience, which is rarely matched elsewhere.

Niagara is far from the highest waterfall in the world, or even in New York. However, the rush of over 6 million cubic feet of water per minute, approaching the cascade at about 25 miles per hour, and plunging 70 to 190 feet across a distance of about 3000 feet, make it one of the natural wonders of the world. The varied patterns of flow across the wall of the waters’ decent easily capture your attention, and hold you almost hypnotized at times. Whether viewing from the side, the river below, or behind the falls, the experience of Niagara Falls is a powerful one, indeed.

The earliest report of Niagara Falls by Europeans (1604) comes from Samuel de Champlain on his first voyage to the New World in 1603. He traveled only as far as modern-day Montreal, but gathered information on features further upriver from Native Americans. On Niagara Falls he wrote “That there is a fall about a league wide, where a very large mass of water falls into said lake…” (translated from French; from Mason, 1921, Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls).

The Geological Story—Basics
What you see today is not what Niagara Falls was in the past, or will be in the future. During the peak of the last great glaciation, the area of Niagara Falls was covered by over a mile’s thickness of glacial ice, which blanketed the region to southern New York, northern Pennsylvania and northern Ohio. As the ice retreated from the area around 16,000 years ago, waters draining the newly gouged out Great Lakes searched along a long escarpment extending through western New York to southern Ontario and beyond, for a low place to flow over.

Approximately 12,000 years ago water found a single low pathway through the “Niagara Escarpment”, and began to carve out a channel—the Niagara River. At that time, however, “Niagara Falls” was about seven miles downstream— Lewiston, NY and Queenston, Ontario. Over the last 12,000 years erosion of the resistant rocks that cap Niagara has allowed the Falls to migrate about 7 miles upstream, and form the high-walled Niagara Gorge along it’s former path.

Even today, Niagara Falls is estimated to be migrating upstream, on the order of one foot per year. At current rates of erosion and migration, the falls may reach softer, more easily erodible rocks (including shale and rock salt) upstream in about 15,000 years, leading to the end of a major waterfall along the Niagara River. And by some estimates, the river will erode back to Lake Erie in roughly 50,000 years, and after cutting through a second escarpment of resistant rocks (the Onondaga Limestone), it will erode through soft shales, and begin to very slowly drain Lake Erie.

The rocks that are seen in the falls were deposited in a shallow sea that covered much of the eastern U.S. and adjacent Canada between about 440 and 425 million years ago (middle part of the Silurian geologic period). Slightly older rocks, visible downstream through the Niagara Gorge, were deposited along a coastal area, sometimes below sea level, and sometimes on land. These sedimentary rocks, such as limestone, shale, sandstone and dolostone, are seen as distinct layers in the falls and along the gorge. Some of the rock layers, such as the soft, easily eroded Rochester Shale below the cap of Niagara Falls, contain a great diversity of marine fossils, such as brachiopods, trilobites, corals and crinoids.

The Geological Story—In Greater Depth
The Niagara Escarpment is a prominent cliff-forming escarpment that extends from western New York into southern Ontario, northward to the upper peninsula of Michigan, and then bends downward into eastern Wisconsin and Illinois. The escarpment is capped by relatively hard, resistant rocks of the Silurian-age Lockport Group (chiefly dolostones and limestones), which are underlain by less resistant rocks (shales and limestones, like the fossiliferous Rochester Shale).

The rocks visible at Niagara Falls were deposited in a shallow seaway that covered much of the eastern U.S. during the Silurian Period. Older Silurian rocks below the river level were variously deposited in shallow seas to lowlands. At the bottom of the river channel, even older red shales and sandstones of the Ordovician Period (Queenston Formation) were deposited on land, during a major fall in global sea level. An erosion surface, with a few million years of time missing, occurs at the contact of the Ordovician and Silurian rocks.

The erosional retreat of the falls upstream is slower today than in the past, largely due to withdrawal of waters from the Niagara River for hydro-electric power generation. Retreat for the last 500+ years was between three to five feet per year; the rate now is estimated to be about one foot per year. Climate change models predict drier conditions in the Great Lakes watershed in the future, potentially slowing the rate of erosion and retreat of Niagara Falls.

Acknowledgements:
Thanks to John Rozell and Angela Berti of NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Craig Williams (historian, NY State Museum), and W. Dickerson, for additional images.

Related Links:
There are many websites with general info about Niagara Falls. Here are links to some that focus on its geolog:

Niagara Falls Facts and Figures, from the Niagara Park Commission, Government of the Province of Ontario, Canada
http://www.niagaraparks.com/media/geology-facts-figures.html

Origins of Niagara
 from niagarafrontier.com:
http://www.niagarafrontier.com/origins.html

Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niagara_Falls

Niagara Falls geology fieldtrip article, from the 2005 Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium:http://www.geog.buffalo.edu/~rensch/binghamton/BGS%202005%20Field%20Guide%20final.pdf
Free Download of the old New York State Museum Bulletin on Niagara Falls: Grabau, A.W., 1901, Geology and Paleontology of Niagara Falls and Vicinity. New York State Museum Bulletin #45, 284 pages. (Note: Some interpretations and names of rock units and fossils have been revised since 1901, but Grabau’s observations and other information are still valid and insightful) http://nysl.nysed.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/?ps=YTcPAQ6AtK/NYSL/278440094/523/83119

A more modern perspective on the geology of Niagara Falls is found in Colossal Cataract:The Geologic History of Niagara Falls, by I.H. Tesmer and J.C. Bastedo (1981, State University of New York Press, Albany, 219 p.). A briefer geological overview of the post-glacial and Paleozoic history of Niagara Falls and Niagara Gorge can be found in C.E. Brett and P.E. Calkin (1987, Niagara Falls and Gorge, New York-Ontario. Geological Society of America, Denver, Centennial Field Guide, p. 97-105).

 

Originally posted 2014-02-11 12:53:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Niagara Falls: Celebrating 125 years of Power, Romance and Daredevilry

Niagara Falls: Celebrating 125 years of Power, Romance and Daredevilry

By Bernadette LaManna

Recently, we marked the culmination of the 125-year anniversary of Niagara Falls State Park. Although a nip of winter chill now accompanies our celebration, mist from the thundering falls freezes on every twig, branch and lightpost, creating a dazzling display of glistening light. And no matter the weather, visitors will see there is much to observe and do in Niagara Falls, often for free or only a nominal fee.

A view of American and Horseshoe Falls
Overlooking the American Falls with
Horseshoe Falls in the background.
(Photo: Neil Satterly)

The Niagara Falls are the most powerful waterfalls in North America. Wider than they are high, the falls’ water volume peaks in late spring or early summer, and although they are an important source of hydroelectric power, they are probably best known for their beauty. But if it hadn’t been for the efforts of a few concerned citizens, the beauty of this natural wonder may have been lost to the public forever.

In the early nineteenth century, businessmen sought to take advantage of the tremendous power of Niagara Falls. They built factories and mills along the Niagara River, with the waste products from these facilities dumped directly into the river. As industry began to rapidly increase, the natural beauty of the area suffered and became mostly inaccessible to the general public.

Alarmed by the changes going on, a small group of people founded the Free Niagara movement in the late 1860s, focusing on preserving the falls and their environs. Led by artist Frederic Edwin Church, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Henry Hobson Richardson, Free Niagara saved the falls from being almost exclusively used for industrial and commercial purposes. However, it took nearly two decades before their efforts resulted in legislation that in 1885 created the Niagara Reservation, New York’s first state park, now known as Niagara Falls State Park.

Two tightrope walkers cross Niagara falls
In the early 1900s daredevils began
performing stunts at the falls.

Beginning in October 1901, daredevils-the first of whom was 63-year-old Annie Edson Taylor-have used various devices (or nothing at all!) in which to plunge down Niagara Falls. Some died in the attempt, but a surprising number survived, many with relatively minor injuries. Eventually, those who performed such stunts “without permission” and survived were often heavily fined.

Other daredevils walked across tightropes anchored on either side above the falls. Some of them were blindfolded, performed acrobatics, pushed a wheelbarrow across, balanced on a chair, and, in one case, even carried another man on his shoulders. A museum in town is devoted to these “stunters,” and the graves of many of them, including Mrs. Taylor’s, can be found at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, NY.

Even though Niagara Falls is known as the “honeymoon capital of the world,” how it became such a popular site for all things romantic isn’t exactly clear. Some suggest the effect of positive ions spraying out of the mist from the falls is responsible. Although numerous traditional venues are available, couples who want to have a unique wedding experience can even get married on a helicopter as it flies above the falls.

colored illumination of American Falls
From November through early January,
colored spotlights alternately illuminate the
American Falls (pictured here) and the
Horseshoe Falls. (Photo: Carl Heilman II)

Every night from November through early January, white and colored spotlights alternately illuminate the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. This feature might be one reason why so many are drawn to the falls, particularly for vacations or special occasions.

The Prospect Point Observation Tower is located within Niagara Falls State Park and provides spectacular views of the American Falls and the torrents below. For an even closer (and wetter) look, visitors can take an elevator to the base of the gorge and then climb the stairs to the Crow’s Nest, an observation deck. Weather permitting, the tower is open year-round, and admission is free from November until April.

More great sightseeing can be enjoyed along the Niagara Gorge Trail System, which extends from Niagara Falls, NY north to Lewiston, NY, a distance of about 14.5 miles. Guided tours are available.

A path from Horseshoe Falls connects to the Upper Great Gorge Trail, leading in turn to Whirlpool Rapids. Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole State Parks can be reached by car. However, visitors who choose to travel on foot should dress appropriately and be prepared for rugged and steep trails. The Robert Moses Parkway Trail is a year-round, multi-use, recreational trail. Three miles long, it can be accessed from the Discovery Center and Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole State Parks.

Fireworks and colored lights at Niagara Falls at night
Photo: John Rozell/OPRHP

Instead of hiking for miles, those who prefer to get their exercise and fresh air in smaller doses can visit some of the dozens of historic structures in and around Niagara Falls that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These range from homes, schools and churches to an armory, a hotel and a post office, many of which were constructed before the Civil War.

The Niagara Falls Visitor Center is open year-round and offers interpretive displays and exhibits, maps and information, a gift shop and eateries. It also houses the Adventure Theater. Admission to the center itself is free. During warm weather, the 1.5 acres of floral gardens outside the center depict the Great Lakes region above the falls with grassy areas shaped like lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron and Erie. In addition, a walkway follows the course of the Niagara River.

Knowledgeable guides share the history of the park on a comfortable, half-hour scenic trolley ride, during which visitors can get off at one or more of the six stops along the three-mile route. Although the trolleys have a vintage look, they run on natural gas and are prominent in Niagara Falls’ “Green Park Project,” which received the 2006 Clean Air Excellence Award.

A poster celebrating Niagara Falls State Park's 125th anniversary

The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center showcases the natural and local history of Niagara Falls and the surrounding area. Visitors can enjoy interactive displays, take a virtual elevator trip into the gorge, experience 12,000 years of the Niagara River in the 180° multi-screen theater, or climb a 26-foot rock wall that resembles the walls of the gorge, complete with fossils and geological formations.

In December and early January, a variety of traditional holiday-related activities and events are scheduled in Niagara Falls and the surrounding area. In addition, the Charles Rand Penney Collection of prints of Niagara Falls will be on display at the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University. This collection is the largest of its kind in the world and includes the earliest known painting of the falls-Father Louis Hennepin’s “Chute d’eau de Niagara” (1698). Images throughout the collection reflect the historic and cultural changes that have occurred in Niagara Falls since the seventeenth century and illustrate the city’s significance to American history.

So if you’re looking for something to do this winter, visit Niagara Falls and join in the park’s celebration. With a variety of historical and cultural entertainment, there’s plenty to do and see.
Bernadette LaManna is a contributing editor to Conservationist.

Originally posted 2014-02-11 12:23:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Magnificent Niagara Falls Painting By Thomas Cole Featured At Museum

Photo -- See Caption Below
Niagara Falls
c 1830
By Thomas Cole

This view of Niagara exemplifies the story of art and conservation as told to visitors at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. It introduces the Hudson River School and the work of Cole, the school’s founder. It provides a rich opportunity to discuss great natural landmarks, and the role of art in bringing popular attention to America’s wilderness. Niagara was already a thoroughly commercialized tourist destination when Cole idealized its unspoiled wildness in this painting, attributed to about 1829-30.

Frederick and Julia Billings purchased this painting of Niagara, along with two small Arcadian studies by Cole, on the recommendation of the artist Frederic Church, who was acting as broker for Cole’s estate. In 1879 Church wrote to Frederick Billings, “I have selected three or four of the most attractive of the little pictures by Thomas Cole which the family will part with – to be sent to my studio in New York – for your inspection.” Two months later he writes again to acknowledge Julia Billings’ letter, “relative to the three Coles,” with details of their delivery and care.

Oil, canvas. 48×62 cm
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 1770

Originally posted 2014-02-11 12:27:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Latest Niagara Falls Freeze Mirrors Amazing Ice Jam of 1848

Visitors Look At Niagara Falls in 1848 After The Big Freeze

Visitors Look At Niagara Falls in 1848 After The Big Freeze


An enormous ice dam formed at the source of the Niagara River on the eastern shore of Lake Erie on March 29, 1848. Just after midnight, the thunderous sound of water surging over the great falls at Niagara came to a halt as the flow of water became severely restricted due to the ice jam. The eerie silence persisted throughout the day and into the next evening until the waters of Lake Erie broke through the blockage and resumed their course down the river and over the falls.

Niagara Falls, General View from Hennepin Point, Winter.
A view of Niagara Falls in the winter of 1914


Ice Dam at Niagara’s Source
March 29, 1848 

Just after midnight on March 29, 1848, the only thing that was falling over Niagara Falls was an eerie silence. An enormous ice dam at the source of the Niagara River blocked the water. However, by the next evening, the river broke through the ice, and the water once again continued its thunderous tumble over the falls. 

Originally posted 2014-02-11 13:04:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Amazing Niagara Falls Photo: Helicopter Pulls Boat From Brink Of Niagara Falls

New York Army National Guard Aviators Retrieve Boat from Brink of Niagara Falls
By Lt. Benjamin Postle, Company B 3rd Battalion 126th Aviation

New York Army National Guard Aviators Retrieve Boat from Brink of Niagara Falls

Photo Credit: Lt. Benjamin Postle, Company B 3rd Battalion 126th Aviation
A New York Army National Guard CH-47 Chinnok helicopter based at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rochester, N.Y., hoists a New York State Park Police boat out of the Niagara River June 19, 2011. The Chinook assigned to Det. 1 Co. B. 3rd Battalion 126th Aviation and commanded by Capt. Eric Fritz, retrieved the boat after its crew was forced to abandon it just above the falls.

Originally posted 2014-02-11 12:30:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter