Lonely Planet Writer

New York to switch off Niagara Falls for essential maintenance work

One of the USA’s great tourist attractions – Niagara Falls – will soon go dry as the state of New York plans to turn off the great water feature so that essential work can be carried out.

The American Falls on the US side of Niagara Falls
The American Falls on the US side of Niagara Falls Image by Mike Kalasnik / CC BY 2.0

It’s not the first time this ‘dewatering’ action has been undertaken as the American Falls section was dammed 47 years ago for a five-month period so that experts could study the rate of erosion on its bedrock.

TheCanadian 'Horseshoe' Falls in Niagara Falls
The Canadian ‘Horseshoe’ Falls in Niagara Falls won’t be affected by  the ‘dewatering’ process Image by AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Lynett

Back in 1969, the Horseshow Falls area, which is the much larger section mostly in Canada, wasn’t affected and it won’t be this time either.

The damming then led to a huge upshot in tourist visits as they understood it to be a once in a lifetime event. However, sometime soon the Falls on the US side will go dry again.

Sitting on the western edge of New York, the Falls are right on the Canadian border and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation engineers want to use the their next dewatering period to scrap a pair of 115-year -old bridges that have reach or surpassed their expected live span.

These were built above the American Falls across the Niagara Rivers and were put there to carry trolleys, cars and pedestrians between the town of Niagara Falls and one of the prime viewing spot at Goat Island.

Just over a decade ago, an examination of the structures showed that restoration was not feasible and immediately temporary truss bridges were placed on top of the stone-clad spans used by pedestrians. The structures limit the Falls visibility and are considered eyesores.

The State has a few options – it could demolish the old bridges and put in foundations for new ones if it dried up the Fall for five months and then finished off the work at the upper end after the water began flowing again.

Alternatively, it could extend the dewatering time to nine months and do all the building within that time period.

Parks spokesperson, Angela Berti, says it won’t happen “tomorrow”, adding that it will be at least three years before anything happens and possibly “five, six or seven.”