Undoubtedly, Niagara Falls is one of the greatest wonders of nature. In some circles there is a concern among environmentalists about the rate of erosion of the falls located across Canada and the USA. However, the rate of erosion has slowed over the past fifty years.
Erosion that occurred in the past has led to the present-day location of the falls with the Horseshoe Falls in Canada and the American and Bridal Veil Falls in the USA. Historically, the rate of erosion of the falls has been around 3 feet per year. During the last 12,300 years, it has eroded 11.4 kms. The Niagara Falls has retreated from Lake Ontario towards Lake Erie in the last 200 years at a yearly rate of 5 feet. However, since 1942, the rate of erosion has reduced. Due to remedial efforts, the current erosion rate has come down to about 1 foot per year.
Causes of Niagara Falls Erosion
- As a result of the rush and flow of water, weak pieces of rock are broken and carried away.
- Due to the cold weather in this part of the world, the constant freezing and thawing of the rocks lead to breakage.
- Rock falls which happen on and off weaken rock layers.
- Minerals which strengthen the rocks are also washed away when water lashes against the fissures in the rocks.
Around 11,000 years ago, the location of the Niagara Falls lay between present-day Queenston, Ontario and Lewiston, New York. Since then, the falls have retreated southward due to erosion leading to its present location. One of the reasons for the decline in the rate of erosion today is due to its current location.
Reasons for Reduced Erosion
- The water currently flows over limestone cap rock which is far more resistant to erosion than other rocks. Many years into the future, when the falls will reach a softer layer of rock, the rate of erosion will increase once again.
- The rate of water-flow down the falls has decreased due to the development of hydroelectric generation plants. These have been created through water diversion along the Niagara River’s shoreline. Reduced water flow has led to slower erosion.
- Engineers are also working on a regular basis to reduce the rate of erosion through various remedial measures like repairing faults and constructing underwater weirs.
The Future of Niagara Falls
The rate of erosion is expected to come down even further due to environmental efforts. Some estimates suggest that it could be reduced to only 1 foot in 10 years. However, one can never predict the future and climate change will play a key role in deciding the future of the falls. A major rock fall too could alter the erosion of the falls. There are some scientists who speculate that the American Falls could dry up in 2000 years even though it has a slow rate of erosion. All things considered, even at the reduced rate of erosion, the Niagara Falls may no longer exist in around 50,000 years from now.
In short, Niagara Falls won't be eroding away any time soon. See this phenomenon in all of it's natural splendour by booking a visit to Niagara Falls today.
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