The Canadian winter is famously intense, and the falls aren’t impervious to the freezing conditions that can occasionally make their way to Niagara Falls. The outward flow of water over the falls can, very occasionally, be brought to a frozen standstill.
The Niagara River often frosts to some degree, even freezing over to the point where a person can walk on the ice – except that it’s unstable and dangerous, and walking on this ice is strictly prohibited.
How Water Continues to Flow
Despite this, the water still flows despite any ice build-up, regardless of the intensity of winter. This is partly due to human engineering, with a long steel ice boom fashioned to help catch icebergs, and ice cutters working to keep the ice shelves from obstructing too much water. The hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls means that human ingenuity is always in place to ensure the plant always has a flow of water to rely on.
Previous disruptions to the flow of water of the falls due to the freezing conditions have been more dramatic. In 1848, the source of the Niagara River at Lake Erie was blocked off by the ice shelves, completely cutting off water to Niagara to the point where curious investigators could walk along the bottom of the riverbed. The waterfalls flowed as usual once the ice shelves were finally broken down by the pressure of water seeking to escape the lake.
Niagara Falls Can Freeze Entirely
It’s only on rare occasions that the falls successfully freeze over entirely. January 2015 saw record-breaking cold fronts that brought much of the water flow to a standstill. Canadian climber Will Gadd took the opportunity to become the first person to climb the hazardous frozen façade of Niagara Falls.
The sight of the frozen falls is rare and a unique beauty to behold. Steam and mist may rise from the façade, frozen into smooth mounds of ice and ice bridges from the massive flow of water. It may be hazardous to approach – or climb – but it’s a visual spectacle that should be appreciated on the rare occasions it occurs..
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