Friday 24 February 2012

Frozen Falls

On February 24, 1888, a local newspaper reported that 20,000 people had tobogganed on a natural ice bridge at Niagara Falls that day.  In fact, people littered the Niagara Gorge's frozen banks like ants on an anthill.  Tourists visited shanties on the ice where they purchased liquor, photographs or curiosities.  One winter, back in 1848, Niagara Falls residents woke up to silence, wondering what had happened to the roar of the falls:  the chute had frozen in mid-air, due to an ice jam on the river, turning it into a giant wall of icicles.  The chute would freeze in later winters as well including:  1902, 1909, 1911, 1936 , 1938 and 1949.  The ice bridge continued to be a source of entertainment for Niagara Falls tourists until 1912 when the ice bridge collapsed and some people fell into the river, resulting in three drowning deaths.  From that year on, crossing the ice bridge became illegal.  Not every year saw the formation of the ice bridge, but it was so thick in 1938 that it caused the collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge.  Some years authorities used dynamite to break up that ice bridge when it became too thick.  The last ice bridge formed in 1954.  Ten years later, authorities started putting an ice boom across the river at Lake Erie to prevent the formation of an ice bridge on the Niagara Gorge.

Photo of frozen Niagara Gorge circa 1902 courtesy

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