Photograph courtesy Niagara Falls Ontario Public Library
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The bare bones of Niagara Falls were first exposed in 1969.

Photograph courtesy Niagara Falls Ontario Public Library

Niagara Falls May Be Turned Off Briefly—It Would Look Like This

A proposal would temporarily reroute water away from the American Falls, a move that was also made a generation ago.

The torrent of water at the world-famous Niagara Falls may soon slow to a trickle—at least for a short time—if a proposal from the New York state parks department goes through. But it wouldn't be the first time the falls were dewatered.

The parks department wants to temporarily reroute water from the American side of the falls sometime over the next two to three years while crews replace two 115-year-old stone bridges. The plans will be discussed at a public meeting Wednesday.

The American falls were also dried from June to November in 1969, so the U.S. Army Corps of engineers could study how the falls were eroding. At the time, the 60,000 gallon-per second flow was diverted to Horseshoe Falls and the Robert Moses generating plant upriver.  

For those few months, the water-free falls were a public sensation.

"You want to see what’s underneath, to see its skeleton,” retired Niagara Falls city historian Michelle Kratts told the Buffalo News.

That curiosity is what makes the vintage picture above, from 1969, so compelling. Given heavy erosion from the falls, the scene might look different today.

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