Niagara Falls Set to Go Dry in 2019


It all depends on funding though. It seems every winter in the last few years, Niagara Falls is making national news. If it is not the “Frozen Falls”, it is now talk on shutting down the water flow of the Niagara River on the New York side. They call this de-watering the Falls. The Falls is very powerful and each year takes a damaging toll on the stone and steel bridges spanning the river.


GWGT is exploding in views because people are looking for information on closing the Falls. With all the national and local coverage, I am rather surprised not yet doing a post on this subject that viewers are finding their way here. The last post has many images of iced trees, but the Falls closing was the draw. Many went to the meeting on Wednesday to see the presentation. I was rather interested in the time frame and overall cost.

The Conference and Events Center Niagara Falls meeting was attended by a number of state and local officials. The public hearing focused on the reconstruction of the 115 year-old, three bridges spanning between the three land masses – Goat Island, Green Island and the U.S. mainland.



Cost is expected to be between $23 million to $34 million. With all those years of deterioration especially through hard winters, the current bridges had to be secured for visitors with a temporary structure overlaid on the existing bridges shown below.


Unfortunately, so much of the original stone bridges’ beauty has been lost with the addition of the temporary structures.


They have side support/safety rails almost as high as the height of many a person, plus they sit over the original bridge, so you no longer have the experience of a casual, old-fashioned stone-bridge walk. Below, the vehicular bridge takes you to both Goat Island and Three Sisters Islands.


The project will not start for over 32 months because that is the expectation to secure additional funding. The last dewatering effort at Niagara Falls in 1969 had two cofferdams  built for the Bridal Falls channel and the American Falls. The cofferdams diverted water during construction and made the Falls but a trickle. The engineers have to keep the stone of the river bed wet or else the stone will spall and crack. So by allowing some water to pass, they ensure the stone integrity. My husband saw the de-watering in 1969 when he was a child. He did think it was interesting to see.


A similar plan to the one in 1969 will be performed for the current plan over the course of two years. Two plans are up for approval, one would leave both the Bridal Falls and American Falls dry for the months of August to December. The second plan looks at nine months dry river bed during the months of April to December.

Honestly, the American side of the Falls has been a big construction site for years now and I highly doubt they will complete three bridges in the shortened 5 month time frame.


Officials will decide between a set of steel overhead arches, stone archways below, and a multi-girder span made primarily of steel. It was noted the State favors the overhead arch design, most probably for durability and strength. You can see from my construction images above, much of the aesthetics of the area has been hampered by all the construction fencing and machinery. Some of the areas are blockaded to visitors.

Maybe the de-watering of the Falls will bring tourists like some have said, but all the ongoing construction is not a pleasing sight. Usually I show only the pretty images, but this is the reality. Hopefully by 2019, all the current construction will be complete. Then they can start bridge repair.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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34 Responses to Niagara Falls Set to Go Dry in 2019

  1. Thanks for the update Donna; I have to admit I’ve been following all of this and have been fascinated by what has been happening. Hopefully this will be handled in a way to not totally inconvenience those living in the area.

  2. Maria F. says:

    I had no idea one could shut down the water flow of the Niagara River on the New York side, and this would dry them up? Is this de-watering the Falls? How interesting!

  3. swo8 says:

    I heard something about that, Donna on the news. They didn’t give all the details but you filled in a lot for me. It all makes sense now. Thanks for your post.

    • Actually, they have few details yet as it is still early in the process and funding is not fully secure. One of the details is that the Power Authority on our side depends on the energy generated, so they are deciding how that will work out.

      • swo8 says:

        I can imagine there are a lot of things to consider when they do this. Would you please keep us posted when you hear more, Donna.

  4. I thought about you, Donna, when I heard about the plan (sounds like many people did). It will be interesting. My husband said he remembers the 1969 event, too, though he lived in the Chicago area at the time.

  5. So much of our country is under construction. Your article was very informative and I had no clue of the story. I am agreeing with you that I bet the construction takes longer than anticipated. Thanks for sharing.

    • I just hope it does not hamper tourism. Niagara Falls, NY is a rather depressed area economically. The construction these past few years seems to have sent tourists to Canada more than usual. Just my opinion, not by statistics.

  6. germac4 says:

    I enjoyed reading about this story, the construction involved sounds unbelievable…anyway, I hope it will be done quickly for the sake of local residents.

    • When you consider the engineering involved with damming large rivers, building a cofferdam seems like a piece of cake for them. I suppose they could complete the project in the proposed timeframe, but more than the bridges will likely need attention. The circulation paths and roadway should be re-surfaced too.

  7. WOW – this was very interesting! I have never been any farther east than Indiana – would love to go farther, just no time right now. But this was the first I heard about the Falls? For some reason, I didn’t think they could be stopped – a natural thingy – thank you for all the great information on it! Maybe some day I will get lucky and get to see it!?!

    • It has been on CNN, NBC and other TV stations, but I can understand not knowing about it. Here we are surrounded by the news on it. Three public meetings so far. It did stop once by itself in the 1800’s due to an abundance of ice. They put the ice boom in and solved that problem. Now the power company controls the rate of flow. In summer, early morning, they increase the rate, and boy does that make the river fill up fast. I almost got stuck out on the rocks when they let the water go. I would have bobbed up and down the rapids. Very dangerous when that occurs. The fishermen know when to evacuate the rocks out in the river, and I just followed them.

  8. Well, sounds like the only thing we can do is hope that everything goes according to plan and that in the end the falls and surrounding area are much improved. And try not to think about how often things don’t go according to plan.

    • Nothing much goes according to plan here in NF, just the way it is. Nothing at all has improved in this city the entire time I have lived here. More and more businesses close. More and more people on public assistance. If my husband did not have his job, I would move to PA. We are very lucky the State is in charge of the Falls.

  9. debsgarden says:

    This was an eye opener to me. I had no idea, but then all man-made structures need maintenance. Hopefully, the end result will be worth the inconvenience. I wonder how much tourism will be affected. I know that with proper motivation (including extra money and bonuses), construction can proceed at amazing speed.

    • Nature needs maintenance too. The rock at the Falls spalls off though the years and builds up at the base. They will likely clean this up a bit when the Falls is stopped. I too question tourism. I seem to alone in this area as the media seems to think it will increase. I am sure at first it will, but if the project prolongs past what is contracted, then most will view from Canada I bet. I know you mentioned money and bonuses, but these are State contracts. Often when a time frame is not met by what is contracted, there is no bonus, there is a big penalty to pay by the general contractor. Their motivation is getting it done on time.

  10. Sounds like the time to ‘take the plunge’ (pun intended) is long overdue 😉 …what an undertaking!

    Not being a New Yorker, and having only visited the Falls once (drove both sides to compare the infamous views), I had no idea there was a place called “Goat Island”…I’m psyched to google that for sure!

    Like most of your regular readers, I thank you for such an informative and yet well-written/illustrated post.

    • From the point of the temporary structures, it is long overdue. I think tourists will be pleased if they can get some appearance of the original structures, but the original stone will either be demoed or repaired. I have the feeling from what was proposed, new bridged will be built. Google Goat Island. Sadly, goats were pastured there in winter, and I think from what i read, only one goat survived the winter, the rest starved. Thank you and you’re welcome. Much appreciated.

  11. Oh very interesting ! I feel stupid because I asked you that question in a previous post but I haven’t seen that post ! Oh well, I have all my answers now ! 🙂

    • No need, the stopping of the Falls will have new info as time goes forward. Right now, much is just preliminary, and when all officials involved get both funding and approval, dates and what is proposed will be finalized. I probably, if I can attend the public hearings, will be “reporting” the updates.

  12. I was thinking it would be interesting to see the falls down to a trickle….I rarely see these types of construction ever being completed in such a short time.

  13. I always learn so much. So that’s why those barriers are up on that pedestrian bridge! I too remember (vaguely) seeing Niagara Falls turned off.

  14. Brian Comeau says:

    I just learned something new. I had no idea. Glad we in Canada can help by taking some of the water for you. ☺

  15. Indie says:

    Wow, I am amazed that they think they could build that quickly as well! That is quite a job! Will it change the appearance of the Canadian Falls then, with more water flowing over it?

    • The electrical generating power plants control the flow, so I am not sure if it will look different. Good question. I was also wondering the environmental concerns. Big birding and fishing along the river, so I was thinking about those small islands and the shores too

  16. A.M.B. says:

    Wow. That’s fascinating! I hadn’t know this was a proposal or that it had been done in the past. It could definitely increase tourism, but there do seem to be genuine questions about whether they will be able to make all of the improvements in the proposed time frame. I wonder if the Falls would cease indefinitely (as the projects get delayed).

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