The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara was the first one to be sculpted to give it a better appearance, at the request of citizens and those who oversaw everything. In the late 1950’s, cofferdams had been erected to dry out the area so everything could be chiseled and contoured.
This resulted in the Horseshoe Falls area being the most desirable viewing spot in all of Niagara. And because of that, the citizens of Niagara Falls, New York, decided that it was time their side get a makeover, too. And thus, they began the 1969 American Falls projects.
After the 30-hour debacle in March of 1848, engineers knew they had to spring into action to prevent anything like that from happening again. Now, to stop ice from blocking the flow, yearly precautions are taken. A three-kilometer ice boom is installed where the mouth of The Niagara River meets Lake Erie.
22 steel pontoons work together to control the amount of ice that makes it into the river. But 1848 wouldn’t be the last time the water would stop falling. Only the next time, it was man who made it happen.
Debris at the base of The American Falls was starting to concern everyone. So, in 1969, the U.S Army decided to intervene. The Army Corp of Engineers started studying what measures they could take, if any, to remove the blockage.
But before anything could be done, the International Joint Commission had to be consulted. After all, this wasn’t just the U.S involved, since the falls are in Canada, as well.
To find out exactly what it was that was causing the issues, researchers tried to figure out how they would restore the falls to their natural beauty. The solution? The American Falls were completely shut off from June to December of 69’. There were about 27,000 tons of rock dumped upstream, which created a cofferdam that ran from the mainland all the way to Goat Island.
Once the rock bed was exposed, researchers could begin looking underneath it all. And when they did – they found some things that shocked them.
No one knew exactly what they were going to find when they looked in the underbelly of the Niagara Falls. But one thing is for sure – no one could have expected to find what they saw when that water finally stopped rushing. The image was one that shocked Americans and Canadians alike – and they knew that something had to be done.
Among some of the things they found in all of that rock debris: coins that humans had tossed into the falls – and some darker discoveries.