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.
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.
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.
As eager as everyone was to get the ball rolling on the project, there were also doubts crossing the minds of locals. They knew that it had to be done, but they were worried that without the main area attraction – the 100+ thousand gallons of rushing water – that the economy would take a nosedive.
But still, they decided to go ahead with the plan. After all, even if the local economy suffered temporarily during the process, it would all be worth it in the end. Not only would this project improve the aesthetics; it would also help protect and preserve the falls.
When the water stopped, an odd thing happened that no one was expecting. Sure, the visitor numbers initially slumped, but once everyone realized what they were missing out on, they picked right back up.
People were interested in seeing what the falls looked like sans water, so tourism numbers never dropped that dramatically. Plus, everything was set to be wrapped up in just a few months, so the concerns faded away fast.