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Niagara Falls
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Niagara Falls

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Niagara Falls is a small group of massive waterfalls located on the Niagara River in eastern North America, on the border between the United States and Canada. It is shared between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario, respectively.

Table of contents
1 Waterfalls
2 Other facts
3 Related topics
4 External links

Waterfalls

The name "Niagara" is said by some to originate from an Iroquois word which can be interpreted as "Thunder of Waters". Niagara Falls was brought to the world's attention in the 17th century by the explorer Father Louis Hennepin, who also discovered the Saint Anthony Falls in Minnesota.

The name refers to three separate waterfalls: the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls (known in Canada as the Canadian Falls). While not exceptionally high, Niagara Falls is very wide, and is the most voluminous waterfall in North America (meaning the largest volume of water falls over it).

The Niagara River drains four of the North American Great Lakes into the lowest Great Lake, Lake Ontario. The lakes and the Niagara river are effects of the last continental ice sheet, an enormous glacier that crept across the area from eastern Canada. The ice, which could be envisioned as a mile-high bulldozer, ground up rocks and soil, moved them around, deepened some river channels to make lakes, and dammed others with debris, forcing these rivers to make new channels. After the ice melted back, drainage from the upper Great Lakes became the present Niagara River and cut a valley. When the river encountered an erosion-resistant layer of rock, known as the Lockport dolomite, it eroded instead the softer shales underneath it. Periodically, the resulting shelf of harder rock broke off and fell, forming a waterfall.

The original waterfall was near the site of present-day Lewiston, New York, but the current waterfalls actually have retreated several miles southward by erosion of the crest of the falls. Ultimately the falls will retreat back far enough to drain most of Lake Erie, the bottom of which is mostly higher than the bottom of the falls. Engineers are working to reduce the rate of erosion to retard this event as long as possible.

The Falls drop about 170 feet, although the American Falls have a clear drop of only 70 feet before reaching a jumble of fallen rocks at their base. The American Falls are 1060 feet wide and the Canadian Falls are about 2600 feet wide. There is nighttime illumination of both falls from Canada. The scenic view attracts millions of visitors, especially in the summertime.

A portion (50% to 75%) of the river's flow is diverted from the visible waterfall to hydroelectric turbines that supply power to nearby areas of the United States and Canada.

Other facts

Ships go around Niagara Falls by means of the Welland Canal (see Saint Lawrence Seaway).

A cable car from the Canadian side, built in 1916, crosses over the whirlpool. It is known as the Spanish Aerocar because it was designed by Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres y Quevedo.

The area immediately around the falls includes the cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York. On the Canadian side the Niagara Parks Commission oversees the preservation of the Falls' natural heritage.

An upstream ice jam stopped almost all water flow over Niagara Falls on March 29, 1848.

On January 2, 1929 Canada and the United States reached an agreement on an action plan to preserve the Falls.

There is a memorial of Nikola Tesla at Niagara Falls. Tesla was the first to harness the falls into electrical energy.

The Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Buffalo, New York was named after the waterfall.

In October 1829 Sam Patch, who called himself The Yankee Leaper jumped over the Horseshoe Falls and became the first known person to survive the plunge. Thereby he began a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the falls and survive. Many have built various contraptions to protect themselves (ie. "going over the falls in a barrel") and some have survived. Others have drowned, and some have been torn limb from limb. Anyone who survives the stunt will then face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal to attempt to go over the falls.

Related topics

External links