June 9, 2014
Remembering the Summer of 69 and the Dewatering of the American Falls
It was about mid-June 1969 that the U.S. Corp of Engineers undertook a project to find out what could be done to prevent further erosion of the American Falls. U.S. citizens were concerned, because of the multitude of rock falls, that the American Falls would become rapids instead of a falls.
It took a week or so to cofferdam the mouth of the Niagara River above the American Falls to stop the flow of water from going over this falls. It was easier because only 10 per cent of the water flowing down the Niagara River goes over this falls.
When the water stopped flowing some of the many things found on the river bed were the remains of a man, a woman and the carcass of a deer was found amongst the rocks of the talus below the falls.
With the riverbed dry engineering studies were undertaken until November of that year.
I remember this summer clearly. I was General Manager of the Sheraton Foxhead Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario and tourist operators expected the event would increase tourism. However, it had the opposite effect. Tourists stayed away thinking there was no falls to see. In fact, it was more spectacular because more water was allowed to flow over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
When all the studies were completed it was decided to let nature run its own course and no remedial work to stop the erosion was suggested.
On November 26th the cofferdam was removed at the flow over the American Falls returned to normal.