Today marks the 168th anniversary of the day that Niagara Falls actually stopped flowing. The block lasted approximately 30 hours and (daring) people were able to go down into the bed to retrieve long-lost personal items – and just to be there. The unprecedented total blockage of the water flow on March 29, 1848 was apparently caused by ice flows from Lake Erie that had been pushed by the wind into the river channel where they created a temporary dam that completely stopped the flow of water until the forces of nature changed course and the pressure of the backed up water flow broke free and apparently sent the water quite literally crashing back over the falls.
In 1897, when the first hydroelectric plant was opened, at the falls, Nicholas Tesla remarked:
“We have many a monument of past ages; we have the palaces and pyramids, the temples of the Greek and the cathedrals of Christendom. In them is exemplified the power of men, the greatness of nations, the love of art and religious devotion. But the monument at Niagara has something of its own, more in accord with our present thoughts and tendencies. It is a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace. It signifies the subjugation of natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering”
And yet, less than 50 years earlier, nature may have demonstrated, at the same spot, why man may never be able to fully subjugate it.
Image of an ice bridge at the falls sometime in the 1890’s courtesy of http://www.niagaraparks.com/about-niagara-falls/niagara-falls-stopped.html