Every second 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls. There are rumors the Falls run dry at night after the lights go off. Tourists often ask, “What happens to Niagara Falls at night? Does someone turn it off?” No, all that the water does not stop. However, there are some times when the water flow changes. The American Falls did run close to dry in the summer of 1969. The Falls were also reduced to a small trickle of water in the spring of 1848. These historic events may be where the rumors started.
Power Plant Impacts
Water levels do change almost nightly. Water intakes along the Niagara River in both New York State in the USA and Ontario in Canada, draw a portion of the water from the river before it can go over the Falls. The water diverted into the intakes is diverted to go through power plants, producing electric energy. Over 4 million kilowatts of electricity can be produced by the Falls.
The power authorities can adjust the amount of water they draw and it is not uncommon to draw more water overnight than during the day. The overall water level of the Upper Niagara River often drops at night due to this process. So while the Falls don’t stop flowing, there is technically less water going over Niagara Falls at night and more going through the power plant.
If you’d like to learn more about hydroelectric power generated from the Niagara River, spend an afternoon touring the Niagara Power Vista.
Shutting Off Niagara Falls in 1969
In 1969, man walked on the moon, Sesame Street aired their first season, the Beatles played their last performance together, an event named Woodstock happened and Niagara Falls ran dry.
The United States stopped almost all water from going over the American Falls in New York during the summer of 1969. A dam diverted the water toward the Horseshoe Falls in Canada, allowing geologists to study the erosion happening. For roughly six months the American Falls were practically shut off.
1848 Ice Jams Divert Water
Water flows into the Niagara River from Lake Erie. Each spring, the ice from Lake Erie travels down the Niagara. In March of 1848, huge ice flows created a natural dam, reducing the water at Niagara Falls to a trickle for a short time.
This natural occurrence is unlikely to ever happen again, since the US Army Corp of Engineers now puts an ice Boom in the water every winter, to control the flow of the ice.
More about the Falls
No matter when you go to see Niagara Falls, there will be plenty of water flowing. Night is a great time to explore the American, Horseshoe and Bridal Veil Falls. For more information on what you can see at night, visit our page about viewing at night.