The Year Niagara Falls Froze

Imagine living in the vicinity of Niagara Falls where you can always hear the roar of the falls. Every waking hour, the sound of the Niagara in all its glory and magnitude is always there.Then late in March when usually the ice that has covered Lake Erie all winter begins to break-up and the larger pieces are pushed by the wind and currents toward the eastern end of the Lake when tonight, on March 29th, 1848, the most eerie thing happened.

The powerful roar that is always there- stops. The silence now is terrifying. What does this mean? How can the strong, yet comforting sound of the powerful Niagara cease to exist?
Is this time standing still? Is it some kind of message from on high? It turned out that at that moment a perfect ice dam formed at the source of the Niagara River near Buffalo.


It turns out that a slow-moving , but strong storm system is passing through the Lake Erie basin.For several days leading up to March 29, strong easterly winds pushed huge blocks of ice back into the open lake waters. Then suddenly on this night of the 29th, the winds suddenly reversed direction! This very quickly forced the lake ice toward the neck of Lake Erie and the Niagara River entrance between Fort Erie and Buffalo.

The fury, the power that came together in this wind, current and waves! This combination of conditions jammed the ice blocks together in such a way right there and then and this incredibly thick dam of ice formed and the flow of water stopped. Water no longer flowed through the Niagara River toward Lake Ontario and the Niagara Falls.

What would those mid-nineteenth century residents think of such an event? Would they think of recalling world events of biblical proportions.

Eerie, frightening, chilling. Then the conditions changed. The wind shifted and warmed up on March 31st. The warm air reached the ice dam and breathed its warm breath on the ice so that once again the water flowed in the Niagara River, and the sound of the mighty Niagara resumed after 30 hours of silence.

The sound began upstream of the Falls, slowly at first, like the deep-toned growl of a vigilant watch dog. Then the low growl became a steady, louder wail. And then it came, this enormous wall of water, came rushing along the riverbed and over the Falls once again. How reassuring, how comforting, it must have been to hear the water of the great Niagara Falls once again.