The Year Niagara Falls Froze

Over the years the statement “The Year Niagara Falls Froze” has been termed an urban legend. With no actual proof and a few pictures that have been disproved by scientists there is really nothing to prove that the freezing of the falls actually did take place not once but twice.

In 1848 and again in 1911. While we all know that rapidly flowing water does not freeze the term froze takes on a whole new meaning here.

I’ll share the stories with you and you can decide for yourself if it is an actual true account that oddly occurred or if like most believe it is nothing more than an urban legend passed down from one generation to another.


March 29, 1948, while this event has more “accurate” information of what did occur than the 1911 event it is still hard to prove. What we have is one very old photo which can be viewed at the site listed below.

The falls did indeed stop flowing for an estimated 30 hours, however it was not because they were frozen as some believe but because a large piece of ice from the Lake Erie made it’s way to the falls and jammed the water flow. Causing portions of the upper surface of water to partially freeze, while the water underneath was still flowing at its normal rate of speed.

This event did cause the mills to shut down being that they were powered by the water flow. When the temperatures began to raise the ice jam became dislodged and the surface layer of ice on the falls melted quickly with the help of the sudden rush of water flow again.

I suppose taking into consideration the knowledge that we have today was not available in 1848, so it’s easy enough to understand how the people would be convinced that the falls actually had frozen.


There is actual more evidence that the falls froze on the American side in 1911 than there is in 1948, first would the photo and the use of slightly more modern technology but again the falls did not completely freeze as the newspaper articles and websites would like us to believe.

The ice bridge was a popular spot for tourists and residents alike this area did freeze and people were able to walk across it until February 4, 1912 when it broke and three people fell to their death.

On a few other occasions in 1932 and 1936 the same reports of the falls freezing again surfaced and again in 1996 when the water on the American side of the falls was shut off.

While we know that it is not possible for the falls to completely freeze we also understand that if even a small part of the falls froze it’s enough to peak the curiosity of many as it is a natural phenomenon and by looking at the one and only photo available it is indeed a beautiful and wondrous site.