The combined flow over the Horseshoe, American, and Bridal Veil Falls at peak volume is an incredible sight to behold, but the natural marvel that is Niagara Falls was not always allowed to flow freely. In 1969, the American Falls were temporarily dammed for geological study purposes. While a unique historical event, it sparks a question that sometimes lingers in the minds of many - Could Niagara Falls be dammed again?
The short answer is theoretically yes, but not anytime soon.
Firstly, the original damming was performed to examine the rate of erosion and to assess whether or not some restorative work needed to be performed. Scientists, supported by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, concluded that trying to restore the falls could potentially accelerate erosion rather than decelerate it.
Secondly, Niagara Falls is an incredibly popular tourist attraction for both the United States and Canada. Damming the falls would severely impact the tourism industry. It would undoubtedly diminish the number of tourists visiting, thereby impacting local economies significantly. For this reason alone, it's highly doubtful the falls would be deliberately dammed again barring a compelling reason to do so.
Additionally, the Niagara River is a critical water source for both hydroelectric power and drinking water. While a dam wouldn't necessarily affect drinking water supply, it could impact power production. In 1950, the U.S and Canada agreed on a treaty for the shared use of Niagara River’s water, outlining minimum flow rates to maintain the falls' beauty during peak viewing times and ensuring an ample supply for power stations.
The final point to consider is the environmental impact. Niagara Falls is part of a complex ecosystem that supports a variety of plant and animal life. A major change such as damming could lead to significant environmental disruptions and consequences.
Despite all of the foregoing, there is a strong desire to see Niagara Falls dammed again by many who missed what turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in 1969. Given the lore surrounding the 'falls going dry' since it happened 50+ years ago, there is actually an argument to be made that it would not impact tourism negatively at all. In fact, more people could visit to see a phenomenon that might only happen once in the next century (or more).
While it's technically possible to dam Niagara Falls again, the impacts on tourism, power production, and the environment make it unlikely to happen anytime soon. The magnificent falls are a wonder of the natural world that will continue to thrill millions of tourists for years to come.
But it would be cool to see, wouldn't it? If there ever is a plan to do it again we will be sure to let you know!