Int’l Pact to preserve Niagara Falls


January 2, 1929

Both the United States and Canada had signed an agreement to protect Niagara Falls. This particular signed document pertained to the proposal of construction north of the Falls. Issues such as cost and responsibility are indicated by this document. On Jan. 2, 1929, Canada and the United States agreed to divert the Niagara River to protect the world famous falls.


Niagara Falls was formed during the Wisconsin Glaciation, part of the last ice age over 10,000 years ago. Part of the Niagara River, it is made up of two separate waterfalls—the Horseshoe Falls in Canada and the Bridal Veil Falls in the United States—divided by Goat Island.


If left alone, erosion would cause the falls to recede. “Niagara Falls is unceasing, deafening, destructive motion—one of these centuries, in fact, it will destroy itself,” writes Newsweek. Niagara Falls was not left alone, however; in the 19th century, industrial developers began using the falls for hydroelectric power, while tourists flocked to see its natural beauty.


In 1885, responding to concerns about industrial development on both sides of the falls, the Niagara Appropriations Bill was signed to protect land from private developers. It created the Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park in Ontario and the Niagara Reservation State Park in New York—the first state park in New York.


The U.S. and Canada would again work together in 1929 to help preserve the falls from erosion and to generate more hydroelectric power. Following the advice of the Special International Niagara Board, a joint investigative committee of the United States and Canada, Canadian Prime Minister William Mackenzie King and the American Minister to Canada William Phillips signed an agreement on Jan. 2 to authorize $2 million in construction work on the Niagara River. According to the agreement, underwater weirs would redirect strong currents and excavations in some shallow areas would make the falls more attractive. The work was to be done by the Niagara Falls Power Company and the Hydroelectric Power Commission of Ontario.


Today, Niagara Falls remains a popular tourist destination, due in large part to human intervention. Engineers can control the flow of water over the falls, even increasing the flow during tourist seasons. There’s this interesting contradiction because, on the one hand, it became popular because it was wild and huge and untamed, said Ginger Strand, author of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies, to The Globe and Mail. And on the other hand, it became popular because it was starting to be tamed and made a little less wild.

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