5 Things You Didn't Know About Niagara Falls

On June 30, 1859, over 5,000 spectators watched French daredevil Charles Blondin cross over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Here are five things you probably didn't know about Niagara Falls...

 
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The Water Can Be Turned Off Manually No, the falls don't come out of a faucet. But if needed, officials can have -- and have had -- temporary structures called cofferdams placed near the falls to halt the flow of water. These have allowed officials on both sides of the border to remove debris and reshape the falls, reclaiming some areas and working on the contour of the falls. A massive project in 1969 on the U.S. side, in which the flow of water was stopped, allowed officials to remove a giant pile of rock debris at the bottom of the falls.

You Have Only 50,000 More Years to Enjoy the Falls The force of all that water running over the rocky shore and river bottom has been eroding the ground for thousands of years. The location of the falls has actually moved about eleven kilometers over the past 12,000 years. If you were to go back in time, you'd have to go to the site that would become Lewiston, New York to find the edge - not the city of Niagara Falls. The falls are still moving slowly back, and researchers estimate that the falls will disappear into Lake Erie between 23,000 and 50,000 years from now.

 
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Acrobat Charles Blondin Made Multiple Trips Across the Falls Blondin made his successful tightrope walk in 1859, defying the conventional wisdom (and bets) that he would plunge to his death. He returned to the falls repeatedly in 1859 and 1860, crossing again and again, sometimes with a wheelbarrow, and once with his manager as a passenger on his back. Blondin knew that people were fascinated by the risk of each crossing and the potential for him to meet a grisly death. And he would play up the surprise factor. During his first crossing, for example, he sat down on the rope and drank from a bottle of wine that he hauled up from a ferry on the water below, before getting back up to finish the tightrope crossing. During a later crossing, he cooked an omelet while up on the rope.

The First Successful Barrel Trip Didn't Occur Until 1901, but a Jumper Survived in 1829 As for the more well-known barrel attempts, the first person to survive going over the falls in a barrel was 63-year-old Annie Edson Taylor, in 1901. She was hoping to gain some fame and income from her attempt. Although she did get some attention, she didn't get the money she had hoped for. Additional attempts in barrels or other enclosed containers over the next century left a trail of battered -- and in some cases, missing or dead -- daredevils. The first record of someone trying to go over the falls at all is from 1829, when Sam Patch jumped down Horseshoe Falls, which is on the Canadian side.

No One Really Knows How Many People Visit Per Year While some agencies have visitor numbers for specific purposes, there aren't any hard and fast numbers for visitors overall. Estimates range from 8 million to 30 million people per year (Niagara Falls Canada says 14 million visit each year). But no one has actually tried to keep an accurate count. One thing is for sure: The falls remain popular on both sides of the border. And even with only 50,000 possible years of life left before the falls erode away, there's plenty of time to go see this natural wonder.