The Story Behind the Ice Sheets in Niagara Falls and how it effects Hornblower Niagara Cruises

December came and went faster than we could have imagined. As January approached so did the colder Canadian temperatures. After months of preparing, Jack Frost arrived in the Southern Niagara Region the first week of January forcing locals to bundle up, prep their vehicles with Winter tires and purchase heavy duty shovels. One thing that Niagara is most ready for is the famous ice build up that occurs each Winter along Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Since the Winter of 1964 a ‘ice boom’ has been installed between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York. The purpose of the ice boom is to reduce severity of ice jam build ups from Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Both lake and river maintain water flow for all three hydroelectric power plants.

For those who have had the opportunity to see the 2.7 kilometer span from the sky or by boat will notice it similarly resembles a massive fishing net. The ice boom consists of floating steel pontoons  attached together and anchored to the bottom of the lake at intervals of 122 meters by 6. 4 centimeters. Each year, the boom will be removed April 1 with hopes that the ice entirely melts before transporting any further. Due to outrageous temperatures faced from last year, the ice boom was removed in May 2014 known as the latest time on river record for the boom to be removed.

Hornblower Niagara Cruises faced the fear of the massive amount of ice build up when we imagined to open in early to mid April, but saw our successful grand opening on May 10, 2014. In March 2014, the Niagara Gorge home to the Hornblower Niagara Cruises docks and landing saw more than 4, 860 square kilometer covered in sheets of thick ice. The Ontario Power Generation had to use the Niagara Queen II as an icebreaker that operates and monitors the upper Niagara River and the upper end of Grand Island, New York. The Canadian boat that is operated by 3 people work in conjunction with an American boat known as the ‘ William H. Latham’ operated by the New York Port Authority. Boats that operate on the United States side have and will continue to monitor the Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station located in Lewiston, NY while the Canadian boat will monitor both the Sir Adam Beck Power Station One and Two located along the Niagara River. 

With severe Winter storms and intense winds often cause thick pieces and boulders of ice to fall over Niagara Falls that could potentially melt and cause an overflow of water or transfer ice to the lower Niagara River causing damage to objects in the lower River. 

This year, Hornblower Niagara Cruises is embracing the cold and the ice boom and is prepared better than ever for either an early April or Mid May launch date. Visitors looking to hop on board Niagara Falls, Canada’s newest boat for its second season can do in April 2015. If you are looking to be one of the first on the boats, be sure to purchase your tickets online in advance before arriving to save time.

FUN FACTS ABOUT THE ICE BOOM

Q: When was the earlier ice boom on record?

A: Earliest Ice Boom on Record – March 2, 2012

Q: What was the latest ice boom?

A: The Latest Ice Boom Removal – May 14, 1971.

Q: Does Niagara Falls freeze?

A: In 2014, many images floated the Internet asking if Niagara Falls actually froze. Niagara Falls did not freeze, however surrounding areas such as the boulders below welcomed much snow that ice build up that it gave the illusion that it did.

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