THE HISTORY BEHIND THE NIAGARA SCOW SHIPWRECK

History

abandoned ship in niagara falls

THE NIAGARA SCOW STORY

As warmer spring temperatures approach and thick layers of ice begin to melt, tourism in Niagara Falls, Ontario begins. Niagara Falls visitors can enjoy a closer look of the Falls as they take in plenty of family-friendly activities. Many who visit Niagara Falls, Canada often ask about the historic, abandoned shipwreck located minutes from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. Are you wondering why the shipwreck is still in the same spot today, as it was nearly 95 years ago? Read on to learn the history and story behind the abandoned vessel.

AUGUST 6TH, 1918

On August 6th, 1918, over 95 years before there was Hornblower Niagara Cruises, the ‘Hassayampa’ tug operated by Captain John Wallace faced intense currents on the American side of the river and the vessel it was towing broke loose about 1.6 km (1 mile) upriver. The barge (the Niagara Scow) containing 2,000 tons of rock and sand started moving out of control towards the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, preparing itself for the plunge over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Gustav Lofberg, 51 and James Henry Harris, 53 were stuck on board the tugboat when it began to move out of control. The barge approached close to 2,500 feet away from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls and the men quickly reacted and opened the bottom dumping doors and the scow grounded itself in the shallow rapids.

THE STRUGGLE

The men were finding ways to shift 50 tons of weight to the front of the scow to relieve its weight.  With the last hopes to save their lives, the men ripped out timber from within the barge to create a makeshift windlass in hopes that someone or somehow it would reach to shore. After a successful effort, the men latched on to the windlass and waited patiently until additional support came in to help.

THE RESCUE

The intense rapids above the Falls did not allow rescue boats to safely venture that close to the brink and rescuers needed to devise a better plan for rescue. As the night quickly approached, thousands crowded on Goat Island in Niagara Falls, New York and Table Rock on the Canadian side, to witness the heroic behavior of these two men. Many attempts to save these men were made, first by the Niagara Falls Fire Department in Niagara Falls, Ontario by standing on the roof of the Toronto Power Generation Station and shooting a line unsuccessfully and second by the U.S. Coast Guard from Youngstown, New York, . After more than 19 hours both men were rescued by the help of a life saving station that shot a stronger line from the roof of Toronto Power Generation Station. William ‘Red Hill’ risked his own life and assisted the men to safety.

WHERE IS THE NIAGARA SCOW TODAY?

Today the scow still sits in its exact spot from where it was stuck in 1918 and no one has since touched it or attempted to move it. Visitors looking to see the scow close up can see it best from The Niagara Parkway, beside the now, unused Toronto Power Generation Station.

If you are in Niagara Falls, Canada this season be sure to take time to make a visit to the Niagara Parkway to see the famous ‘Niagara Scow’.