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Niagara Falls’ light display gets a spectacular upgrade

Niagara Falls' light display

Niagara Falls' light displayNiagara Falls just got a $4 million facelift in the form of 100 panels of LED lights, providing what onlookers are calling a “sharper, clearer” view of the spectacle.

“I like them better – they seem clearer, and the mist doesn’t get in the way,” says Niagara Falls visitor Chris Endres from Buffalo, in conversation with the Niagara Falls Review. “They’re more sharp.”

The revamp is the first in 20 years for the tourist attraction and is said to put out twice the light power while using about 60 per cent less electricity as the previous Xenon spotlights.

The bi-national Niagara Falls Illumination Board says that the change was in part inspired by the light displays constructed for recent events at the Falls such as the Nik Wallenda wirewalk in 2012 and the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Series in 2013. The new lights are set to illuminate without bouncing off the mist coming from the Falls, allowing for a clearer and brighter view of the waterfalls.

“We’ve been trying to shine through the mist for many, many years,” said David Adames, CEO of the Niagara Parks Commission (a member of the Illumination Board). The new banks of LEDs are set on the Canadian side of the Falls and shine onto both the Horseshoe and American Falls. The Canada-U.S. border goes straight through the Falls, with the bulk of Horseshoe Falls being on the Canadian side and the American Falls along with the smaller Bridal Veil Falls situated on the U.S. side.

Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the three falls, with 90 per cent of the Niagara River flowing over it. In total, 168,000 cubic metres travel over the Falls every minute at peak times. Together, Canadian and U.S. hydroelectric power generating sites at Niagara Falls can produce upwards of 4.9 million kilowatts of power, enough to serve 3.8 million homes.

Niagara Falls has been illuminated on a nightly basis since 1925.

Plans are in place to stop the American and Bridal Veil Falls from flowing so as to allow for a bridge replacement project, set to take place in 2019, contingent on funding. The construction project aims to divert the flow of the two Falls in order to allow for replacement of two 115-year-old stone-faced walking bridges, closed to tourist traffic in 2004 due to deterioration.

The shut down will itself be a sight (and sound) to behold, as the Falls have not been stopped up since 1969 when experts were studying erosion patterns. “Dewatering is expected initially to be a tourism draw, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the falls and river channel without water,” said a New York State design report.

Niagara Falls historian Paul Gromosiak reminisced on the 1969 event, a time when he took nightly walks along the eerily quiet spectacle. “People were astounded at the site and the lack of the sound,” said Gromosiak. “Those who had been there before missed the sound of the falls, not just the beauty but the sound.”

Below: New LED lights at Niagara Falls

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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