Niagara Falls Geology Facts & Figures (History & Future)

View of the Falls

How High is the Falls? How fast is the water?

Here are some of the numbers…

  • The Niagara River is about 58 kilometres (36 mi.) in length and is the natural outlet from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
  • The elevation between the two lakes is about 99 metres (326 ft.), half occurring at the Falls themselves.
  • The total area drained by the Niagara River is approximately 684,000 square kilometres (264,000 sq. mi.).
  • The average fall from Lake Erie to the beginning of the upper Niagara Rapids is only 2.7 metres (9 ft.)
  • Below the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool control structure, the river falls 15 metres (50 ft.) to the brink of the Falls.
  • The deepest section in the Niagara River is just below the Falls. It is so deep it equals the height of the Falls above, 52 metres (170 ft.).
  • The Upper Niagara River extends 35 kilometres (22 mi.) from Lake Erie to the Cascade Rapids, which begin 1 kilometre (0.6 mi.) upstream from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
  • At Grand Island, the Niagara River divides into the west channel, known as the Canadian or Chippawa Channel, and the east channel, known as the American or Tonawanda Channel.
  • The Chippawa Channel is approximately 17.7 kilometres (11 mi.) in length and varies from 610 to 1220 metres (2,000 to 4,000 ft.) in width. Water speed ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 metres per second (2 to 3 ft. per second). This channel carries approximately 60% of the total river flow.
  • The Tonawanda channel is 24 kilometres (15 mi.) long and varies from 460 to 610 metres (1,500 to 2,000 ft.) in width above Tonawanda Island. Downstream, the channel varies from 460 to 1220 metres (1,500 to 4,000 ft.) in width. Speed ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 metres per second (2 to 3 feet per second).
  • The Niagara Gorge extends from the Falls for 11 kilometres (7 mi.) downstream to the foot of the escarpment at Queenston.

Is Niagara the highest falls in the world?

  • About 500 other waterfalls in the world are “taller” than Niagara. The Angel Falls in Venezuela is tallest at 979 metres (3,212 ft.). However, some of the tallest falls in the world have very little water flowing over them.
  • It’s the combination of height and volume that makes Niagara Falls so beautiful.
  • More than 168,000 cubic metres (6 million cubic ft.) of water go over the crestline of the Falls every minute during peak daytime tourist hours.
  • The Canadian Horseshoe Falls drops an average of 57 metres (188 ft.) into the Lower Niagara River.
  • The crest line of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls is approximately 670 metres (2,200 ft.) wide. The plunge pool beneath the Falls is 35 metres (100 ft.) deep.
  • The height of the American Falls ranges between 21 to 34 metres (70-110 ft.). This measurement is taken from the top of the Falls tothe top of the rock pile at the base, called the talus slope. The height of the Falls from the top of the Falls to the river is 57 metres (188 ft.). The crest line of the American Falls is approximately 260 metres (850 ft.) wide
  • The rapids above the Falls reach a maximum speed of 40 km/hr or 25 mph, with the fastest speeds occur at the Falls themselves (recorded up to 68 mph.) The water through the Whirlpool Rapids below the Falls reaches 48 km/hr or 30 mph, and at Devil’s Hole Rapids 36km/hr.Falls Recession Diagram
  • The Niagara River is a connecting channel between two Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario.
  • Niagara Falls has moved back seven miles in 12,500 years and may be the fastest moving waterfalls in the world.

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