Frozen Niagara Falls Photographs

Series of photographs circulating via email are claimed to depict Niagara Falls frozen over in the year 1911.

Brief Analysis:
The photographs are genuine although the specified date of 1911 may be inaccurate.

Subject: Fw: 1911 Photo of Niagara Falls]

Detailed Analysis:
This interesting set of photographs of a frozen Niagara Falls circulates via email and has been posted to various blogs and online forums. There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the photographs. While the falls almost never freeze solid, it is not uncommon for mounds of ice to form a thick crust that covers the running water beneath. Strange and beautiful ice formations can be formed as mist and falling water freeze over.

In colder winters, the crust of ice can even reach from bank to bank and extend for miles down the river. In earlier times, visitors often walked out on these “ice bridges” to view the falls as depicted in the first image above. However, in 1912, an ice bridge broke up and three visitors fell to their deaths. Henceforth, walking out on the ice bridges was considered too dangerous.

While the photographs are real, the specified date of 1911 for the first image is questionable and the photographs were not all taken at the same time. Copies of the images can be found on the Niagara Falls Public Library website and elsewhere on the Internet. The following notes provide more information about each image in turn:


This image is displayed on the Niagara Falls Public Library website with the title “American Falls Frozen Over With People on the Ice”. According to information accompanying the image, it began circulating on the Internet in 2003 but the original source and date is not known. The image is also featured on Niagara Falls, and its position in the text suggests that it may be intended to show an event in 1848 when the river actually stopped flowing completely for a few hours due to an ice jam upstream. However, it is unclear if the image depicts the actual event described, or is only used as a general illustration of an ice bridge.

This image is also included on the Niagara Falls Public Library and is titled “Great mass of frozen spray and ice-bound American Falls Niagara”, with a date of 1902. It originally formed part of a stereo image, a popular medium at the time.



This image was apparently derived from an original color postcard titled “Cave of the Winds in Winter Niagara Falls” which was mailed in August 1911. Exactly when the image was created is unclear. The image is also featured on the website of Ellis House, a Bed and Breakfast at Niagara Falls.



This image seems to be a cropped version, of a photograph titled “View of the American Falls in Winter” that was taken in 1936. Notes with the uncropped image explain “The miraculous result of a cold winter, the American Falls completely froze in 1936. Notice the tiny human forms at the base of the Falls giving an idea of the density of the ice.”
Many other wonderful photographs of Niagara Falls, past and present, are available for viewing in the image database of the Niagara Falls Public Library.


Last updated: May 15, 2013
First published: February 28, 2007
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

Niagara Falls Public Library
American Falls Frozen Over With People on the Ice
Facts about Niagara Falls
Great mass of frozen spray and ice-bound American Falls Niagara
The Art of Stereo Photography
Cave of the Winds in Winter Niagara Falls
American Falls frozen over
Image database: Niagara Falls Public Library

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