Wander Through a 2,200-Foot-Long Tunnel Beneath Niagara Falls

Tourists visiting Niagara Falls now have a fresh opportunity to encounter the renowned triple cascade.

The largest of the three Niagara Falls, the Horseshoe Falls, provides a spectacular front-row seat to the gushing flow of the river. A river-level viewing platform, located 180 feet beneath the powerful waterfall, now allows travelers to wander through a massive 2,200-foot-century-old tunnel that was once converted into a hydroelectric power plant, generating electricity from the roaring whitewater.

Niagara Parks Power Station
The Niagara Parks Power Station is adjacent to Horseshoe Falls in Ontario. Courtesy of Niagara Parks Commission

Between 1905 and 2006, the hydroelectric plant, known as the Niagara Parks Power Station, supplied electricity to residences and commercial establishments in the nearby area. Travelers can still explore the power station and admire its intricate mechanisms, despite its current state of disuse. Moreover, visitors now have the opportunity to descend six levels through a glass-panelled elevator to access the tunnel, which previously served as the outlet for the discharged water from the plant starting from July.

The subterranean tunnel, constructed with four layers of brick and 18 inches of concrete, all encased by shale, could withstand water flowing at a speed of 29 feet per second, with a capacity of 71,000 gallons. Over a span of four years, thousands of laborers utilized shovels, dynamite, and pickaxes to excavate the tunnel, which stands at a height of 26 feet and spans nearly 20 feet in width.

Historic photo of tunnel
Workers built the tunnel using pickaxes, dynamite and shovels. Courtesy of Niagara Parks Commission

The architects designed the exterior of the tiles roof and the nearby waterfalls aesthetically, with blue limestone and plants reflecting in the mirror. The hydroelectric plant, originally run by the Canadian company Power Niagara, used cutting-edge technology from the era of Nikola Tesla, who patented the alternating currents and created the cylindrical blue generators used.

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The power generating station in Toronto ran from 1974 to 1999, while the power generating station in Ontario operated from 1906 to 1905. The Ontario Power Generating Company ran the power station in Canada, specifically on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Other entrepreneurs in Ontario also made several attempts to harness the power of the pounding water from the falls. For instance, the Adams hydroelectric plant operated on the U.S. Side of Niagara Falls, near CNN’s Maureen Littlejohn’s reports on Niagara Falls.

Generators inside the once-operational hydroelectric plant Courtesy of Niagara Parks Commission

The power plant underwent a $19 million renovation by the Niagara Parks Commission, the self-financed governmental organization responsible for overseeing the Niagara Falls region, after it remained inactive for multiple years subsequent to its shutdown in 2006. Subsequently, it was transformed into a popular attraction for tourists.

A separate ticketed light and sound show called “Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed” takes place in the evenings. Travelers have the option to join a guided tour with an interpreter for an additional charge or choose a self-guided experience. The plant’s 65,000-square-foot main hall, which includes interactive displays, artifacts, vintage photos, and educational resources, was reopened in July 2021.

Inside the tunnel
Inside the tunnel Courtesy of Niagara Parks Commission

With the inclusion of the underground passage, members of the commission anticipate a significant increase in the annual influx of tourists, reaching a total of 350,000. Approximately 200,000 individuals explored the site during its inaugural year after the power station became accessible to the public.

“It possesses everything,” expresses David Adames, the CEO of the commission, to Laura Randall of the Washington Post, “the rivalry among individuals constructing [power] facilities on both borders, the narrative of the individuals employed at the facility, the account of pioneers during the transition of the century, and the tale of hydroelectric production. Commencing with those who are merely inquisitive about the secrets hidden behind those exquisite stone barriers, there exist numerous narratives to recount.”

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