As Ontario reaches freezing temperatures every winter, we are treated to several icy sceneries like frozen waterfalls, to be exact. Though our smaller and local cascades may freeze over, you may find yourself wondering if Niagara Falls has the potential to do the same. Imagine millions of litres of water freezing over, creating a fantastic and one-of-a-kind winter display. But does that really happen?

Well, not entirely. According to Niagara Falls Tourism, though it may seem like it does, it technically doesn’t.

“When we get extreme cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time there is freezing mist that coats the surrounding area, sticking to the rocks, poles and cliffs nearby,” shares Niagara Falls Tourism.

This creates the illusion that the falls have stopped but it continues to flow underneath the sheet of ice.

“There are also far more rocks on the American Falls side that can also accumulate ice, since under 10% of the water actually flows over there.”

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That being said, it may seem as though the American side of the falls may appear to be more “frozen”. That’s because the majority of the water flow rushes over Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls only gets about 7% of it, according to the Niagara Parks site.

And the winter, about 75% of water flowing from Lake Erie to the Niagara River “is diverted approximately one kilometre before the Falls through tunnels and canals for hydro-electric purposes and is returned back into the lower Niagara River.”

According to the Niagara Parks site, about 85 million litres of water falls over Horseshoe Falls every minute in comparison to 170 million litres from April 1 through to October 31.

Taking all this into consideration, less water means more of a chance to see ice build up and display the “frozen” appearance.

But there was a time when it did freeze over. Though not in our lifetime, Niagara Falls “ceased its flow,” for 30 hours in March of 1848.

“High winds set the ice fields of Lake Erie in motion and millions of tons of ice became lodged at the source of the river, blocking the channel completely. Local inhabitants, accustomed to the sound of the river, heard an eerie silence and those who were brave enough, walked or rode horses over the exposed basin,” shares the site.

“The self-made dam held the water back until a shift allowed the pent-up weight of water to break through.”

Thanks to the annual installation of the ice boom, it has prevented this from happening since then.

Though we have yet to reach consistent freezing temperatures, it’s definitely in the forecast.

So if you’re curious to see the falls in the winter, plan a day trip the next time temperatures drop. You could very well see this phenomenon in person.