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A Historic Shipwreck Is Getting Closer to Crashing Over Niagara Falls

Madeline Hiltz
(Photo Credit: Screenshot from Niagara Parks via Youtube)

A shipwreck that has been stuck in the Niagara River for the past hundred years is getting closer and closer to crashing down over the Falls completely. Though the natural elements have been eroding the wreck for the last century, the ship remained in place – until now.

How did this scow get stuck in the Niagara River?

Aerial view of the Toronto Power House

Aerial view of the Toronto Power House in Niagara Falls, Canada, circa 1922. The wreck of the scow can be seen in the background. (Photo Credit: Niagara Galls Public Library/ Wikimedia Commons via Public Domain)

On August 6, 1918, a dumping scow broke loose from its towing tug and found itself lodged in the rapids of the upper Niagara River. Two men were aboard this scow when it broke loose and they found themselves stranded in the middle of the river.

The men were rescued in a joint effort from the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Fire Department, the United States Coast Guard, and a World War I veteran named William ‘Red’ Hill Sr. After they were rescued, the stuck scow sat only about 600 meters away from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls.

A strong storm in 2019

Niagara Falls Iron Scow

Iron Scow stuck in Niagara Falls circa 2009. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons via Public Domain)

On August 6, 2018, the city of Niagara celebrated the 100th anniversary of the iron scow rescue. Since 1918, the wreck has become a unique tourist attraction for those visiting the Falls. However, the wreck has been fast deteriorating over the past century.

On Halloween night, 2019, a major storm hit Niagara Falls. During this storm, the maximum wind gusts were estimated to be around 129 kilometers (80 miles) an hour. The winds raised Lake Erie’s East Basin water levels to record highs, which resulted in similarly high flows into the Niagara River.

This 2019 storm and ensuing high water levels dislodged the previously stuck wreck. It is estimated that the scow was moved 50 meters closer to the edge of the falls before it got stuck again. The heavy currents from this storm also resulted in the boat being flipped onto its side.

Deteriorating quickly in 2022

Iron Scow circa 2009

Iron scow in Niagara Falls, circa 2009. (Photo Credit: Diego Torres Silvestre/ Wikimedia Commons via CC BY 2.0)

The scow has remained in its new resting place for the past two and a half years – until this past week. Niagara Parks has reported that the scow has once again moved further toward Horseshoe Falls.

It has also become apparent that at least two sections of the main hull have separated from the ship, signaling its impending ruin. In a video posted to Twitter, Jim Hill, Senior Manager of Heritage for Niagara Parks, stated that the scow is “maybe just reaching the end of its life out there.” After all, the wreck has withstood ice, snow, wind, and the river’s flow for the past 104 years.

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The state of deterioration plus recent weather events has caused additional damage to the wreck. If the wreck does go over the Falls in the near future, it is not considered to be a threat to public safety. However, if and when the remains go over the Falls, it will be quite a sad sight to see.

Luckily, during the centennial ceremony in 2018, a new set of interpretive panels were unveiled depicting the fascinating history of the iron scow. Even after the remains of the scow are completely gone, visitors from far and wide will still be able to learn about this unique piece of Canadian and American history.