Niagara Falls Receding


Receding Falls, ink drawing, 40 x 50 cm.
published with story, Receding Falls in Loofy 5, AKV Berlin Publishing, 2013.


The Niagara Falls is receding. There is no use in ignoring it. It won’t make it stop or slow down, or miraculously come back.
The Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital of the world. Or at least it was, at some point. “A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can’t control!” was the slogan for the 1953 film Niagara, starring, no less, Marilyn Monroe . Vaudeville performers like Harry Houdini staged his performances frequently at the falls during his lifetime and used it as a backdrop to his daring stunt in the film The Man from Beyond, in 1922. The Harry Houdini Museum once stood on Clifton Hill where today there stands a handful of wax museums, haunted houses and other curiosity venues, but it burnt down suspiciously in the 90’s. The 1920’s brought a slew of stunts people from around the world. They threw themselves down the falls in padded barrels, they walked tightropes from one side to the other, and they tried to swim across the massive whirlpool. Some succeeded and won momentary fame, others died trying.

The Niagara Falls sits on the border between the United States and Canada, and was one of the war fronts of 1812. A British Fort still stands on the Canadian side of the river and an American one on the American side. Between them spans a large canyon of the Niagara River. Using a telescope at Fort George, the British Fort on the Canadian side, you can look over at the American side. It’s pretty far. Apparently, they sent cannon balls back and forth at each other across the canyon; I can’t imagine that they did it with much success.

There is a city called Niagara Falls on both the Canadian and American side. The American side is a park. But the falls’ best side undeniably faces Canada, so that’s were most of the tourists go. Niagara Falls, Canada, is covered in hotels, themed motels, themed museums, restaurants, mini putt, haunted houses, neon lights, fast food, loud speakers yelling Guinness Book of records facts, gimmicky moving architectural elements, shops selling tourist merchandise like umbrellas and ponchos for the mist spewing out from the cascades. The city developed predominantly during a time spanning between the 20s to the 80s, when capitalism was unchallenged, and each man had a right to make his money in any way he saw fit.

Now I suppose there were times when people didn’t have money to travel to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. I suppose a lot of people had modest ambitions when it came to planning their holiday, and remained inland and searched for domestic treasures. Those were good days for Niagara Falls. One can’t say that things are the same. They are not bad either, but it’s pretty obvious when you look at the city surrounding Lundy’s Lane or Clifton Hill that the city has seen better days.

It’s about a 20 minute walk from Clifton Hill to the Falls themselves. You can see the river along the way, but the actual falls are not very close. They say that the rate of erosion—that means the speed at which the falls moves away from Clifton Hill—was a meter per year until they started regulating the flow of water. Now it’s around a foot per year to a foot per 10 years. It varies. When you finally reach the point where the water actually goes over the cliff, you are surrounded by about 50 people taking a picture of a loved-one, (and the other dozen strangers doing the same thing), in front of the falls. It’s a great shot, you’re so close that you could actually make it over the falls with one jump from where you’re standing. You look at the massive wall of water and you might feel some sympathy to what it must have been like to first lay eyes on this force of nature; or as the first Europeans swatted away the branches to find out what was making all that damn noise. It was another confirming symbolic finding that represented the Americas as, big, uncontrollable and loud. Not unlike the feeling you get when you dig into the Niagara Falls colonized history.

But the falls are on a path moving slowly but awesomely away from the city and towards lake Erie, leaving a gigantic canyon in its wake. All this time someone has tried to exploit it by either tourist ventures, or with hydro power plants, but it’s got its own agenda. And nothing can deter the course of nature.