Ice dam blocked the falls — New York State Quarter Coin

Today, the New York State Quarter Coin remembers when an ice dam blocked the American side of Niagara Falls on March 22, 1903.

An excerpt from the Frost-King at Niagara published in the Booklovers Magazine in December 1903:


The moving of the ice that Sunday afternoon was the result of the water rising in response to a wind that swept Lake Erie.

That night the ice piled up about the abutments of the upper steel arch bridge to such an extent that some of the girders of the great structure were bent, while it was found necessary to blast the ice from about the abutments in order that its continued pressure might not further damage the structure.

It is estimated that fifteen million cubic feet of water pass over the falls of Niagara every minute, the power represented by which is not to be deemed insignificant when in competition with a work of man.

On the 29th of March, 1848, Niagara ran dry as a result of a great ice jam at the entrance to the river near Buffalo.

At that time the ice swept down the lake in such quantities that a jam of unusual proportions was created at the entrance to the river.

So effective was the ice jam that no water passed around it.

After the falls had drained the river channel the spectacle of the falls running dry was developed.

There were many remarkable sights, and residents of the locality ventured to places that they had never expected to reach.

Horses were driven far out in the river bed, and the most distant points in midstream knew the sound of footsteps.

Millers, when called in the morning, were amazed at the information that there was no water in the river.

People left Table Rock, on the Canadian side, and walked along the brink of the Horseshoe fall one-third of the way over to Goat Island.

On March 22, 1903, a similar condition existed. An ice jam from the mainland to Goat Island diverted the water from the American channel, which ran nearly dry.

People walked over the river bed above Green Island and between the mainland and Goat Island.

When the ice bridge is at its best there is usually a magnificent ice mountain to command the attention of visitors.

This ice mountain forms on the debris-slope on the north or down-stream side of the American fall, and it attains to considerable proportions.

It is formed by the spray of the fall freezing, and day after day it rears its head higher and higher.

Apparently its ambition is to reach such a height that it may look over the cliff top into the park beyond.

The ice mountain is a delightful place for coasting, and a cosmopolitan crowd gathers there on bright winter afternoons.

A barrel stave makes a first-class toboggan, but one may slide to glory on a plain board.

The scene about the ice mountain is beautified by great icy stalactites, while in front of the American fall massive stalactitical masses rear their heads through the ever ascending spray.

In 1896, from February the 14th to the 18th, the Cave of the Winds at Niagara was dry for four days.

This strange condition was caused by the icy formations above the falls diverting the water from its usual channels.

Guide John R. Barlow was the first to discover the fact and was the first to enter.

During the four days he escorted many people in front of the American fall to the Cave, and there they passed between wonderful mounds of ice right into that peculiar cavern.

So far as recorded the Cave of the Winds was never before entered in winter.

In 1897 Andrew Wallace rode a horse across the ice bridge and up the ice mountain, a feat that was duplicated in 1887 and in 1895 by Robert Owen.

On the 27th of February, 1901, a locomobile was taken across the ice bridge and up the icy slope close by the ice mountain, the unusual formation inspiring all kinds of feats.

The most delicate beauty of Niagara in winter is to be found in Prospect Park and on the islands close by the falls.

Here the spray descends and as it freezes it covers everything within range with a snowy whiteness that is dazzling.

The locality is a veritable fairyland and the drive about Goat Island under these conditions is a visit to paradise.


The New York State Quarter Coin shows with an image of people playing on the ice mountain at Niagara Falls.

New York State Quarter Coin