“Like the roar of muffled thunder” – New York State Quarter Coin

Today, the New York State Quarter Coin remembers the last large fall of rock from Table Rock at Niagara Falls.

The Popular Science News of March 1887 told of the calamity 129 years ago.


Fall of Rocks at Niagara.

On the morning of the 12th of January, at a quarter to one o’clock, there was an immense fall of rock at Niagara Falls, on the Canada side.

The whole of the remainder of what was called Table Rock has fallen this time.

This was a projection of the surface-rock over the precipice immediately adjoining the Falls, over a part of which some of the water poured.

The waters at the centre of the Horseshoe, having cut back the rock some three hundred feet within the last forty years, have left a long and comparatively narrow remnant of the Table Rock.

It is this last remnant that has fallen. At the lower end it was about twenty feet wide, as near as can be estimated; and it is claimed by the residents that the upper end was one hundred and forty-four feet wide.

Estimating the length, by pacing along the bank of the river, I find that it must be at least five hundred feet long.

This would amount to forty thousand square feet, or slightly less than one acre, of rock-surface that has fallen away.

Of course, this may be an exaggeration; I mention it only as an estimate made by observers on the spot.

Accurate surveys will, doubtless, soon determine more precisely the amount of rock that has fallen.

The long, triangular piece that has fallen has effected a straightening of the verge of the precipice, giving a better view of the Falls on the Canada side.

  1. J. SEYMOUR.


The English Mechanic and World of Science from January 21, 1887 gave another description of the fallen rock.


The Upper Table Rock at the Niagara Falls fell into the river. The mass of rock is estimated to have measured 150 feet long, 60 feet wide and 170 feet deep.

The mean rate of regression of the Falls has been variously estimated, some putting it at a yard per annum, while a more moderate computation considers 12 inches sufficient, taking one year with another.

Table Rock was the favorite spot for viewing the Horseshoe Fall, and its displacement leaves a perpendicular wall, where one can stand and look behind the cataract into the dark chasm through which the spiral stairway goes down to the path behind the Falls.


In his 1908 book, The Niagara River, Archer Butler Hulbert mentioned the different rock falls at Table Rock:


Over a half-century ago, almost opposite this tower on the Canadian side, was to be seen the immense Table Rock hanging far out over the current below.

On the 25th of June, 1850, this large mass of rock fell.

Fortunately the fall occurred at noon with no loss of life; it was one of the greatest falls of rock known to have taken place at the cataract, for the dimensions of the rock were two hundred feet long, sixty feet wide, and a hundred feet deep.

Like the roar of muffled thunder the crash was heard for miles around.

On up the river one wanders, past Goat Island, whose cliff is seen from directly in front. Just before reaching the edge of the Horseshoe the position of old Table Rock is seen.

Little is left of this old and once famous point for observing Niagara’s wonders.

Several different falls of immense masses of rock, one of which has been mentioned, have reduced it to its present state.

Here the Indian worshipped the Great Spirit of the Falls, gazing across at his supposed home on Goat Island; and here comes the white man to look upon the wonders of that mighty cataract with a felling almost akin to that of his red brother.

Here one could stand with the maddening waters rushing beneath, the Falls near at hand, its incessant roar assailing the ears while the spray was wafted all round.

Little wonder that the red man worshipped, or that the white man looks on with feeling of awe, admiration, and wonder.


The New York State Quarter Coin shows against an artist’s view, circa 1846, of Niagara Falls with Table Rock on the right.

New York State Quarter Coin