Dramatic photos say it all: A 'breathtaking' ice spectacle at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls has frozen over, creating otherworldly scenes

Becky White has lived in Niagara Falls, Canada, her whole life, and always likes to see the falls in the winter because the view is so clear.

When she visited Friday morning, the view was different. Ice had formed not just at the base of the falls, but along the sides and on top.

“I am used to seeing the ice form billowy sculptures,” White, 29, said in a direct message on Twitter. “There was more ice than I have ever seen.”

In dramatic photos that gained traction on social media and in publications, the scenes are otherworldly. Huge blobs of ice and snow crowd together in front of gushing water and mist. Trees along the sides of the waterfalls are coated in ice. Everything is white.

The falls began to freeze dramatically about a week ago, when temperatures in New York and Canada dropped into the negatives, said Michelle Blackley, communications and community relations manager for Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., which is the tourism promotion agency for Niagara, N.Y.

The frozen falls are uncommon, but have occurred during past deep freezes.

Last year, the falls partially froze over during the lengthy stay of a polar vortex. Blackley said there are photos dating back to the 1800s that show the icy falls.

“Just two years ago, we had a very mild winter, so we didn’t get to see this dramatic beauty,” she said. “This time of year, we should see the weather warming up, and this morning, it was minus 10 degrees.”

Media attention and photos on social media have drawn crowds to the falls, despite frigid temperatures, said Randy Simons, spokesman for the New York State Parks. During this time of the year, he said he usually sees a few dozen in Niagara Falls State Park.

“It reminds you of what maybe a summertime day would look like with the crowds,” Simons said.

More than 3,000 tons of water flow over Niagara Falls every second, according to the state park’s website. The water feeds in from the Great Lakes.

During the winter months, Christine Hess will jump in her truck a few times each day and take a 10-minute drive to photograph Niagara Falls.

The freelance photographer lives on the Canadian side of the falls, and takes pictures on both sides.

“The last two years have been great, photography-wise,” Hess, 52, said. “We get so much snow down at the falls. It takes on a whole new look. You’ve got all these ice formations and rocks and the snow, it’s stunning. It’s breathtaking. I never get tired of it.”

At night, she said, the falls look especially lovely.

“Before it gets dark, they light up the falls,” Hess said. “You get these blue-ish, gray tones with the bright white snow, it looks like a Christmas card.”

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3:40 p.m.: This story has been updated to include interviewes with people who know Niagara Falls well and whose pictures proved to be as dramatic as the landmark itself.

This story was originally published at 10:17 a.m.