‘Iron Scow’ Atop Niagara Falls Pushes Towards the Edge After 101 Years

November 6, 2019 Updated: November 6, 2019

On Oct. 31, the rusty scow that remained for 101 years atop Niagara Falls, some 2000 feet from Horseshoe Falls, was unmoored and traveled about 150 yards after heavy storms blew through the area.

During a nightly storm, last Thursday, the barge was lifted from its resting place and pushed downstream.

“It has been in place for over 101 years,” senior manager of heritage Jim Hill said in a video published by The New York Post on Friday.

On top of that, according to Hill, the scow “appears to have sort of flipped on its side and spun around,” adding, “We think it turned and twisted in the very heavy current and flow of the river.”

“Will it stay in place? Well, it’s been stuck there for 101 years,” he said. “It could be stuck there for days … or it could be stuck there for years. It’s anyone’s guess,” he added.

A cloud of mist rises over Horseshoe Falls,
A cloud of mist rises over Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the Niagara Falls at Niagara Falls, New York, on June 4, 2013 (John Moore/Getty Images)

Niagara Parks’ CEO David Adames told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation he does not fear the barge will go over the edge, saying: “It looks secure at the moment; however, if there’s severe weather that comes along, it may shift it some more,”

“It could have been the way the wind came down the river,” Adames added. “If it came down at a high enough gust, at that point in time, it might have hit the side of the rusted structure, and it was enough to move it.”

Adames said the situation is being monitored, and precautions will be taken to keep tourists safe in the future if the Scow does proceed over the edge.

While the iron boat has deteriorated over the century, the scow has remained tightly fixed to a rocky outcropping since August 1918.

The story of how the barge came to rest just above the falls involves the rescue of two men from nearby Buffalo and is explained in detail on the Nagara Parks’ website.

In 1918, a vessel known as a dumping scow —with two men aboard—during a dredging operation, according to the Commission, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. The scow was stranded in the Niagara River, some 650 yards shy of Horseshoe Falls, one of three separate waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls.

Local law enforcement agencies began scrambling to rescue the two men, James Harris, and Gustav Lofberg. A boat rescue wasn’t considered safe or even feasible at that time. Instead, buoys were launched—but the lines became tangled, according to the timeline the Parks Commission published for the 100th anniversary.

With the help of a courageous World War I vet named William “Red” Hill, the lines were sorted out, and the men were finally rescued the next day.

While the iron boat has deteriorated over the century, the scow had remained tightly fixed to a rocky outcropping since August 1918.