Fixing Niagara Falls: Energy, Environment, and Engineers at the World’s Most Famous Waterfall

My newest book, Fixing Niagara Falls: Energy, Environment, and Engineers at the World’s Most Famous Waterfall will be published in September 2020. Below is an abstract, blurbs, and some color images.

ABSTRACT

Since the late nineteenth century, Niagara Falls has been heavily engineered to generate energy behind a flowing façade designed to appeal to tourists. Essentially, this natural wonder is now a tap: huge tunnels channel the waters of the Niagara River around the Falls, which ebb and flow according to the tourism calendar.

Fixing Niagara Falls reveals the engineering feats and cross-border politics that facilitated the transformation of one of the most important natural sites in North America. Daniel Macfarlane details how engineers, bureaucrats, and politicians conspired to manipulate the world’s most famous waterfall. During the first half of the twentieth century, the United States and Canada explored various ways to maximize hydropower from the Niagara River while “preserving” the Falls. Decades of environmental diplomacy and transborder studies led to a 1950 treaty that allowed new hydro-electric stations to funnel most of the river’s water to generate power. To facilitate these diversions and lessen the visual impact of redirecting so much water, the two nations cooperated to install a range of control works while reshaping and shrinking the Horseshoe Falls.

This book offers a unique perspective on how the Niagara landscape embodies both the power of technology and the power of nature.

 

BLURBS

“I’ve always loved Niagara Falls – it is sublime. And no less so, I think, once you read this book and understand how it came to be. It speaks of nature’s power, but also of a dozen epochs and the ideas of the people who shifted and shaped it over the last centuries. This is engaged and engaging history.”

Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

 

Once an icon of untrammeled wilderness and inexhaustible natural resources, over the past two centuries Niagara Falls has been harnessed for hydropower to the point that today it is a roaring paradox —  a manmade natural wonder, an amusement park for nature seekers.  Yet the Falls are still worth visiting because they are still one-of-a-kind spectacular, and so is Daniel Macfarlane’s (not so natural) history of how it all happened.

Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

 

How do you write an original book about Niagara Falls, when so many excellent books about the falls have already been written? Macfarlane shows it’s possible. In this fascinating and well-crafted study, Macfarlane weaves together energy histories, toxic histories, and cultural readings in his analysis, while foregrounding the waterfall itself. He shows that Niagara Falls today is a mesmerizing mixture of nature and culture, radically re-made in service of industrial capitalism. This is truly a transboundary analysis, paying close attention to evolving ideas about the public good and the role of nature in industrial North America.

Nancy Langston, author of Sustaining Lake Superior

 

“Daniel Macfarlane has surely read most – if not all – relevant books on Niagara Falls in his research for this truly cross-border history of one of the most important natural sites in North America.”

James Murton, Associate Professor of History, Nipissing University

 

Fixing Niagara Falls is unlike any other book that I know of, framing the Niagara landscape as an example of the ‘technological sublime’ devoted both to beauty and power.”

Kurk Dorsey, Professor of History, University of New Hampshire

 

 

The cover picture is one I took in Fall 2018 at Table Rock. Since the images in the book are in black and white, below are color versions of some of my other photographs. I’m also posting some of the images from the book below in case people case want to look at them in more detail.

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