Every evening Niagara Falls puts on a lights show, this is Illumination of the Falls Niagara, ON. This has been operational since 1925, funded by The Niagara Falls Illumination Board.

History of the Illumination

1860

In 1860, a spectacular illumination of the Falls celebrated a visit by the Prince of Wales. About 200 coloured and white calcium, volcanic and torpedo lights were placed along the banks above and below the American Falls, on the road down the bank of the Canadian side of the gorge and behind the water of the Horseshoe Falls. The lights were called Bengal lights and were the kind used at sea to signal for help or give warning.

prince-of-wales-niagara

1879

Illumination of the Falls using electricity first occurred in January 1879, during a visit by the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada and his wife, Princess Louise. The lights had an illumination power of 32,000 candles, just a fraction of the intensity used today.

A 36-horsepower generating station in Prospect Park, Niagara Falls, New York, operated in July 1879 with 16 open arc lamps each projecting 2,000 candlepower.

1892

In May 1892, Frank LeBlond, one of the owners of the Maid of the Mist, purchased a 4,000 candlepower light and placed it on the Canadian dock of the Maid of the Mist to light the American Falls. He placed gelatin plates in front of the lights to provide a variety of colours. Then in 1895, Captain John Brinker built the Great Gorge Railroad and announced that it would provide night excursions three times weekly during the summer season, complete with lights to illuminate the Whirlpool.

1907

In 1907, W. D’Arcy Ryan of the General Electric Company designed lighting that provided far more power than ever before. Thirty-six projectors illuminated the Falls with a combined candlepower of 1,115,000,000. The display ran for several weeks.

1925

In 1925, a group of interested businessmen finally created the Niagara Falls Illumination Board, to finance, operate and maintain a new, permanent illumination system. Today’s contributing members are the City of Niagara Falls, New York, the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Ontario Power Generation and The Niagara Parks Commission.

1997 to Now

In 1997 and 1998, new fixtures replaced the outdated lamps and fixtures at the Illumination Tower, doubling the intensity of the lights on the Falls without doubling the hydro bills. Currently a total of twenty-one xenon lights, each with a 76-cm (30 in) diameter, are used to illuminate the Falls in a rainbow of colours.

illumination of the falls

The Illumination of the Lights has Closed Down

The Illumination of the Lights has occurred every night throughout all seasons since June 8th, 1925 with the exception of several periods. The first was at times during World Wars I and II.  In January, 1938  a major ice dam shut down the Ontario Power Company Generating Station at the base of the gorge. It also happened over a few nights  during the  NorthEast blackout of 2003 Other than that it has run every night since 1925.

 

And Sometimes the Falls Freeze over

frozen-niagara-falls

TitleCutler’s guide to Niagara Falls, and adjacent points of interest. —Year1902 (1900s)

Authors:  Cutler, Charles, 1837-1912

The Different Colors Mean something

We are here on the days when the falls are coloured differently. These are to represent either Registered charities or not for profit organization. This is sponsored by both Niagara Parks and The Niagara Falls Illumination Board.

Our first name is for the very important occasion to mark Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the USA. The falls are ablaze with red colours.
The second day the falls were purple in support of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and then they stay purple for the Starlight Childrens Foundation.

 

The Schedule for the Falls Illumination

January – 5 pm to midnights
February – 6.30 – to midnights
March 7pm – 11
April – 8.30 – 11
May – Aug 13th 9 pm – midnight
Aug 14th – Sept 30 – 8.30pm – midnight
Oct – 7 pm – midnights
Nove 5 pm – midnights
Dec – 5 pm – 1 am

With thanks to Niagara Parks for the historical information and for sharing the Illumination of the Falls Niagara with us.

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