The Illumination of Niagara Falls

One hundred and fifty-two years ago the Falls of Niagara became a chorus of coloured light. It would take another twenty-four years before permanent arrangements could be made to illuminate the Falls, nightly.

Fast forward one hundred and twenty-eight years for my turn to digitally alter Niagara’s colours with a single touch of my finger.

I lit up one of the worlds most popular attractions, Niagara Falls.

This season the crowds of visitors were not confined to the daytime, but a most interesting feature of the mid-summer months was the illumination of the falls by searchlights on a scale never before attempted. The effect of all this lavish display of electrical light upon the falls each night was a new revelation of beauty which was very highly appreciated by citizens and visitors alike.” Niagara Parks Superintendent James Wilson, 1901.

In the 1920’s men were paid .50c to stand beside each light and change the colours with gelatin films that slid into place in front of each light.

Eighty-seven years later, the long narrow corridor room is host to a computerized touch screen of both the American and Canadian Falls. Certainly a much warmer enviroment than that of the illumination workers in the ’20’s, but still very, very cold.

The colours of the illumination are white, red, blue, purple and yellow.

American Touch Screen

The illumination of Niagara Falls has continued nightly with the exception of: World War I & II, during a massive ice jam at the base of the gorge which shut down the Ontario Power Company Generating Station and during times of power shortages and conservation.

In the early years the lights had a total strength of 1,320,000,000 candle power and ten coloured screens for each light.

“The Niagara Falls Illumination is the greatest scheme of lighting in existence.” D’Arcy Ryan of General Electric, 1925.

Today, the illumination of Niagara uses a 21 gas light system and uses 8.2 billion candle power. It costs the city $85 dollars an hour to keep the Falls illuminated and includes the services of the operator who will change the lights every hour. (We changed the lights every few minutes.)

Thrilling doesn’t even come close to describing the feelings of being in control of Niagara’s colours. Niagara Falls is my backyard, she’s my best friend, she’s the place I go to tell the world my story and changing her colours with the touch of my finger was an awe-inspiring moment of beauty.

In 1925 The Niagara Falls Illumination Board formed with representatives from: Niagara Falls, New York, Niagara Falls, Ontario and the Niagara Falls Queen Victoria Park Commission. They had a  budget of $28,000 to make sure the operation, maintenance and management of the illumination continued for years to come.

The icing on the cake during this event was watching my favorite little hearts change Niagara Falls into a stunning symphony of colour. Watching their faces light up at one of the worlds most popular attractions, and in their knowing something so extremely beautiful was created by their little touch. My heart swelled with love and pride.

Was it a strange coincidence that the first snow fall Niagara had seen was the same day as our illumination of the Falls? I would like to think so.

Priceless the experience on a beautifully stunning winter wonderland, and a precious time that I will be forever grateful.

*Illumination times are approximate and subject to change according to light conditions.

Jan. 1 to Jan. 31 — 5pm – Midnight
Feb. 1 to Feb. 29 — 6:30pm – 10pm
*Mar. 1 to Mar 10 — 7pm – 10pm
*Mar. 11 to Mar 31 — 8:30pm – 10pm
*Apr. 1 to Apr. 30 — 8:30pm – 11:00pm
May 1 to Aug. 16 — 9pm – Midnight
Aug. 17 to Sept. 30 — 8:30pm – Midnight
Oct. 1 to Nov. 2 — 7pm – Midnight
Nov. 3 to Dec. 30 — 5pm – Midnight
Dec. 31 — 5pm – Midnight

What have you done spectacular lately? Was it something in your own backyard?

13 thoughts on “The Illumination of Niagara Falls

  1. I was thinking a few days ago how it would be seen during winter days… And now, I found your amazing post, also seems to me so exciting too. Thank you dear Jennifer, how I wished to be there and to watch it. with my love, nia

  2. This is so cool! I would love to see the falls and never have. I have always been intrigued by them and the night shots are so cool. Are you back in Italy now? Does it feel good to be home or do you miss your family?

  3. What a great adventure, and yes a lesson too! I learned alot about Niagara Falls from this. Thank you. Great work

  4. Ohhhhh wow!!!!! Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!

    I don’t know what I loved most about this post. The pictures or the lesson!!!

    Consider this lesson swiped and shown off to my students by a fellow displaced Canuck in the world!!!!

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