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Storm moves barge trapped above Horseshoe Falls for 101 years closer to the edge

Strong winds and rains during Thursday night's storm have moved the historic iron scow at the top of Canada's Horseshoe Falls, which had been stuck in the same place for more than 100 years — and now, it's closer to the edge. 

Known as the Iron Scow, the barge is the site of a historic rescue in 1918

Thursday's storm moved the deteriorated iron scow at the top of Horseshoe Falls closer to the edge. Niagara Parks staff are monitoring the situation. (Niagara Parks)

Strong winds and rains during Thursday night's storm have moved the historic iron scow at the top of Canada's Horseshoe Falls, which had been stuck in the same place for more than 100 years — and now, it's closer to the edge. 

In a press release, Niagara Parks said that the deteriorated dumping scow, which is similar to a barge, used to be lodged in the upper rapids above the falls, but has shifted down river.

CEO David Adames said that staff believe the scow isn't in danger of going over the Falls and is now resting in a new site. 

But that doesn't mean it will stay where it is for another 100 years, especially considering its rusted state. 

"It looks secure at the moment; however, if there's severe weather that comes along, it may shift it some more," he said in an interview.

The scow is an iconic part of any visit to the Falls. In 1918, it was the site of a heroic rescue of the two crewmen stranded on board the day it cut adrift and was marooned there.

Over the past century, the scow has become incredibly rusted. The side facing the Canadian side was the only one intact, Adames said.

The CEO said that the weather was severe enough to roll the scow and send it northwest from its original resting place. Though he can't say exactly how far the boat has moved — Niagara Parks will geo-locate it later on to determine the distance — he agreed that the distance is sizeable. 

Staff are monitoring the situation and will issue updates if needed. They are also photographing the change and constantly watching the boat via security camera.

If it does seem like the scow will go over the Falls, Adames said authorities will be notified so that precautions for tourism can be taken.

Niagara Parks celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the scow in August 2018 and unveiled some panels that told its story.

This video shows the scow in its original position in 2018:

On Aug. 6, 1918, the scow broke away from its towing tug up river and started toward the falls. 

To stop the boat, the men opened its bottom dumping doors, which grounded it on some rocks around 600 metres from the edge. 

It took the help of the Niagara Parks police, Niagara Falls fire and police departments, the U.S. Coast Guard and a First World War veteran — William "Red" Hill Sr. — to save them. 

The scow has been in the same place for over a century. It was the site of a historic rescue, where people came together to rescue two men who were stranded near the falls. (Niagara Parks Commission)

Rescuers shot a line out of a cannon from the roof of the powerhouse to the men, and a heavier rope was tied to it. They tried to reel the men in via pulley, but they were stopped by a tangle in the lines. 

The men were trapped until the next morning, when the veteran offered to go out and untangle the lines, allowing for their rescue.

Adames said that descendents of Hill are still living in Niagara today, which helps keep a personal connection to the story. 

The boat has remained stuck in the rocks ever since. At least it was, until Thursday night. 

When asked about why this particular storm moved the scow, Adames said his personal opinion was that there was enough rusting, water pressure, and winds to shift the boat. 

"It could have been the way the wind came down the river," he said. "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." 

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