Hiking an abandoned hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls

Geology Ph.D. student and volcano blogger Jessica Ball recently took a detour away from volcanoes and into the world of awesome abandoned industrial sites.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE awesome abandoned industrial sites?

Ball went hiking around the former site of the Schoellkopf Power Station—a hydroelectric plant that once turned the force of Niagara Falls into electricity.

The ruins of this power plant were the second station built on the site, and were completed in 1895. Both buildings were constructed by Jacob Schoellkopf, who had purchased a hydraulic canal, the land around it and the power rights in 1877. The plant eventually became part of the Niagara Falls Power Company in the early twentieth century. But by 1956, water that had been seeping through the rock in the gorge wall behind the plant had weakened it. On June 7th, workers noticed cracks in the rear wall of the plant, and at 5 that evening a catastrophic collapse destroyed more than 2/3 of the station. One man died, several had to be rescued from the Niagara River, and debris from the collapse made it as far as the Canadian side of the Gorge.

Before the collapse, the plant was generating 360,000 kilowatts of power for the city of Niagara Falls; afterward plants on the Canadian side picked up the slack, and the destroyed plant was later surpassed by redevelopment of the hydropower infrastructure in the area, including the construction of the Robert Moses Generating Station farther downstream.

Check out her photo-filled tour of the site at the Magma Cum Laude blog


  1. My favorite thing is hiking the old abandoned roads that may lead to the abandoned facilities.  Some of the architecture the engineers used to get to otherwise pretty inaccessible spots is fascinating.

    So it was a rockslide, a.k.a rock face collapse, that destroyed the building?  Would it have come down on its own eventually, or was the cliff weakened by the excavations there?  It survived for 60+ years, so it was a slow destruction.

  2. On the site, she writes, “I decided to stay out of the penstocks, but the trail continues on top of them.” Only a squealing helmet-tard would think it’s a good idea to go frolicking in the murky water in those penstocks.

    I’m not trying to insult her. I just have a profound aversion to murky water.

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