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Technology & Engineering Social Aspects

Fixing Niagara Falls

Environment, Energy, and Engineers at the World’s Most Famous Waterfall

by (author) Daniel Macfarlane

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Social Aspects, Environmental Policy, General, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price

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Since the late nineteenth century, Niagara Falls has been heavily engineered to generate energy behind a flowing façade designed to appeal to tourists. Fixing Niagara Falls reveals the technological 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. Essentially, they turned this natural wonder into a tap: huge tunnels divert the waters of the Niagara River around the Falls, which ebb and flow according to the tourism calendar. To hide the visual impact of diverting the majority of the water, the United States and Canada cooperated to install massive control works while reshaping and shrinking the Horseshoe Falls. This book offers a unique interdisciplinary perspective on how the Niagara landscape ultimately embodies both the power of technology and the power of nature.

About the author

Daniel Macfarlane is an Assistant Professor with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at Western Michigan University. His research examines Canada-US border waters and he is the author of Negotiating a River, Canada, the US and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Daniel Macfarlane's profile page


  • Winner, Honourable Mention - Wilson Book Prize, The Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University 

Editorial Reviews

Macfarlane has crafted an exemplary work of scholarship.

Technology and Culture

With this carefully researched study, we find in Niagara Falls a locus of past concerns that reverberate today: the realities of appropriation, the hubristic underbelly of "green" energy, the politics of energy transitions and exports, the power struggles between provincial, state, and federal governments.

Literary Review of Canada

Historians and general readers interested in the Falls and in issues connected with the associated technological and political background will appreciate this work.


Fixing Niagara Falls is an excellent monograph that cleverly analyzes how engineering interventions and human hubris helped make the Niagara Falls that we are familiar with today.


"… Macfarlane’s great contribution is to provide a comprehensive account of the creation of the engineering complex at Niagara Falls…"

Ontario Historical Society Review

Other titles by

The Lives of Lake Ontario

An Environmental History

by (author) Daniel Macfarlane

Natural Allies

Environment, Energy, and the History of US-Canada Relations

by (author) Daniel Macfarlane

The First Century of the International Joint Commission

edited by Murray Clamen & Daniel Macfarlane

Border Flows

A Century of the Canadian-American Water Relationship

contributions by Lynne Heasley, Daniel Macfarlane, Andrea Charron, Alice Cohen, Dave Dempsey, Jerry Dennis, Colin A.M. Duncan, Matthew Evenden, James W. Feldman, Noah D. Hall, Nancy Langston, Frederic Lasserre, Andrew Marcille, Jeremy Mouat, Emma S. Norman, Peter Starr, Joseph E. Taylor & Graeme Wynn

Moving Natures

Mobility and the Environment in Canadian History

edited by Ben Bradley & Colin M. Coates
contributions by Jay Young, Thomas Peace, Jim Clifford, Judy Burns, Ken Cruikshank, Andrew Watson, Merle Massie, Daniel Macfarlane, Tor H. Oiamo, Don Lafreniere, Joy Parr, J.I. Little, Jessica Dunkin, Elizabeth L. Jewett, Elsa Lam & Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert

Negotiating a River

Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway

by (author) Daniel Macfarlane

Historical GIS Research in Canada

contributions by Jennifer Bonnell, Marcel Fortin, Colleen Beard, Stephen Bocking, Jim Clifford, Joanna Dean, Francois Dufaux, Patrick A. Dunae, Jason Gilliland, William M. Glen, Megan Harvey, Matthew G. Hatvany, Sally Hermansen, Andrew Hinson, Don Lafreniere, John S. Lutz, Joshua D. MacFadyen, Daniel Macfarlane, Jennifer Marvin, Cameron Metcalf, Byron Moldofsky, Sherry Olson, Jon Pasher, Daniel Rueck, R.W. Sandwell, Henry Yu & Barbara Znamirowski