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The Iron Scow

The Iron Scow

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On August 6, 1918, a dumping scow with two men aboard broke loose from its towing tug and became lodged in the rapids of the upper Niagara River. A unique artifact of Niagara Falls history, the wreckage has remained just above the brink of the falls for over a century.

Severe weather conditions on October 31, 2019 caused the scow to shift significantly from the spot it remained in for over 100 years. Remarkably, high winds forced the scow to turn its position and shift further toward the brink of the falls. The news of the scow’s momentous move made national and international headlines with media and public interest continuing days after. While still lodged in the powerful rapids of the upper Niagara River, the future of the legendary scow remains uncertain.

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The Iron Scow Rescue

On August 6, 1918, a dumping scow broke loose from its towing tug in the rapids of the upper Niagara River with Gustav F. Lofberg and James H. Harris aboard. The men opened the bottom dumping doors and the scow grounded in the shallow rapids, only 600 metres from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls.

With the cooperation of the Niagara Parks police, the Niagara Falls fire and police departments, the U.S. Coast Guard and recently returned WWI veteran, William ‘Red’ Hill Sr., the two men were successfully rescued the next day by breeches buoy on a line shot out from the roof of the adjacent powerhouse.

William "Red" Hill Sr.

The brave efforts of William “Red” Hill Sr., a resident of Niagara Falls, Ontario and well-known riverman, led the legendary iron scow rescue. Hill courageously swung himself out to the wreckage in the upper Niagara River, clinging from a tangled breeches buoy by his legs while straightening the lines for the stranded passengers to disembark.

Prior to this heroic deed, Hill served in the First World War and had recently returned home after having been wounded and gassed in France. Hill was awarded a Carnegie Life Saving Medal for his part in the harrowing iron scow rescue.

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Centenary of the Iron Scow Rescue

The 100th anniversary of the iron scow rescue, perhaps the most iconic story in Niagara folklore, was celebrated on August 6, 2018. A ceremony unveiled a new set of interpretive panels that share the fascinating history of the Iron Scow. For years to come, visitors can learn about the dramatic rescue effort long after the barge finally descends over the Horseshoe Falls or crumbles into the river forever.