One of the most popular attractions at Niagara Falls has closed earlier than expected after a rockslide forced parks officials to close down the Cave of the Winds. The tourist hotspot was scheduled to close down on Wednesday after the rocks fell and damaged a path along with several gates and railings, according to the Associated Press.
Officials from the New York State Parks Service told the AP that the sudden rock fall was probably caused by recent heavy rains. The Maid of the Mist boat ride that ferries visitors near the massive waterfalls was also set to close Wednesday and will remain open until then.
“It was probably four to six large rocks,” said Tom Watt, general manager of Niagara Falls State Park. “It’s definitely out of the ordinary.”
The Niagara-Gazette reported that the small boulders were estimated to be about 18 inches in diameter and weighing somewhere around 200 pounds. Watt also told the newspaper that safety officials scaled the walls to assess which, if any, rocks were poised to fall in the coming days. No one was hurt in the fall over the weekend, although crews are disassembling the area so safety is not a concern.
While the Maid of the Mist boat ride takes visitors to the foot of the Falls, the Cave of the Winds tour brings them down a 175 foot elevator into the Niagara Gorge. From there, they are given ponchos and stand behind the more than 6 million cubic feet of water that cascades off the cliff every minute.
Oddly enough, the original Cave of the Winds was permanently closed in 1920 after a more devastating rockslide, rendering it impassable. The website of Niagara Falls notes that the cave was destroyed with dynamite in 1954 and current visitors actually can step out closer to the water on hand-crafted wooden boardwalks. Tourists can stand in the midst of conditions they’d find in a tropical storm, including winds that reach 68 mph.