Exploring Schoellkopf Power Station Niagara Falls’ Hydroelectric Power Plant

Jun 30, 2023 | Uncategorized

Niagara Falls has long been admired for its breathtaking beauty and immense power. But did you know that it also played a pivotal role in the development of hydroelectric power, particularly at the Schoellkopf Power Station? In this journey through the past, present, and future of Niagara’s hydroelectric power plants, we will uncover fascinating stories hidden within the mist of the falls and explore how this marvel of nature has been harnessed to generate electricity for over a century, with a special focus on the Schoellkopf Power Station.

Short Summary

  • The Schoellkopf Power Station was a hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls that experienced growth before its collapse in 1956.
  • Visitors to the ruins can take an elevator into the gorge and observe its history, as well as visit other nearby attractions such as the Niagara Parks Power Station and Lewiston Pump Generating Plant.
  • Hydroelectric power remains integral to Niagara Falls’ energy infrastructure with environmental considerations playing a key role for sustainable development.

The Rise and Fall of Schoellkopf Power Station

The story of the Schoellkopf Power Station is one of innovation, growth, and eventually, calamity. Upon its completion, it was the largest hydroelectric power station in the world, with a capacity of 340 MW as verified by the New York Power Authority. But what led to its rise and subsequent collapse?

Early Beginnings

The origins of the Schoellkopf Power Station can be traced back to the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company, established by Jacob F. Schoellkopf in 1891. Schoellkopf acquired the canal, water, and power rights for $71,000 and constructed the first power station in 1881. This marked the beginning of a new era in hydroelectric power for Niagara Falls, attracting industries, businesses, and tourists alike. As the plant expanded under the oversight of the New York Power Authority, it became a symbol of progress and innovation. The Schoellkopf Power Station’s contribution to the development of hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls was immense, but this period of prosperity was not to last.

The Collapse

In June 1956, tragedy struck when two-thirds of the Schoellkopf Power Station collapsed into the Niagara River. The collapse was attributed to a combination of factors, including structural failure due to the plant’s age, inadequate maintenance, and excessive water pressure load. The catastrophic event resulted in one fatality and caused a considerable loss of power from the grid, with 400,000 kilowatts suddenly gone. The once-mighty Schoellkopf Power Station’s collapse marked the end of an era, and the plant was eventually decommissioned. However, the spirit of innovation and progress lived on, as new hydroelectric power projects emerged to take its place.

Revisiting the Ruins

Today, the public can visit the ruins of the Schoellkopf Power Station to get a glimpse of the past and an understanding of the powerful legacy it left behind. Visitors can take an elevator into the Niagara Gorge to explore the remnants of the once-largest hydroelectric power station in the world, witnessing its remarkable history and incredible history firsthand. The station was built in 1895 and was the first of its kind to use the power of Niagara Falls.

Observation Deck

The observation deck at the Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site, situated in the Gorge, offers a unique view of the plant’s remains and the surrounding area. Visitors can reach the observation deck by taking the Schoellkopf Elevator, which was restored in 2013. From this vantage point, one can truly appreciate the scale of the plant and the impact it had on the development of hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls.

Hours of Operation

For those interested in visiting the ruins, the site is open from May 9 to October 31, from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM daily, and from November 1 to 6, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily. Please note that schedules are subject to change. There is no cost associated with riding the elevator at the Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site.

Hydroelectric Power in Niagara Falls

While the Schoellkopf Power Station’s story came to an abrupt end, hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls continued to evolve. Both the American and Canadian sides of the falls boast impressive power plants, such as:
  • The Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant
  • The Lewiston Pump Generating Plant on the American side
  • The Sir Adam Beck Generating Station Nos. 1 and 2 on the Canadian side.
These power plants are the result of decades of innovation and investment in the area, and they are the result of decades of investment in the area.

Niagara Parks Power Station

The Niagara Parks Power Station, a century-old decommissioned power plant, has been transformed into a tourist attraction that offers visitors a glimpse into the history and architectural beauty of the facility. At the Niagara Parks Power Station, visitors can experience a 180-foot descent in a glass-paneled elevator, explore a 2,200-foot long tunnel, and visit an observation deck located at the river’s edge. The “Science of Power” exhibit at the Niagara Parks Power Station provides an in-depth exploration of how the hydropower pioneer utilized the power of water to generate electricity for 100 years. The immersive and family-friendly sound and light show, Currents, adds another layer of excitement to the visitor experience.

Lewiston Pump Generating Plant

The Lewiston Pump Generating Plant plays a significant role in generating clean energy for the Niagara Power Project. The plant diverts water from the Niagara River above Niagara Falls and passes it through two sets of turbines, generating electricity on both occasions. This process not only provides clean, renewable energy, but also helps preserve the Niagara River’s resources by reducing water evaporation. A modernization plan for the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant, which began in 2012 and is expected to conclude in 2020, aims to enhance the efficiency and service life of the plant with a $460 million investment. This undertaking further demonstrates the commitment to sustainable energy production in the region.

Niagara Power Visitors Center

The Niagara Power Visitors Center, managed by New York State, offers an opportunity for visitors to learn more about hydroelectric power and its history in the Niagara Frontier. The center features interactive exhibits that provide information regarding Niagara Power and hydroelectricity, making it an excellent educational resource. Visitors can explore the exhibits to gain a better understanding of both the remarkable history and the current state of hydroelectric power, as they uncover fascinating stories hidden within the displays.


At the Niagara Power Visitors Center, visitors can explore a range of multimedia displays, including hands-on interactive technologies, large touch screens, and a virtual ride. These exhibits offer valuable insights into the history of hydroelectric power in the region, as well as the first major power plant on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. In addition to the interactive exhibits, visitors can view historic artifacts that showcase the unique architectural features of the Niagara Parks Power Station. Through these displays, the center provides an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.


The Niagara Power Visitors Center is conveniently located in Lewiston, New York, approximately 5 miles north of Niagara Falls and adjacent to the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant. This prime location allows visitors to easily access both the educational resources of the center and the awe-inspiring sight of the power plant in action. The center offers a variety of interactive exhibits and activities that provide visitors with an in-depth, entertaining and educational experience.

The Future of Hydroelectric Power in Niagara Falls

The future of hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls looks bright, with new projects and modernization plans set to continue the region’s legacy as a hub for clean, renewable energy production. The $800M, 2.4GW Niagara Power Project, named after Robert Moses and completed in 1961, aimed at replacing the Schoellkopf stations and providing additional power for the region. However, the pursuit of sustainable energy production in Niagara Falls is not without its challenges. The discovery of hazardous chemicals and the need for more environmentally conscious practices have highlighted the importance of striking a balance between harnessing the power of the falls and preserving its natural beauty.

Niagara Power Project

The Niagara Power Project:
  • Diverts water from the Niagara River above Niagara Falls
  • Returns water to the lower portion of the river near Lake Ontario
  • Provides one quarter of the power used in New York State and Ontario
  • Intended to replace the Schoellkopf stations
  • Supplies an additional 2.4GW of power
Since its completion in 1961, the Niagara Power Project has played a crucial role in the growth of new industries and businesses in the region, providing a reliable source of energy and helping to reduce energy costs.

Environmental Considerations

As hydroelectric power projects continue to grow and evolve in Niagara Falls, so too does the need for sustainable practices and environmental stewardship. The presence of hazardous chemicals, such as PCBs and mercury, in the area highlights the importance of minimizing pollution and protecting the habitats and wildlife that call Niagara Falls home. To ensure the long-term success and sustainability of hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls, it is crucial to adopt practices that reduce water usage, minimize pollution, and protect the natural resources that make this region so extraordinary. By striking a balance between the pursuit of clean energy and environmental preservation, Niagara Falls can continue to be a global leader in hydroelectric power.


From the rise and fall of the Schoellkopf Power Station to the ongoing pursuit of clean, renewable energy through modern projects and facilities, the history of hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls is a compelling narrative of innovation, resilience, and environmental responsibility. As we look to the future, it is clear that the legacy of Niagara’s power will continue to transform and inspire generations to come.

Can I visit both the Table Rock Welcome Centre and the Schoellkopf Power Station in one trip to Niagara Falls, Canada?

Yes, you can visit both the Table Rock Welcome Centre and the Schoellkopf Power Station in one trip to Niagara Falls, Canada. The table rock welcome centre in niagara falls is an excellent starting point for exploring the falls and offers breathtaking views. The Schoellkopf Power Station, a historic landmark, is located nearby and provides an interesting glimpse into the region’s industrial past.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the Niagara power plant shut down?

The Niagara power plant was shut down due to the technical challenges of needing to retrofit the station for North American standard power and the movement of the rock bed causing turbines and generators to drift out of alignment. This ultimately made it uneconomical and unfeasible to keep running.

What is the abandoned power plant in Niagara Falls?

The Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site in Niagara Falls is a reminder of the power station that was once the largest hydroelectric power station in the world when it was constructed in three sections between 1905 and 1924. Today, this abandoned power plant stands as a testament to the history of the area.

When did Niagara Falls power plant collapse?

On June 7th, 1956, the Niagara Falls power plant collapsed and fell into the Niagara Gorge due to water seeping in from the back wall. Despite efforts from workers with sandbags, the cracks widened and eventually caused the total destruction of the plant. This ultimately led to the development of the Robert Moses Power Project.

When was the Schoellkopf Power Station built?

Jacob F. Schoellkopf’s construction of the Schoellkopf Power Station was completed in 1881. This marked a new era of modern electricity.

What caused the collapse of the Schoellkopf Power Station?

The catastrophic collapse of the Schoellkopf Power Station can be attributed to a lack of structural integrity, inadequate maintenance practices, and an excessive amount of water pressure.

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