Underground exploration

I have a lot of respect for urban explorers that get into places that most others would never attempt to go, just for the sake of documenting the decaying history of a place that would likely be forgotten. As you can imagine, Buffalo has lots of these types of places – grain silos, Bethlehem Steel, even the Central Terminal until the CTRC took ownership and sealed it up. They’re the type of places that often require a bit of planning and the cover of nightfall to get into without being seen, so it’s often fascinating to read the experiences of the explorers who document them.

This one, however, takes the concept to a whole new level. A group of explorers researched and successfully entered the tail-race tunnels behind the Horseshoe Falls, which when constructed in 1903 was the largest tunnel in the world.

…it starts with two branches, one on either side of the wheelpit. These join at a point 165 feet beyond the end of the wheelpit, forming a section 26 feet high and 23’/2 feet wide, of a horseshoe form, the object of the water wheels discharging alternately into a branch tunnel on either side instead of into one main tunnel beneath, being to enable one half of the Power House to be shut down at any time for examination or repairs, a feature unique with this installation. It is estimated that with the complete plant in operation the velocity of the discharged water will be 26 feet per second, and the quantity about 12,000 feet per second.

This, my friends, is something you do not want to try yourself. According to the recap (work warning – lots of naughty words) getting to the tunnels required a full complement of mountain climbing gear, power tools, amazing luck to not get arrested or killed, and the biggest set of steel balls one can imagine.

But, with great risk comes great reward. Few will ever get to see this again. First, read this description, then click the link to see the photos.

Resident rope man JonDoe set the ropes and I checked and dressed the knots. We bunny loop figure eighted the 2 anchors then tied the tail to the only backup we had – the rusty ass base of the guard rail. The same guard rail that broke when I leaned on it. The base seemed somewhat sturdier and we straight Mr T’d that shit without any breakage. With a glowing confidence we examined our handiwork. Our single rope access to the tunnel was literally a lifeline. The only other exit from the tunnel is to brave a plunge into the backside of the falls and be smashed against the rocks. If the anchors or rope failed we’d be owned.

Tail-race junction construction

Tail-race junction

The confluence tunnel:
Niagara Confluence Tunnel

Horseshoe falls from behind:
Horseshoe Falls from behind

Read the full story (same link, same warning as above). Be amazed!

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  1. ps.. thanks for the link, simply amazing story!! I can only imagine what else is in Niagara Falls that most people will never know about. Makes you wonder if things like this could be made safe to become a tourist stop.

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