It somehow stayed put just a third of a mile from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, until this Halloween, when a storm bearing intense wind and rain knocked it from its perch.
It came to a stop about 164 feet downstream, according to park officials, and appeared to have rotated and flipped on its side.
Last year, the park observed the centennial of the Iron Scow’s stranding and the daring rescue that ensued. The boat had deteriorated throughout the years, but the story of how it got there has lost none of its thrill.
Aug. 6, 1918, began normally for Gustav Lofberg, 51, and James Harris, 53, as they boarded the iron dumping scow to work on a dredging operation about a mile from the brink of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls, according to Niagara Parks.
Then, the tether that connected them to a tugboat snapped. The scow began to drift downstream toward the edge of the falls and the 167-foot drop beyond.
Thinking quickly, the two men opened the bottom of the scow and allowed water to flood in, slowing the vessel and allowing it to strand on a cluster of rocks.
They had stopped the boat. Now they just had to get off it.
Canadian authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard rushed to their assistance, but with over 600 feet of treacherous rapids between the scow and the shore, getting Harris and Lofberg out safely would not be easy.
As a crowd gathered to watch the mission unfold, rescuers used a lifeline cannon to shoot a line from the shore to the scow. A line of rope stretched across the rapids from a powerhouse to the scow, and, by that night, authorities were ready to hoist the two boatmen over the rapids using a canvas sling.
But as they sent the sling toward the boat, it suddenly jammed. The ropes had tangled, yet another setback in an already complex rescue.
Night fell. In the early hours of the next morning, a Canadian World War I veteran named William “Red” Hill Sr. volunteered to make the treacherous journey over the rapids to untangle the lines.
Rescuers hoisted him out, a spotlight guiding his way. On his first try, it was too dark to see the lines, but he went back out a second time at dawn and successfully untangled them. Shortly after that, Harris and Lofberg were brought safely back to shore.
The scow, however, could not be saved. Authorities deemed such a mission too dangerous, so the scow remained clinging to the rocks. For a century, the boat endured the constant battering of the currents and became a part of Niagara’s history. Even as its hull deteriorated, it remained visible to tourists on the Canadian side of the falls for decades. In 2018, the park commemorated the 100th anniversary of the daring rescue by honoring Hill’s bravery and dedicating panels that told the story.
After a brief moment of freedom on Oct. 31, the scow became stranded in a different part of the rapids. Park officials said they would monitor the vessel for any other changes.
“It could be stuck there for days, or it could be stuck there for years,” said Jim Hill, senior manager of heritage for the Niagara Parks Commission. “It’s anyone’s guess.”