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The Whirlpool, Niagara River, c. 1900

Niagara River gorge and Whirlpool
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_D47_NiL
 
Document Description
View down the Niagara River gorge to the Whirlpool, where the river makes a 90º turn, circa 1900.
 
Questions
Why is the area in the photograph called "The Whirlpool"?
Is the water flowing quickly or slowly? How can you tell?
Would this be a good place to swim?
The Whirlpool is located in the Niagara Gorge. What is a gorge? What features of a gorge do you see in this photograph?
Based on the Historical Background, which is closer to Lake Ontario — the Whirlpool or Niagara Falls? What clues did you use from the text to find the answer?
Which lake do you think has a higher elevation, Lake Ontario or Lake Erie?
 
Historical Challenges
On the right side of the photograph there appear to be poles along a path. When and why was the path created, what was it used for, and does it exist today?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Draw what the Niagara River would have looked like if the glacier had caused a 45° turn rather than a 90° turn. Do the same for a 180° turn and a 270° turn.


 
Math: If the Whirlpool is approximately 1,650 feet in diameter and 125 feet deep, about how much water does it hold?
Science: Research the impact that glaciers have had on various land formations in New York State and the United States. Name three major land formations.
Science: Research the flow of water through the Whirlpool. What happens to water in the Niagara River when it reaches the Whirlpool? Sometimes the water in the Whirlpool reverses direction and flows clockwise instead of counterclockwise. Why does this change occur, when did it first happen, and how frequently does it happen?
 
Resources
Whitcraft, Melissa. The Niagara River. New York: Franklin Watts, 2001. ISBN: 0531119033
 
 

Historical Context
The Niagara River was formed some 12,000 years ago from water melting off glaciers. The river flows thirty-four miles from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.  Along those thirty-four miles, the river makes a sudden large drop in elevation, called Niagara Falls.  Downriver from the falls, the river makes a 90º turn that is known as the Whirlpool.
 
Essential Question
How does geography impact culture and economic systems?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of this water source on New York's culture and economy.