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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Exploring Photos: Sandsuckers in the Niagara River, 1950s
A sand sucker dredges the Niagara River. NOTL MUSEUM

This circa 1950s photograph shows one of the three ships that would be used to dredge the sandbar at the mouth of the Niagara River. The sandbar was a source of clean sand, which was ideal for producing concrete. A large amount of concrete was needed for the construction of two projects in Niagara in the early 1900s — the fourth Welland Canal and the massive Sir Adam Beck hydro-electric project in Queenston. Dredging operations began in 1916 and continued until the 1990s using suction type dredgers, locally known as “sand suckers.” These sand suckers could remove tons of sand per day (total amounts unknown), which changed the underwater topography of the river. This irreversibly altered the flow of the Niagara River at its entrance to Lake Ontario, which has contributed to increased erosion along the waterfront. It also destroyed spawning grounds and is said to have contributed to the collapse of the fishing industry locally.

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