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Is the end near for a piece of local history at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls?

Windstorm moves iconic "Iron Scow" and people rush to see it
Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 19:01:40-05

NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO — It was a huge story in 1918: an "iron scow" had broken free and was heading for the Horseshoe Falls with two men aboard. The vessel eventually came to a halt not far from the brink, but no one knew how long it would stay put.

As it turned out, the barge-like vessel stayed in place for 101 years - until a 2019 Halloween windstorm that caused gusts over 60mph.

The "iron scow" was moved and flipped with portions that were underwater for a century now clearly visible.

The wreck no longer resembles anything like a barge, rather, it appears to be just piles of rusty metal projecting from the rapids.

"I had to come and see it for myself. I can't believe that heavy of a vessel would turn in water that doesn't seem that deep," said Bob Prentice.

Prentice is the great-grandson of William "Red" Hill, Sr., a riverman and daredevil who was proclaimed a hero for his actions during the 1918 scow rescue that saved Gustave Lofberg and Frank Harris of the Great Lakes Dredge and Docks Company.

In what was a joint Canadian-American effort, the U.S. Coast Guard shot rescue ropes from the top of the Toronto Power House to the stranded scow. When the lines became tangled, "Red" Hill, Sr. climbed out on the ropes twice so the men could be rescued.

William "Red" Hill, Sr. was awarded the Carnegie Medal for his efforts.

"It provides history for those who performed the great rescue, not only for my great-grandfather, but for all the first responders that came that day," added Bob Prentice.

The old "iron scow" was a familiar sight to millions of tourists who visited Niagara Falls over the 101-year period.

News that it had been moved and shifted brought a rush of people who wanted to see the old landmark before it broke apart or washed over the Horseshoe Falls.

Will it go over the falls?

No one knows for sure, said Jim Hill, Senior Manager of Heritage for the Niagara Parks Commission. Hill (no relation to "Red" Hill, Sr.) said it is believed the old vessel will break apart in pieces over time and not move as a solid chunk.

How to see it up close.

The Niagara Parks Commission said spectators are welcome to park in Floral Showhouse parking lot on the Niagara River Parkway in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Walking to the right side of the power station will put visitors in a place where they can take pictures and read historic plaques about the Great Scow Rescue of 1918.