Colossal Cataract

The Geologic History of Niagara Falls

Edited by Irving H. Tesmer

Paperback : 9780873955232, 219 pages, June 1981
Hardcover : 9780873955225, 219 pages, June 1981

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Table of contents


1. Introduction
Location, Setting, Accessibility
History of Geological Observations

2. The Geologic Past
Historical Geology
Niagara Rock Strata
Silurian Fossils of the Niagara Frontier
Quaternary Geology
Ancient Niagara River Gravels and Their Fossils
Structural Geology

3. Present Dynamics of Niagara
4. Future of Niagara Falls
5. Detailed Stratigraphy
6. Silurian Paleontology
7. Depositional Environments and Fossil Distribution

References Cited

Appendix A. Road Guide for Points of Interest
Appendix B. Museum Exhibits
Appendix C. Niagara Statistics
Appendix D. Subsurface Stratigraphy


For the reader who wants to extend appreciation of the “Thunder of Waters” to a deeper knowledge of the geological formation of Niagara Falls, Colossal Cataract is the guide.


In 1975 a group of distinguished American and Canadian geologists agreed to pool their knowledge to write about the geologically fascinating resource they shared. Colossal Cataract is the result of their five-year collaboration to provide both geologists and general readers with the first comprehensive geological history of Niagara Falls since 1914.

How and why the Falls were formed and how the Niagara Frontier has evolved through natural processes and through man's efforts to benefit from the dynamic power of the Falls is described in a succinct history. A chapter forecasts the possible future of the Falls, taking the natural erosion rate and the technological options for directing it into account.

The authors both correct some misconceptions about the geology of the Falls and offer a new interpretation of the structure of the bedrock. A chapter on paleontology describes the fossils that have been deposited and which might still be found.

Attached to the book is a 25 x 32" four-color map, the only available detailed geological map of the Niagara area. The map shows the bedrock distribution and incorporates the latest geological data.

Appendixes offer a glossary of geologic terms, Niagara statistics, stratigraphy, a road guide to points of interest, and a summary of museum exhibits in the Niagara region.

Irving H. Tesmer is Professor of Geology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.