Go Fly A Kite!

 One of the more interesting developments on the Niagara Parks system in 1943 was the construction of a barrier by the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission in the upper reaches of the Niagara River above the Falls. This was built to divert a greater share of the water so the plants on the U.S. side would obtain the water to which the United States was entitled and to improve the appearance of the Horseshoe Falls.  The following is reprinted from a 1943 article in "Hydro News", the journal of the OHEPC:Kite History


 In unvarnished vernacular, the phrase "Go Fly A Kite" frequently implies sentiments not in keeping with literal interpretation. These four words, however, crystallized the idea which facilitated the erection of a steel cableway, spanning a half-mile gap on the Niagara River at the brink of the rapids leading to the great Falls where a submerged rock weir is now under construction. Confronted with the problem of getting the first line across the river at this point, construction men on both the Canadian and United States sides of the International boundary gave much thought to the method which might be adopted. Direct crossing by a vessel was out of the question because of the swift currents and the close proximity of the rapids. Towing a line across would have involved taking it nearly a mile upstream from the cableway tower on the American side and then bringing the end of the line down the Canadian shore and past numerous land obstacles. There was also the possibility of the line being fouled by boulders in the river. Power lines and other obstacles precluded the possibility of using a plane, auto-gyro or dirigible, while balloons were unattainable. At the same time, the distance between the Canadian and United State cable towers was too great to come within range of a rocket gun. To surmount the various difficulties the possibility of using a kite was suggested as the most simple and economical method of getting the first line across the gap.


An investigation was immediately started and after a good deal of hunting much valuable information was unfolded on the history, eccentricities and functions of the kite. This research work revealed data on experiments which have been made with large kites and, from this knowledge, it appeared that the "Go Fly A Kite" idea might succeed. The first job was the designing and building of a kite that would serve the purpose. And so, overnight, Hydro construction men at DeCew Falls Development became first class kite makers and produced a box-type, wind-powered exhibit which would have brought joy to the heart of the most critical schoolboy enthusiast. Measuring 7 feet 6 inches in height by 6 feet in width and 2 feet 6 inches in depth, it comprised a basswood frame and all the nainsook obtainable in Saint Catharines for the lifting surface. The controlling line was 1/32 inch piano wire - 6000 feet of it -while there were approximately 2,000 feet of trailing line terminating in a float and marked by colored streamers.


As part of the cableway, two 155 foot steel towers had been erected - one on the Canadian bank between Chippewa and Niagara Falls, and the other on an artificial island built on the United States side of the International boundary half a mile away. Everything was in readiness for the experiment. Then came several days of waiting for a favorable wind. When the day finally arrived, the men quickly took up their appointed positions. Because of the direction of the wind, the kite was sent aloft from a truck 2,000 feet downstream from the tower on the Canadian side. Many pairs of eyes watched expectantly as it soared and swayed in the breeze, the fine wire, almost invisible from the ground, hanging in a deep curve with its lowest point only a matter of a few feet above the swift waters of the river. Unexpected success was attained in the very first venture, the wire being carried from the shore across the gap without mishap.


The water splashes from the tossing float and the colored streamers enabled the waiting men on the island to follow the course of the fine wire and catch the kite that was guided behind the tower and hauled down. Next followed a sequence of tedious operations. First the fine piano wire was used to pull over another wire of greater diameter. The latter, in turn was spliced to a light cable one-eighth of an inch thick which was used to bring over a quarter-inch cable. Eventually, a strong steel cable, two and a half inches in diameter, was pulled across to form the 2,605-foot cableway which is now linked to the two steel towers.


And so, the completion of this cableway was facilitated because Hydro construction men accepted the literal interpretation of "Go fly a kite".


Many thanks to George Bailey at The Niagara Parks Commission for his help with this little bit of kite wisdom.