Behind the thundering curtain of Niagara falls there is a tunnel, 10m tall, red brick lined and virtually inaccessible to all but the most determined explorers. This is my report on our exploration of the famous Toronto Power Company Hydroelectric Tailrace Tunnels in Niagara Falls, AKA: Confluence.
I’m not going to write much about Confluence, many others have done it much better than I ever will, I recommend Kowalksi’s very detailed post for some background to the plant. For some history on the first attempts by explorers to access the tailrace, Quantum-x’s article is the place to go. But for the article that shot Confluence to it’s current celebrity status, you have to check out dsankt’s fantastic DIY Supervillian Hideout report.
I’m writing this report for me, for fun and for completeness, if anyone else likes it, that’s an added bonus.
Our visit, like this report, was almost an exploration for completeness. The Niagara tailrace tunnels have taken on a celebrity status in the exploring world and anyone else who considers themself a 1337 URB3x0rz plans on standing in front of that imposing junction once in their lives. So in late 2009 a group of seven explorers from Australia, Canada, England, and the USA converged on a Niagara hotel with the goal of going behind the falls.
The generating station, completed in 1906 to supply electricity to Toronto is located about 500m upstream of the falls. Water was taken from the river and diverted into the penstocks where it fell eight stories, gaining enough kinetic energy to turn the turbines. After being expelled by the turbines the water flowed by gravity into the tail race tunnel where it was sent back to the falls.
So back at the hotel we packed SRT gear and as we discussed how the nights events would unfold. By the time we got the station the plan was well rehearsed and everything moved like clockwork. Inside the station we descended the decrepit set of ladders and stairs that plunge the eight stories into the bedrock of Niagara. The stairs and ladders are every bit as decrepit as dsankt’s reports make out. Regularly large sections of rusting walkway would break off and smash against the twisted machinery at the bottom of the wheelpit. The consequences of going through the floor were not worth thinking about.
Somehow we all managed to make it down alive to the relative safety of the brick lined wheelpit. This is where we first heard the roar of the falls and through a slot in the floor we saw our first glimpse of the massive tunnels; it was through this slot that we would rappel into Confluence.
The first person down let out yells of excitement as he passed through the roof and first saw the enormity of the tunnels. One by one we all did the same until we all stood there wide eyed at THE CONFLUENCE.
This sounds retarded, but it was a spiritual experience standing in front of that junction. The detail in the brickwork, the scale of the tunnels, the build up, the history and those who had been before us. That was a moment I’ll never forget.
In no particular order: Siologen, Nel58, Shane, Loops, Little Mike, Snapple, S. Marshall
So the rest unfolds as expected, we took a bunch of photos and tried to appreciate our surroundings each in his own way. We all took the obligatory shower under the falls and I tell you what, it was a hilarious site seeing a bunch of white arsed explorers wade into the freezing cold lake at the end of the tunnel.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say for now. But this was only the first night of the North American Bust up of 2009… maybe I’ll get around to writing up the next seven days some time.
Big thanks to the crew, good times all round.