Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/161

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149
ESTIMATING THE AGE OF NIAGARA FALLS.

about twenty feet thick, which again is underlaid by a shaly deposit of seventy feet, resting upon a compact stratum of Medina sandstone twenty feet thick, below which a softer sandstone, that crumbles somewhat readily, extends to the level of the river.

The present width of the river at the mouth of the gorge is seven hundred and seventy feet. It is scarcely possible that the original width of the gorge was here any less than this, for in the narrowest places above, even where the Niagara limestone is much thicker than at Lewiston, it is nowhere much less than six hundred feet in width. Nor is it probable that the river has to any considerable extent enlarged its channel at the mouth of the gorge at the

PSM V55 D161 Niagara gorge southbound view.png
Fig. 3.—Looking up the gorge from near Lewiston, showing on the left the exposed situation of the eastern face of the gorge at the extreme angle, where the measurements were made.

water level. On the contrary, it is more probable that the mouth has been somewhat contracted, for the large masses of Niagara and Clinton limestone-and Medina sandstone which have fallen down as the shales were undermined have accumulated at the base as a talus, which the present current of the river is too feeble to remove. This talus of great blocks of hard stone has effectually riprapped the banks, and really encroached to some extent upon the original channel.

We may therefore assume with confidence that the enlargement, under subaërial agencies, of the mouth of the gorge at the top of the escarpment has been no greater than the distance from the present water's edge to the present line of the escarpment at the summit of the Niagara limestone. This we found to be three hundred and