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Cohoes Falls

Coordinates: 42°47′16.68″N 73°42′30.72″W / 42.7879667°N 73.7085333°W / 42.7879667; -73.7085333
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42°47′16.68″N 73°42′30.72″W / 42.7879667°N 73.7085333°W / 42.7879667; -73.7085333

Cohoes Falls
from the south
LocationBetween Cohoes and Waterford, NY, United States
Coordinates42°47′16″N 73°42′30″W / 42.78778°N 73.70833°W / 42.78778; -73.70833
Elevation180 feet (55 m)
Total height90 feet (27 m)
Total width1,000 feet (300 m)
WatercourseMohawk River
flow rate
34,638 cubic feet (980.8 m3)

Cohoes Falls [Kahón:ios Kanien'ké:ha (Kanyenkeha or Mohawk language) for "a boat is in the water / is actively submerged"] is a waterfall on the Mohawk River shared by the city of Cohoes and the town of Waterford, New York.


Cohoes historian Arthur Masten incorrectly wrote in his 1880 history that the phrase might mean "Potholes in the River," referring to the potholes that appear in the riverbed when it is dry. However, Kanatsio'harè:ke (Kanatsiohareke) and Kanatsio'háre (Canojahare) bear names with reference to this meaning in Kanien'ké:ha (Kanyenkeha).

In the oral and written tradition of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Kahón:ios is where The Great Peacemaker performed a feat of supernatural strength, convincing the Kanyenkehaka (Mohawks) to become the founding nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Some historians believe the Kanyenkehaka (Mohawks) launched the Confederacy as early as 1142 CE, though other experts report dates ranging from 1450–1650.

Early illustration (1772) of Kohoes Falls, from the book En Resa til Norra America by Pehr Kalm.

Celebrated by 18th-century travelers in letters and journals, Cohoes Falls, also called The Great Falls of the Mohawk, were regarded as the second-most beautiful cataract in New York State after Niagara Falls. In 1804, the national poet of Ireland, Thomas Moore, visited Cohoes and wrote a paean to the waterfall's beauty: "Lines Written at the Cohos, or Falls of the Mohawk River."

In 1831, town leaders built a dam across the Mohawk River to harness the power of the falls to fuel the turbines of the city's burgeoning textile industry. Over the next several decades, the predominant company, Harmony Mills, became the largest manufacturer of cotton in the United States, thanks to its control of local water rights. When all the mills closed in the wake of the Great Depression, city leaders leased the flow rights to a series of power companies, including Niagara Mohawk and Orion Power.

The Erie Canal was planned to overcome the navigational barrier of the Cohoes Falls. The original "Clinton's Ditch", the Erie Canal of 1825, was built through the city of Cohoes. The later Enlarged Canal was realigned, yet still went through the City of Cohoes. The Barge Canal, which opened in 1918, bypasses Cohoes and runs through the Village of Waterford via the Waterford Flight of Locks.


The Cohoes Falls is 90 feet (28 m) high and 1,000 feet (305 m) wide. Its flow is greatest in springtime, sometimes running at 90,000 cubic feet (2,500 m3) of water per second.[1] The flow varies with seasonal variation of Mohawk River flow as well as with diversions for the Barge Canal locks, power generation, and the Cohoes water supply. During the summer, the falls are virtually dry, revealing shale rock formations that have their own distinctive beauty. The 87-year average flow of the Mohawk River at Cohoes is 34,638 cubic feet per second, but this includes water diverted to the power plant and Erie Canal locks.[2]

Early hand-colored postcard of the falls

Cohoes Falls compared to Niagara Falls[edit]

  • The width of Cohoes Falls is roughly 1,000 feet (300 m), while Niagara Falls' width is 830 feet (250 m) for American Falls and 2,200 feet (670 m) for Horseshoe Falls
  • The height of Cohoes Falls ranges from 75 feet (23 m) on the north side to 90 feet (27 m) on the south end. Niagara Falls' height is 70 to 110 feet (34 m) for American Falls and 163 feet (50 m) for Horseshoe Falls.
  • Water flow over Cohoes Falls ranges from zero to 90,000 cubic feet per second. (During Hurricane Irene in August 2011, the flow was estimated to be over 100,000 cubic feet per second with a total river flow of 117,000.[3]) Water flow over Niagara Falls ranges from 5,000 to 21,000 cubic feet per second for American Falls and 45,000 to 190,000 cubic feet per second for Horseshoe Falls.
  • Cohoes Falls generates about 190,000 megawatt hours (i.e. 190 gigawatt hours) of electricity a year. Niagara Falls produces about 2.4 gigawatts in New York and 2.0 gigawatts in Canada.
  • At Niagara Falls, the annual rate of tourism tops 28 million people.[4] There is no tourist industry at Cohoes Falls.



  1. ^ "The Cohoes Falls". The City of Cohoes. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  2. ^ "USGS Surface Water data for New York: USGS Surface-Water Annual Statistics". waterdata.usgs.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  3. ^ "USGS Surface Water for New York: Peak Streamflow". nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Niagara Falls". Travelooce.com. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2016-09-21.

External links[edit]