Does the age of Niagara Falls support young-earth creationism?

The short answer

Of course not. Why would anyone think that the Earth cannot be older than Niagara Falls?

The longer answer

Niagara Falls is somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 years old. Should this matter to creationists?

I. Is Niagara Falls consistent with an old Earth?

The age of Niagara Falls often is included in creationist lists of putative evidences for a young Earth. These lists usually seem to summarize claims by creationist Kent Hovind. The following is from one such list paraphrasing one of Hovind’s DVDs:

Niagara Falls has only moved 7 miles. All the textbooks agree, Niagara Falls has moved about 7 miles; this one says, 7 1/2 miles. Well, at 4 or 5 feet a year, that would be 9900 years, that is correct! But I have a question, Niagara Falls is right there right now, it used to be up here, it has moved south 7 miles. If the earth is billions of years old, why has it not moved all the way to Lake Erie by now or clear to Florida for that matter? Why is Niagara Falls right there? (Anonymous 2013)

This is a very strange line of argument. Does Hovind think the Earth can’t be older than Niagara Falls? Asking “If the earth is billions of years old, why hasn’t Niagara Falls receded further?” is like asking “If the earth is billions of years old, why hasn’t my hairline receded further?”

II. Is Niagara Falls consistent with a young Earth?

Not all creationists who write about Niagara Falls argue along Hovind’s lines. Morris (2003), for instance, merely argues that the recorded erosion rate of Niagara Falls, supplemented with additional assumptions about Noah’s Flood, yields an age for the Falls that is consistent with the young-earth interpretation of Biblical chronology. This is a far more respectable line of argument than Hovind’s. Morris’s argument still fails because of decisive evidence against Noah’s flood, but it is perhaps worth noting that young-earthers who are willing to be a just a little bit flexible with the 6,000 years to which Morris is committed need not invoke Noah’s Flood at all.

III. Is Niagara Falls consistent with  uniformitarianism?

Niagara Falls also gives Morris (2003) an opportunity to attack uniformitarianism. In the nineteenth century, the great geologist Charles Lyell estimated the erosion rate of Niagara Falls at about one foot per year, from which he drew an inflated approximate age of 35,000 years for the Falls. Aside from the sneer that “Lyell’s work at Niagara accomplished its main goal, that of calling Scripture into question” (Morris 2003:iv), Morris appears to think the inaccuracy of Lyell’s estimate undermines uniformitarianism. It is unclear why Morris thinks this, since the geologists who corrected Lyell’s estimate used uniformitarian assumptions, too—they just had access to better data which established a faster erosion rate. If there is anything to be criticized here it is Lyell’s data or, at worst, Lyell’s method of collecting data; nothing about Lyell’s estimate or the subsequent corrections has any negative bearing on uniformitarianism.


Anonymous. 2013. Scientific evidence for a young Earth. Spotted 21 Nov 2014.

Morris JD. 2003. Dating Niagara Falls. Impact #359. Institute for Creation Research.