Skip to content
Jun 25 / s

Nik Wallenda High Wire Walks Into Niagara Falls History

Written by: Carly Steven

 

CWS at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls in full summer bloom

It’s been a shamefully long time since my last post and I’m completely out of date.  There’s been a lot going on that would be incredibly boring to read about so I’ll summarise by saying I’m relieved still to be in the country!

Last weekend JM and I made our first summertime visit to Niagara Falls.  Our previous trip had been in January when it was so wild that the icicles on the lamposts had formed horizontally rather than vertically.  Despite the snowstorms it was amazing to see the Falls looking so bleak and menacing.

This time round the conditions were very different; walking along the river front in our flip-flops and bare arms we were able to feel the spray rising up from the churning pool and sit on the grass people-watching without worrying about frostbite.

We did the Journey Behind the Falls tour and got soaked on the Maid of the Mist, but as well as being tourists we were also witnesses to a piece of daredevil history.

I first heard about Nik Wallenda and his ambition to cross the Falls by tightrope when we were in Montréal.  After months of negotiating he was finally able to convince Niagara Parks officials to let him carry out the stunt, the first time in over one hundred years that anyone would have made the crossing by wire.

JM and I got very lucky with our hotel – the Quality Fallsview Cascade – which was located within two minutes walking distance of Horseshoe Falls and included an ingenious cost-saving, low-maintenance breakfast system of paper plates, plastic cutlery and refillable cereal dispensers.

We arrived via a combination of GO train, bus and foot – for some reason Niagara-bound transit from Toronto drops visitors off about 2.5km from the centre.  In the summer months GO put on trains direct to Niagara but these weren’t running until the following weekend.

JM on Maid of the Mist

JM in his blue plastic Maid of the Mist mac

We got checked in and went to join the thousands of other spectators who had come to see the spectacle on the Canadian side.  We set ourselves up in the beer area and even though we weren’t close we still had a decent view of the wire.

The event itself didn’t get started until after ten o’clock so that the largest global audience could watch it live on TV.  It was also, as the Post puts it, ‘one of the first international news stories out of Canada in several weeks not involving a dismemberment or murder’.  (The other big story dominating the headlines recently has been the hunt and capture of an Ontario-born porn actor and accused cannibal killer called Luka Rocco Magnotta).

From where we were positioned, Nik Wallenda looked absolutely tiny but everyone could see his red jacket as made his way steadily across the tightrope.  At one point he was completely swallowed up by the mist and we lost sight of him.  But the whole time he was visible he never seemed to waiver.

People had speculated that he would stop half way and remove the harness he had been forced to wear by the ABC TV network, but this never happened.  He looked utterly focused and we could see on the big screen that he was talking the whole time through an earpiece, apparently both to his Dad, and ABC reporters.  From CBC:

[Nik] Wallenda [has become] the first tightrope walker to cross near the base of the Falls. Several others had crossed over the Niagara Gorge just downstream from the Falls more than a century ago.

“The mist was so thick, so challenging, those winds hit me from every which direction, was definitely more than I expected for sure… It’s an unbelievable view,” Wallenda told ABC as he made his way across, dressed in red and black and wearing handcrafted suede-soled shoes. “This is truly breathtaking.”

I did take photos but they’re not very good so I’ve added a video below.  Towards the very end he paused, got down on one knee and pumped his fist in the air.  He stood back up and ran the last few metres of the wire.