Niagara Falls is a famous series of waterfalls located on the border of the United States (New York State) and Canada (Ontario Province). The falls (Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls) make up the end of the Niagara Gorge. This part of the gorge has been the site of a number of crossings on a tightrope. Although theses crossings are often listed as “crossing Niagara Falls”, most crossings do not occur over the falls and have actually taken place across the gorge itself near the current location of Rainbow Bridge. Let’s find out who was the first to successfully attempt this impressive feat.
Who was the first person to successfully cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope?
French acrobat Jean François “Blondin” Gravelet (also known as Jean-François Gravelet and Charles Blondin) came up with the idea of crossing the Canadian-American border at Niagara falls via tightrope in the 1850′s. He first came to the United States in 1855 and performed in New York City. In 1859 he came up with his plan and on 30 June, 1859, he crossed Niagara Falls on a 340 m (1,100 ft) tightrope near the location of the current Rainbow Bridge. His tightrope was 50 m (160 ft) above the water. He made the crossing a number of other times, including blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow, on stilts, and carrying his manager on his back during the crossing on three occasions. He even stopped on one occasion to cook and eat an omelet! He became famous for his stunts during the crossings and thousands of people would turn out to see him cross Niagara Falls.
Did you know?
Gravelet inspired many others to make the crossing between 1859 and 1896. However, tightrope crossings were ended in 1896 when a new law was created to outlaw this stunt.
In 2012 American acrobat Nik Wallenda received special permission to became the first person to walk across the falls in 116 years. He crossed near Horseshoe Falls on a tightrope that was 550 m (1,800 ft) and is believed to be the longest unsupported tightrope walk on record. He was required to bring his passport and present it to authorities on the other side! The following video shows portions of his walk across the falls.