Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in North America. The first thought that comes to most people when they hear Niagara Falls is neither the city named Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, on the west bank of the Niagara River, nor the city called Niagara Falls in the United States on the east bank of the Niagara River. It is, however, the two waterfalls that are on the border between these two countries, lying between these two cites. Millions of tourist visit the falls each year to view the splendor of the falls and to see where many have lost their lives trying to gain fame by crossing the falls on a tightrope, going over them in a barrel, or shooting the rapids below them.(Encyclopedia Americana, 1998, Vol. 20, p. 297)
People vest the falls for their incredible beauty, a beauty that caused many renowned writers to put pen to paper. Charles Dickens wrote, “I seemed to be lifted from the earth and to be looking into heaven. Niagara was at once stamped upon my heart, an image of beauty, to remain three changeless and indelible.” Later, Henry James recorded how one stands there “gazing your fill at the most beautiful object in the world.” Oscar Wilde was not as impressed with the falls, describing it as “the second major disappointment of American married life.” (Fodor’s Toronto, 1997, p. 117)
Challenge of the Falls
Before it became illegal, numerous individuals (professionals as well as amateurs) attempted to walk across the falls on a tightrope or go over the falls in a barrel. In 1859 Charles Blondin, a French tightrope walker, walked across the Niagara Gorge with his manager on his shoulders. Years later (1901) Annie Taylor, a Michigan schoolteacher, was the first person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel. (Fodor’s Toronto, 1997, p.117)
Even though these stunts became illegal in 1912 that has not stopped those who live on the edge. Using boats, rubber balls, barrels, and jet...