How-To: Go Over Niagra Falls…And Survive. Maybe. (But Probably Not.)

AnnieFirst, a few facts about Niagara Falls:

  • The Falls are actually 3 Falls, Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Only Horseshoe Falls is survive-able.
  • It’s 176 feet from the brink of Horseshoe Falls to the water below. However, because of the rock-lined base, the actual fall is only 70 feet.
  • Water rushes over the Falls at a rate of 150,000 gallons per second.
  • The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive was a 63-year-old schoolteacher, Annie Edson Taylor (pictured). I don’t know if she was wearing her hat at the time.
  • Since then, 14 other daredevils have taken the plunge in barrels or other devices. One guy went in a kayak; another went over in a jet ski. Of those, 10 have survived.
  • Two people survived the plunge without any protection, including a 7-year-old boy wearing only a life preserver, and Kirk Jones, who jumped, sans preserver, in 2003.

In addition to being illegal (“stunting without a license” can cost you as much as $10,000), going over the Falls is not a “good” idea. Pretty much everything about riding in a wooden barrel over a raging waterfall is dangerous:

  • Being battered by the crushing flow of water inside a barrel can lead to a concussion — or worse.
  • Even if you survive the actual fall, the rocks below the Falls are huge, dangerous, and, um, rock-hard, capable of crushing the barrel (and a person) easily.
  • Then, of course, there’s always the water. Simply put, you could drown.

However, there are a few theories (not tested personally, mind you) about how to survive the world’s bitchin’-est flume:

  1. Find the “water cone.” Some people believe this protective cushion at the base of the Falls will soften the blow and allow you to live.
  2. Body surf. Other people believe riding the water like a body surfer allows you to slide down the Falls as opposed to splatting down it.
  3. Get close to the edge. Still other people think getting into the water as close to the brink as possible might be the key, as the water speed upstream could be lethal.
  4. Live right. This is my own personal theory. I can’t think of any other reason someone could survive.

Don’t think it sounds scary? Check out this trailer for IMAX’s The Falls, and I bet you change your mind.

[Photo: Cabinet Magazine]