Every year, millions of visitors from all over the world flock to Niagara Falls. People come for the history, the romance, and the breathtaking scenery!
But some people just can’t seem to get close enough… Niagara Falls is comprised of three distinct waterfalls, the most well-known of which is the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
The Canadian Horseshoe Falls stands approximately 57 meters (187 feet) tall and 670 meters (2,200 feet) wide. Water rushes over its edge at a top speed of 109 km/h (68 mph), dumping approximately 2.8 million liters (740,000 gallons) every second.
It’s difficult to believe that anyone could survive a trip over the Falls, given its height, speed, and raw, natural power. Nonetheless, it’s been done before.
Was it talent? Or was it just good fortune? How do you recover from a fall into Niagara Falls?
Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls. On her 63rd birthday in 1921, she crawled into an oak and iron barrel and floated right over the Falls.
Taylor did this stunt for money and fame, but she didn’t get paid much for it. Nonetheless, daredevils who wanted to follow in her footsteps were unafraid.
Jean Lussier, crossed Niagara Falls in a 182 cm (6 ft.) rubber and steel ball lined with 32 inner tubes in 1928. Lussier survived the fall and went on to sell souvenirs to tourists for the rest of his life.
Not all of the daredevils were as fortunate as Taylor and Lussier. In fact, only a little more than half of the 16 people who attempted to “beat” the Falls have survived to tell the tale.
Only five people have survived an unprotected fall down the Canadian Horseshoe Falls to date. Roger Woodward was the first, and youngest, to do so in 1960.
He was only 7 years old at the time when a boating accident swept him overboard and over the edge of the Falls. Woodward was rescued shortly after and made a full recovery after only three days in the hospital being treated for a concussion. That event is still known today as the “Miracle at Niagara.”
Most rescuers and experts at Niagara consider unprotected survival stories to be pure luck. However, there are some strategies that could save your life if you find yourself hurtling 109 km/h (68 mph) in freezing cold water, towards the edge of a 57 meter (187 ft.) drop.
The first thing you should remember just before you go over is to take a deep breath.
You could easily suffocate when you reach the bottom because there will be so much water swirling all around you, not to mention the intense pressure of the water falling from above.
Taking a big gulp of air before you fall may buy you some time. You should also take precautions to protect your head. Orient yourself so that you fall feet first if possible, and then wrap your arms around your head, elbows over your nose, and clench your eyes and mouth shut as tightly as you can.
In fact, before impact, tense all of your muscles and bring your legs together to make your body as watertight as possible. If you survive the fall, you’ve already been extremely fortunate, but that doesn’t mean your ordeal is over.
The water temperature below the Falls is around freezing, giving you about 15 minutes to get out before hypothermia sets in. You’ll most likely be badly bruised and disoriented, but if you can stay calm and focused, you might be one of the fortunate few to survive a fall into Niagara Falls.
The best way to survive, of course, is to pay attention to the warning signs and to follow the safety rails. The Niagara Falls, after all, are huge! Do you really need to put your life in danger just to get a better look?