Niagara, New York, US
|Usual Difficulty||V+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||65 fpm|
Ain't no legal putin on this here stretch of water. 'Tis a pity.
Lat / Longitude data are very approximate.
The New York State Department of Parks, by regulation, prohibits launching a boat from park property, which is the only feasible access from the US side to the rapids above the whirlpool. The old regulation provided for the issuance of permits and it was that regulation that boaters exploited to gain access in 1987. Subsequently, the regulation was modified to adopt an absolute boating prohibition above the whirlpool. American Whitewater was unsuccessful in our challenge to that regulation. There have been some efforts to secure legislation or a revised regulation that would permit limited access, but, to date, they have been unsuccessful.
History of river-running in the Niagara Gorge: Captain Joel Robinson navigated the first Maid of the Mist steamer through the rapids on June 6, 1861, as he had a date to sell the craft if he could get it to Lake Ontario. In those pre-hydro days, the flow was 250,000 cfs.
In 1976, two intrepid entrepreneurs began commercial rafting in the Gorge. This enterprise came to a halt when a raft flipped on their twelfth run. There were four drownings.
In October 1982, for a taping of The American Sportsman, Chris Spelius, Don Deedon, Carrie Ashton, and Kenneth Lagergren managed a run (watch the video).
In October 1987, permits were issued for four groups. The first included Pete Skinner, Bob Baker and his brother Al, Bob Glanville, Gibbs Johnson, Chris Koll, John Maxwell, and Marty McCormick. One had Skinner and Maxwell joining Nolan Whitesell's open boat. Another included Risa and Woody Callaway; and the last group included Spelius and Davey Hearn. (This from a report in the Nov/Dec 1987 AW Journal.) Access was then denied, and there has been no resumption.
Pete Skinner wrote up a run of the Gorge in First Descents: in Search of Wild Rivers (Cameron O'Connor and John Lazenby, eds., Menasha Ridge Press, 1989).
Since then the gorge has been semi-legally run numerous times by various crews. Legal access requires some local knowledge...
Niagara Falls is unrunnable, but people are always wondering about it and asking questions about
it. So here goes:
In 1990, Jesse Sharp attempted to run the Falls in a C-1. His effort resulted in a very public disaster. Here's a link to the AW accident report in the AW Safety Database.
Photos of his run can be accessed by clicking here. Type "Jesse Sharp" in the search box. (They say he ran it in a kayak, but he was in a Perception Gyramax C-1.)
The "First Descent" of Niagara Falls is credited to Annie Edson Taylor, a schoolteacher who dropped over the Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901. Click here for one of the many versions of her story. Many daredevils have followed; most have survived, but many have not. On July 9,1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the Falls (in a PFD) following a boating accident. He miraculously survived; read about it by clicking here. On October 22, 2003, Kirk Jones survived a swim over the Falls. Read an interview with him here. Since then, two others have survived being swept over the Horseshoe Falls. These miraculous survivals, of course, are exceedingly rare exceptions to the rule that Niagara Falls is deadly.
Western New York Area Reaches