U.S. OKs daredevil's Niagara Falls tightrope walk

A determined daredevil is one step closer to his dream of walking a tightrope across Niagara Falls, a feat that has not been attempted at the gorge in more than a century.

Permission still required from the Canadian side

Nik Wallenda walks across a wire suspended in the air between two towers of the Conrad Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda hopes to tightrope walk across the Niagara Gorge in 2012. (Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press)
Nik Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of the Great Wallendas. ((CBC))
A determined daredevil is one step closer to his dream of walking a tightrope across Niagara Falls, a feat that has not been attempted at the gorge in more than a century.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Friday to allow Nik Wallenda to perform the act of daring, which would otherwise be illegal.

But the stunt still needs the endorsement of the Niagara Parks Commission, which so far has said it is not interested.

A family of daredevils

Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas.

Wallenda hopes to walk across a wire five centimetres in diameter and about 550 metres long, anchored by weights on each shore, in the spring or summer of 2012. His own rescue helicopter and dive teams would stand by, and his father would coach him through an earpiece throughout the roughly 45-minute walk.

The Buffalo News reports that Wallenda plans to wait until after the Oct. 6 Ontario election to formally seek permission from the Niagara Parks Commission.

The commission has denied such requests in the past. 

Historic heights and tragic lows

Jean Francois Gravelot — nicknamed the Great Blondin — first crossed the Niagara Gorge on a high wire in 1850, and nearly a dozen people followed, all walking downstream of, rather than directly above, the falls.

Stunts involving the falls have been prohibited since the early 1900s.

But Wallenda is no stranger to beating the odds. He holds six Guinness World Records, including one set in 2008 for the longest distance and greatest height ever travelled by bicycle on a high wire.

Still, not all the Wallenda stunts have ended well. Although the family has broken many records, many members have died or been seriously injured during performances.