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The Story Of Nik Wallenda And The Tallulah Gorge
What Makes A Daredevil?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of daredevil is: recklessly and often ostentatiously daring. So what makes people such as Harry Houdini, Robert Craig (Evel Knievel) and Nik Wallenda risk life and limb to perform life-threatening stunts. Is it for fame and glory, money or some sort of personal satisfaction. Is it perhaps a combination of all of these factors, or is it some deep value that is passed down through generations and courses's through their veins. Further, why do we as spectators flock to view these death defying stunts.
After learning the story of Nik Wallenda and the Tallulah Gorge, you may begin to understand these daredevils better. I did.
Nik Wallenda to Skywalk the Tallulah Gorge
Nik Wallenda is the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda, famed aerialist who performed amazing daredevil feats with family members who eventually became known as The Flying Wallendas. He holds several world records including the first person to walk across both Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon on a cable that stretched across them.
On July 18th, 1970 Karl Wallenda walked across the 1,000 foot-deep Tallulah Gorge in Northeast Georgia. He made it across the deep gorge stopping to do a handstand on the way two times. Nik has set his sights on what he calls "walking in my great-grandfather's footsteps" on or about that date in 2015. Because the gorge is in a state park, an event application has to be submitted and approved. There is no way for Wallenda to be certain that he can secure that date, but if so, he would be performing his famous grandfather's feat 45 years to the date.
Wallenda Family History
Karl Wallenda was born to an old circus family in Madgeburg, Germany. Young Karl began performing in 1905 at the age of six. In 1922 Wallenda put together an act with his brother Herman, Joseph Geiger, and Helen Kreis, who would later become his wife. Known as the Great Wallendas, the group toured Europe and grew famous for their daring high wire acts. When John Ringling saw the group perform, he quickly hired them to perform in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.
During an act in Akron, Ohio they all fell but none were hurt. One reporter said that it looked as though they were all flying. From then on they became known as The Flying Wallendas. Today The Flying Wallendas are based in Sarasota, Florida. The group is comprised mainly of descendants of Karl Wallenda and Helen Kreis.
In 1962, Karl lost his son-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew in an accident at Detroit's State Fair Coliseum. The group was performing their incredible seven-human pyramid when a front man on the wire faltered. An adopted son was paralyzed from the waist down.
Despite the tragedies, Wallenda continued his daring high wire walks. He was 65 years old when he performed the Tallulah Gorge walk. In 1974 at age 69, Wallenda broke the World Skywalk Distance Record with an 1,800-floor high sky walk at Kings Island, an amusement park in Ohio.Nik Wallenda broke that record on July 4, 2008 with a height of 2,000 feet at the same amusement park.
In 1978, Karl Wallenda fell to his death at the age of 73 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was attempting a walk on a high wire between two buildings. Faulty wiring support and high winds were to blame. On July 4th, 2011 Nik and his mother completed the walk in San Juan.
The Tallulah Gorge Bottoms
Did you know?
The Persistent Trillium is an endangered plant that is so rare it can only be found at the bottom of Tallulah Gorge!
Thrill Seekers, Spectators and the Tallulah Gorge
At two miles long, a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, Tallulah Gorge is one of the largest gorges on the east coast. When the Appalachian Mountains were old and weathered, the Tallulah Gorge was still new. The gorge was formed by the Tallulah River cutting through the rocky formation of the Tallulah Dome. A series of six falls called the Tallulah Falls cascade through the gorge. With names like Hurricane and Oceana, the six falls end with the Bridle Veil Fall and Sliding Rock.
Located above the falls is Tallulah Falls Lake. In 1913, the city of Atlanta, which lies 90 miles to the southeast was rebounding from General Sherman's attack during the Civil War. They had a great demand for electricity. A hydroelectric dam was built by Georgia Railway and Power to harness electricity to run Atlanta's streetcars.
Today, the dam still collects and redirects water to an electricity generation station downstream except for a few days out of the year. These water release days provide powerful and challenging kayaking and white water rafting.
Rock climbing, white water sports, rim trails and trails to the bottom of the gorge provide thrill seekers the chance to challenge the powers of nature.
Perhaps some people need to experience the challenge of competing against the forces of nature to feel complete. For the rest of us as spectators, perhaps we are seeking heroes when we feel compelled to watch their feats against nature.
One of the Six Tallulah Falls
Nik Wallenda's Story
Watch Nik Wallenda Walk the Grand Canyon
Will I Be A Spectator? Would You?
I live a short distance from the Tallulah Gorge, so Nik Wallenda's plans to literally follow in his great grandfather's steps has my interest. I watched the video above of Nik walking across the Grand Canyon above the Colorado River. The winds were higher than expected and the walk was much harder than he had anticipated. The video shows him praying aloud just about every step of the way. He proclaims his love and devotion to God, thanks God for life and asks him to calm the winds. When he makes it across, he bends to kiss the ground. It is an intense video to watch, even knowing that he did make it.
I think it takes bravery to even watch these daredevil stunts. Will I go to watch Wallenda's sky walk? I don't know yet. I haven't decided. But if I do, this roving reporter-Hubber will share the experience for sure.