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The Story Of Nik Wallenda And The Tallulah Gorge

Updated on June 10, 2015
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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 waving to crowd at Niagra Falls
Nik Wallenda waving to crowd at Niagra Falls | Source

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.

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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

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Did you know?

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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

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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.

Daredevil Spectatorship

Would you go to watch Nik Wallenda walk the Tallulah Gorge?

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    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 24 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, Peggy. Come on up sometime.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 24 months ago from Houston, Texas

      That is an interesting family of daredevils for sure! I really enjoyed learning about Tallulah Gorge and the scenery from that area of Georgia. It is beautiful. Will share this with others.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      LOL!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I have always been fascinated by daredevils, especially skiers, snowboarders, and wing suit fliers. My wildest dream is to actually do wing suit flying someday! But I have to go off the high dive at the local swimming pool first...

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago from Texas

      Wow! This is really interesting. I would like to see this is person but, would be scared he would fall.

      Thumb-up UABI and shared.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Rebecca, I couldn't believe when I saw this article! I have been to Tallulah gorge, and lived for a time in the Toccoa Falls area. It is so beautiful, and I loved Northeast Georgia. It is great to learn more details about this story. I was also very interested in the Tallulah trillium, wow, I can't believe it is that rare! How incredibly fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Hi Rebecca

      this was very fascinating to me as I lived not far from there back in 2003. If I were still living there I would hope to witness the walk.

      Getting inside the head of those who push the envelope in this way is something I have not ever quite understood. I 'hear' the reasons but am awed by the sense of adventure that those who attempt such feats display.

      Hoping to hear more about this next year after the walk.

      I began watching the video of Nik's walk across the Canyon..and saw how long it was and thought, no way...but I had to watch. Nik called on Jesus the whole walk....wow!! It was windy!!!

      Angels are on the way to you and to Nik.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, Jodah...I'll try to muster up the nerve!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great article Rebecca. The Flying Wallendas are world famous aerialists. I do hope Nik is able to relive his grandfather's walk across the Tallulah Gorge on the 45th Anniversary and that you can be there to watch and report back on Hub Pages. Voted up.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 2 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Nick Wallenda is a great man and very talented. I had written about him in my personal blog. Tallulah Gorge is a wonderful place as well. Thanks for writing and I love the pictures. Good job. Voted up!

      Prasetio

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Yeah, I read about the safety harness deal. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 2 years ago from Lakewood New York

      I live in Western New York, so when Nik walked across Niagara Falls we did watch it live on television. They made him wear a safety harness, and from the interview he was not happy with that. There is such a family history here, and I think that's what makes me follow it. Thanks :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Me too, pretty much!

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      I was a child when the Wallendas had their accident. It was so sad. It's hard to judge people for what they do, some people are just braver than others. I'm such a coward I wouldn't even be able to watch them. In fact, I can't watch a Manny Pacquiao fight live, I have to know first who wins. I'm THAT big a coward.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, LF. I can tell you really took that feat to heart!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 2 years ago from On planet Earth

      Waw!!! Rebecca this sure brought back memories i remembered i was staying at my great aunty for a few days while seeing the advertisement , for Nik Wallenda going to cross Niagra falls on wire. I was astonished and thought this man must be crazy because normally no one ever gets over there alive.

      It was late but i decided i wasn't going to sleep away i wanted to see if this man will make history, i also said to myself its only white people that mostly takes these life threatening risks , no offence. What i did love about Nik though he never planned on crossing or walking the wire alone he made sure and prayed all the while going across. I too was praying God please don't let this man fall his family is waiting on the otherside. There were times Nik was telling his dad he cannot see its misty and foggy but yet God guided his feet .

      Whoooraaay!!! It was worth the watch Nik did it by the grace of God he lived through it i still found him to be crazy for taking such a risk. In situations like these when you put God first he sees you through.

      Thanks for sharing Becky a peaceful sunday evening to you.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub!

      Although I am too scared about the very idea of adventure sports. But even my children do it and they inform me only after they have finished doing it.

      This is a very well written account, so very thrilling! Voted up!

    • roshall profile image

      roshall 3 years ago from Ohio

      Great writing! ! Don't understand why they do it. I could never.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, Nell Rose. You have an adventurous spirit.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I would love to watch! just get me on a plane now! some people just totally amaze me! daredevils as jo says above, or adventurers? not sure what category they come in but wow!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That's a good idea...watching after the fact. Thanks for reading!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Great hub! Personally, I'd prefer to watch the walk on film after the event. People who go right to edge, shows just how amazing human beings can be. Something like this must take a huge amount of concentration and absolute focus. Whether they are adrenaline seekers or genetically programmed, the daredevils of this world have my respect.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I was impressed with him. Some may criticize his daredevil behavior, but to each hsi own!

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      I'd never heard of Nik until he walked over the Niagra Falls. I just happened to be flipping through the channels and caught it. I was so impressed by his bravery and courage and the fact that he prayed aloud throughout the whole thing. I'll be praying for him and his family when he does the Tallulah Gorge, but I'm not sure if I'll watch it.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I'm feeling the same way! Thanks for stopping by!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I admire his talent and courage to perform such acts of daring feat but I could not watch him. Those rocks and rushing water would have me stressed thinking he could fall into them. Thanks for the interesting read.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Beautiful, and Nick Wallenda was so brave!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, RTalloni. I may go the televised route. I'm sure it will be aired. That might be less nerve wracking and can avoid the crowds. Thanks for reading!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      Nicely done! I don't ordinarily pay much attention to daring stunts simply because if something goes wrong I don't want to see it. Your post, however, was interesting and became more compelling as I read it. I learned more about this family and can appreciate the grandson's motivation--it does make him more of a hero than I expected! I hope we get to hear from you on this in 2015. I'm posting this on my Home Education board!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks ,cat. I feel about the same as you but admire his faith and bravery. Must be something we don't know.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      I'm intrigued but really don't think I could watch w/o knowing the outcome! I don't like being in a prolonged state of anxiety! Thank you for a very interesting hub. It's amazing that they continue in this long-family tradition after the lives lost along the way. Voted up:)

    • profile image

      LisaKeating 3 years ago

      Interesting hub. I have never understood dare devils. I would hate to think they risk their lives just for money. I guess they are not much different than racecar drivers, sky divers, and other extreme sports enthusiasts. I would never want to watch an event like that live. I have too much empathy. Voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting hub, Rebecca. I loved reading it and learning about the Wallendas, but I could never watch one of their efforts in real life. I find it very hard to understand why Nik Wallenda would perform his stunts, especially when there was such a tragic event in his family's background. He sounds like an interesting person, though. Your hub is very thought provoking!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      It was chilling! It's long, too. I'll bet that it will be on National TV. I might could handle that better! Thanks for reading this!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is amazing. The video was chilling to watch. I don't think i would go watch him although i respect him highly. I would be praying too. lol. I enjoyed your hub. Thank you..

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You sound like me. Thanks for commenting!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I’ve heard of the Wallenda’s and their circus fame. I’m not sure if I could be a spectator; I am always frightened that the performer will fall and hurt themselves, or worse. It’s too intense for me…but I admire their bravery immensely. I wish Nik the very best!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I know what you mean! Thanks!

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 3 years ago from Mississippi

      I remember watching his walk across the Grand Canyon. I had to keep switching tv stations because it was so hard to watch. It made me very nervous lol. Great article on this! Voted up :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Wow, thanks for reading this and for the votes up!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I sure will!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great thoughts, FA. I think this makes a lot of sense.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      I grew up in Georgia, but I have never been to Tallulah Gorge. It would certainly be thrilling to watch, but a bit nerve-racking too. If you do go, I look forward to reading your hub about the experience! I think my son was a bit of a daredevil as he always chose extreme sports, but he has since had three children and has slowed down a lot : )

      Voted up ++++ and away

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Incredible dare devils! I would like to watch...if you do, keep us posted with photos. My SIL was just in that area for a bachelor party, the group rented a cabin and went river rafting...they had a blast! :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Great hub! Some people are natural thrill seekers, almost immune to danger. I have rubbed elbows with them and marvel at their capacity to laugh in the face of death. They are not wired like most of us. I would go see the event but not take young children in case something bad happens. Even with safety measures, it would be tough to explain why he was doing something so inappropriately unsafe. Voted up and more and sharing this unusual hub.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Hey, Jackie. He had to wear a safety harness for Niagara Falls because of TV station rules. Other than that, they all go w/o a safety net by tradition. Karl had thought the safety net to cause a dependence that wasn't good for the act. Go figure.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      So thrilling and I would go see too if I could. Breathtaking stuff and I am not sure they should be allowed to try such danger without a safety feature but that is life and the life they want apparently. Such a shame to fall at 73 though. Sad day.

      Up and shared; very entertaining.