Daredevil Nik Wallenda said it's been his dream to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls so he was overwhelmed Wednesday when New York lawmakers voted to let him give it a try.
"You go there and look and seeing them alone they're breathtaking," Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the "Flying Wallendas," said of the waterfalls straddling the United States and Canada. "I almost tear up thinking about being out in the middle of that and what it's going to look like. It's going to be amazing."
Wallenda wants to walk above the 180-feet-high Falls, which would be a first, rather than downstream as others have done. The daring trip would be a 2,200 foot walk across the gorge.
Stunts are usually illegal at the Falls, but supporters of Wallenda's plan say it would boost tourism and add to the Falls' storied history. Wallenda, 32, says that what he does is more science than stunt anyway, and he wouldn't put himself in the same category as the barrel-riders and rapids shooters who've had mixed success trying to conquer the Falls since the 1850s.
"Everything I do is extremely calculated," he said by phone a few hours before the premier of a new Discovery channel series about his work, "Life on a Wire."
The New York Assembly approved a bill directing the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to write rules and regulations specifically allowing Wallenda to walk across the Niagara River Gorge. The Senate approved the measure earlier. It was sent Wednesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his consideration.
If the bill becomes law, Wallenda still needs permission from Canadian officials if he is to end the walk in an area overseen by the Niagara Parks Commission. The Ontario commission, which in the past has denied such requests, has not yet received a request for Wallenda, a spokesman said.
Wallenda would walk from the U.S directly over the Horseshoe Falls to Canada. Jean Francois Gravelot — "the Great Blondin" — who first crossed the gorge on a high wire in 1850, and nearly a dozen who followed, all crossed downstream of the Falls. It's been more than 100 years since anyone has repeated the feat.
"Even to this day, people still come to our visitor center with a curiosity toward the daredevils and high wire performers of past generations," said Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. President John Percy. "This attempt will solidify Nik Wallenda's place in Niagara Falls folklore and add to the longstanding allure of conquering Niagara's tremendous power."
The New York legislation gives Wallenda until next August to perform the walk, which he would fund himself. He said he doesn't yet have a date in mind.