The ferocity of the Whirlpool Rapids has served as an intimidating presence in the Niagara Falls region since the area started drawing daredevils.
At first though, some adventure seekers have envisioned the excitement of challenging the rapids and receiving the notoriety associated with a successful trip. Many times, those same adventurers backed away from the challenge as the planned date neared.
This is what happened in 1910, when the Niagara International Carnival Committee published an advertisement for a boat race through the Whirlpool Rapids. Originally, 20 participants had committed to appear in the race through the Whirlpool Rapids and the $300 John A. Penton Cup and a $1,000 cash prize.
According to a New York Times article, “It has been decided by a committee that met recently in Buffalo that open boats will not be permitted to compete. The committee is of the belief that the element of danger in the race is too great to permit such craft to make the trip. The basic idea of the test is that it is one of reliability rather than daring, and therefore every menace that is possible to eliminate will be cut out.”
The article also detailed that, “The course is from the Maid of the Mist landing from the Canadian side of the river or some other point above the bridges such as may be decided upon later by the committee down to and around a turn about one-half mile below the Queenston dock then to Pitz’s dock at Lewiston.
Of the 20 prospective participants committed to the race, only one person actually appeared.
Captain Klaus Larsen maneuvered his boat through the rapids to the Whirlpool. He started the second leg of his journey through the Lower Rapids (Devil’s Hole Rapids) en route to Queenston. During this part of his trip, Larsen’s boat was overwhelmed and he was tossed into the water near Queenston.
Larsen safely made his way to shore and completed his trip to Queenston by climbing aboard the Great Gorge Railway.
Larsen made successful trips through the rapids in his boat on two separate occasions in 1911.
Today, visitors can experience the stories of the many daredevils who have challenged the falls and the gorge and see relics from their adventures are showcased, at the new Daredevil Gallery at Niagara IMAX Theatre. The daredevil exhibit features the world’s largest collection of Niagara Falls history, including actual barrels and artifacts along with the engaging stories of Niagara’s heritage and tales of the daredevils.
The natural splendor of Niagara Falls and the dramatic adventures of daredevils of the past are vividly presented in the IMAX movie, “Legends and Daredevils.” The exhilarating film details the remarkable vistas of the raging waters of Niagara Falls and tells the story of when Native peoples Native peoples worshipped the thunder spirits, and when the first European encountered the region. The movie also introduces viewers to daredevils like the Great Blondin, who completed a death-defying tightrope walk over the river in 1860, and Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old schoolteacher who became the first person to plunge over the falls in a barrel.