Grand Canyon can be Treacherous…Just the Way Stunt Performers Like it

Last month, daredevil Nik Wallenda walked on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. Wallenda was 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River without a harness, tether or net. Millions of people watched as the aerialist walked 1,400 feet on a two-inch wire. Good news, Wallenda survived!

Sky, horizon, canyonWallenda wasn’t the first (or probably the last) to risk everything at the world’s greatest wonder.  When it comes to daredevil acts, stunt performers are naturally drawn to one of the most treacherous places on the planet. While most people tour Grand Canyon for its beauty and size, stunt performers seek out the park for its steep drops, jagged cliffs, and hazardous winds.

However, only a few of these acts happened in Grand Canyon National Park. Nik Wallenda performed over the Little Colorado River which is sacred to the Navajo tribe. The park officials usually don’t issue a permit for such dangerous endeavors.

According to a spokesperson for the park’s public affairs, their job is to protect natural resources but still provide exciting Grand Canyon vacations for park vacationers.  In general, stunts don’t fall into this category, says the spokesperson.

But the history of canyon daredevils does have at least one exception to that rule. Below is a look at several former Grand Canyon stunts.

  • In 1922, Royal V. Thomas landed his biplane inside the national park.  Regulations for stunts had not yet been established, so the flight was approved. His plane touched down on a tiny strip just 50 feet from a giant drop to the Colorado River.
  • In 1980, Dar Robinson sped up a ramp on the edge of the Grand Canyon in his sports car. As the car fell, he leapt from the vehicle, parachuting into the abyss. He executed the stunt on the Hualapai Reservation.
  • Robbie Knievel performed a stunt in 1999, soaring more than 200 feet across a narrow part of the Grand Canyon sacred to the Hualapai tribe. The tribe had hopes to attract tourists.
  • In 2006, Bob Burnquist accelerated up a 40-foot ramp and then slid onto a rail 1,500 feet above the canyon floor. Burnquist launched himself into the Grand Canyon South Rim with just a parachute, skateboard, and nerves of steel.
  • Yves Rossy or “Jetman” designed his own custom jet suit with several motors. In 2011, he glided 8,000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor for more than eight minutes, going nearly 200 mph. His stunt happened over the Hualapai Reservation.