Where Evel Knievel Never Soared: A Wallenda Flies Over the Grand Canyon
Wallenda will tightrope walk higher than he’s ever attempted before at 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River, a height greater than the Empire State Building. In 2012, Wallenda became the first person to tightrope walk directly over Niagara Falls from the U.S. to Canada at a height of 200 feet.
“The stakes don’t get much higher than this,” said Wallenda in a Discovery press release. “The only thing that stands between me and the bottom of the canyon is a two-inch thick wire. I’m looking forward to showing the audience a view of the canyon they’ve never seen before.”
Wallenda, 34, said that this latest event will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to walk at such a great height as well as a chance to honor his great-grandfather, the legendary Karl Wallenda, who died after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978.
The Grand Canyon, one of America’s most visited tourist destinations, provides a spectacular backdrop to the event. The tightrope crossing will take place in a remote section of the canyon operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department.
“We are honored to be a part of this historic event and showcase the beauty that exists on Navajo country,” said Geri Hongeva-Camarillo, media representative for Navajo Parks and Recreation. “The Navajo Nation is home to more than a dozen national monuments, tribal parks and ancestral sites. Many visitors make Navajo Nation one of the top destinations for their travel plans.”
By Eric Betz
As part of the agreement with the Discovery Channel and NBC, which is producing the event, the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department required that the two-hour television special include information about parks across the reservation and tribal culture.
More than 13 million Americans watched live as Wallenda walked the same cable across Niagara Falls one year ago. Many others watched the event worldwide. It was touted as the largest audience for a non-sports broadcast in six years.
Tribal officials hope to cash in on that audience when the majesty of their lands is broadcast around the world.
Some people noted the misleading references to the Grand Canyon:
One Problem With Nik Wallenda's Grand Canyon Walk: It Isn't At The Grand Canyon
By Andrew Bender
“The event would not have been approved in Grand Canyon National Park,” says Maureen Oltrogge, the park’s public affairs officer. Under National Park Service regulations, she says, “events must not unreasonably impair the park’s atmosphere of peace and tranquility or have an unacceptable impact on the experience of park visitors.”
That doesn’t make the stunt any less risky or the visuals any less spectacular. Wallenda’s two-inch (5 cm) cable spans 1,400 feet (426 m) across the gorge, 1,500 feet (457 m) above ground; that’s higher than the Empire State Building. Plus, the site is likely to be buffeted with winds up to 30 mph (48 kph).
Although the tribal park is not in the actual Grand Canyon, they’re close neighbors. Some have called it a “little Grand Canyon,” and the Little Colorado River feeds into the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Permitting Wallenda’s walk was not a casual decision, says Geri Hongeva, spokesperson for Navajo Parks & Recreation. “Discovery Channel, NBC Peacock Productions and Nik Wallenda all had to complete a number of clearances and gain proper permits,” including archaeological, biological and environmental surveys, and handle tribal park land use fees and filming approvals. Extreme sports are permitted only rarely on tribal lands.
Wallenda performed the stunt on a 2-inch-thick steel cable, 1,500 feet (457 meters) above the river without wearing a harness.
Wallenda took just more than 22 minutes, pausing and kneeling twice and murmuring prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way. He stepped slowly and steadily, but jogged and hopped the last few steps.
The stunt was touted as a walk across the Grand Canyon, an area held sacred by many Native American tribes. Some local residents believe Wallenda has not accurately pinpointed the location and said the Navajo Nation should not be promoting the gambling of one man's life for the benefit of tourism.
"Mr Wallenda needs to buy a GPS or somebody give this guy a map," said Milton Tso, president of the Cameron community on the Navajo Nation. "He's not walking across the Grand Canyon. He's walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation. It's misleading and false advertising."
Navajo Leadership Congratulate High Wire Artist Nik Wallenda
By Levi Rickert
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim were on hand to congratulate high wire artist Nik Wallenda after he successfully walked across the Little Colorado River Gorge on a two inch steel cable on Sunday evening near the Grand Canyon.
Wallenda's tightrope walk, which was near the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park, was broadcasted live on the Discovery Channel to 217 countries throughout the world.
"I want to congratulate Nik on his successful walk. I want to thank the Discovery Channel, NBC and all the workers who made this event successful. This is an example of what can happen when we work together.
"I am pleased that the Navajo Nation was a part of this project and that we helped Nik achieve one of his lifelong goals. It was exciting to Nik walk on the tightrope with windy conditions and I am happy that he was successful.
"The worldwide audience was able to see the Navajo Nation and now we invite you to come Navajo land. Come see the pristine landscape for yourself, with your own eyes, you won't regret it.
"We invite travelers near and far to come experience Navajo land," President Shelly said.
President Shelly, Navajo First Lady Martha Shelly and Vice President Jim sat together near the edge of the Little Colorado Gorge and watched Wallenda walk across the gorge.
President Shelly gave a bolo tie to Wallenda after the walk and Vice President Jim presented Wallenda a silver and turquoise belt buckle.
Vice President Jim said Wallenda's success is about achievement.
"I want our Navajo children to know that they can dream big and have big success. Just like Nik dreamed about walking over the Grand Canyon, our young children can dream big about their goals in life and they can achieve them.
"We can use each success and build upon that. Each success builds for bigger dreams and larger successes.
"We can accomplish that for the Navajo Nation."
Below: "Natalie Morales, NBC News; High Wire Artist Nik Wallenda; Navajo President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim."