** FILE ** The American Falls are seen from the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in this Aug. 22, 2007 file photo. Every region of the country has its own piece of Americana that locals brag about to visitors and increasingly, they're asking Congress to help spread the word through a little-known federal program that designates National Heritage Areas. (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)
The Niagara Falls Ice Bridge
Today in History: October 24, 1901 marks the anniversary of the first barrel ride down Niagara Falls. A 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor strapped herself into a leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to break her fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of the Niagara River and cut loose.
Between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of those daredevils survived and 5 died. Even if you were to survive the plunge, going over the falls is illegal and survivors face criminal charges and heavy fines.
But even before that dangerous journey, Niagara Falls has been a natural wonder and a source of fascination for millions. As early as the 1800's, tourism became a booming industry as people were attracted to the idea of actually walking across Niagara Falls. The Ice Bridges, which can form during cold winter weather, were once locations for the illegal sale of alcohol as profiteers would skirt the law by selling liquor on the ice bridges!