On July 18, 1970, Tallulah Gorge was in the world spotlight as famed tightrope aerialist and acrobat Karl Wallenda walked the half-mile wide, 1,000-foot deep chasm. He tiptoed, stumbled and even performed handstands on a specially designed 5/8-inch-thick steel cable anchored to towers that were constructed on both sides of the gorge. An estimated 30,000 people watched in person as Wallenda walked the high cable, while millions more people watched the stunt as it was broadcast live on television around the world.
If you visit Tallulah Gorge State Park today, you’ll find the rusting hulks of the Wallenda walk towers laying near the edge of the gorge. We walked the canyon rim trails, and down into the gorge. You can also get more details on the historic Wallenda Walk, the engineering behind it, and some additional Flying Wallenda background at OurTravelCafe.com, where the website and author may earn revenue from advertising.
Wallenda, the patriarch of the famous Flying Wallendas, was a household name at the time, having performed death-defying stunts around the world for decades. But the Tallulah Gorge Wallenda walk rated as his most daring yet.
Wallenda completed the Tallulah Gorge tightrope walk in 18 minutes. The most harrowing moment of the walk came when Wallenda lost his balance and began to sway. He managed to regain his footing, but the incident left the crowd on edge. After recovering his balance, Wallenda performed two headstands on the narrow, swinging steel cable while suspended 750 feet above the ground.
Did Wallenda actually stumble, or was it part of his act? There’s no record of his comments on the matter, but to those watching, the stumble looked convincing.
The Tallulah Gorge walk was a major media event, with coverage in newspapers, magazines, and on television around the world. Amazingly, this famous Wallenda walk did not earn any money for Karl Wallenda, according to published reports. He performed the daring walk as a publicity stunt for the town of Tallulah Falls, Georgia. The town hoped that the stunt would attract tourists and boost the local economy, which, of course, it did.
Karl Wallenda’s great grandson, Nik Wallenda, still performs highwire stunts. Back in 2015, Nik planned to reenact Karl Wallenda’s feat at Tallulah Gorge. But, the walk was cancelled a few months after the stunt was announced. In 2023, we’re still waiting for a reschedule.
For a more detailed account of this historic stunt, check out OurTravelCafe.com and the post about the July anniversary.
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