Here’s what it’s like to zipline at (but not over) Niagara Falls
First things first: the Wildplay Niagara Falls zipline doesn’t actually go over Niagara Falls.
I was under the impression that it did, primarily because I couldn’t stop thinking: how cool would that be? Never mind that ziplining thousands of Canadians across the U.S. border would pose a massive logistical—and legal—nightmare, to say nothing of the actual safety risk involved.
In reality, the Wildplay Niagara Falls zipline shuttles riders along a 670-metre stretch beside the falls. The height—67 metres above the Niagara Gorge—is dizzying, but the scenery itself is the biggest thrill.
Riding the zipline involves little more than paying a fee ($49.99) and signing a waiver, all of which can be done online in advance to secure a spot. I fit the basic safety criteria—over seven years old, under 275 pounds and able to hold my body taut in the harness—so I was good to go. I bought my ticket in advance online (they’re also available on the spot), so once I arrived at Wildplay’s falls-side office a staff member simply made sure sure my hair was tied back, ensured my personal belongings were small enough to fit into the harness’ storage compartment, and made me stand on a scale—perhaps the most anxiety-inducing 30 seconds of the whole experience—before giving me the wristband that cleared me for takeoff.
Ziplining groups meet outside the office and march over to be fitted in helmets and harnesses by one of the outfit’s yellow-shirted “element guides”. Cindy, my element guide, reminded my group that this is Wildplay’s first season of ziplining at the Falls, which meant we could all go home with bragging rights. She also made sure we all knew how to put on a helmet. We were instructed, numerous times, to do the “yes no test:” we shook ours head vigorously as if saying no, then nodded enthusiastically as if saying yes. If the helmet moved, we tightened it further; if it stayed in place, we were in good shape. Then, it was up the stairs and onto the platform for further harnessing:
Zipliners go four at a time, with those seated on the first line getting an unobstructed view of both the Horseshoe Falls and Niagara Falls. It had originally been my plan to muscle my way over to Line #1 for the purpose of taking a few selfies (and maybe even a gif-able video or two), but I was informed by one of my friendly element guides that they generally confiscate cellphones from people who intend to hold them rather than their harnesses. Which isn’t to say that it never happens:
Once I was in my harness with my cellphone safely in my pocket, yet another guide marked my weight on my wristband and positioned me for departure—which meant sitting down and waiting to be nudged off the platform (like this guy):
Wildplay’s Niagara zipline harnesses are seated and have supportive backs, so it’s basically just a cozy hammock-swing that moves forwards. Speeds rarely exceed 60 kilometres per hour, so it’s a relatively well-paced ride. The really special part of the experience is taking in the view—I’ve seen Niagara Falls dozens of times, but never quite like this:
Before takeoff we were told to spread our arms out for the first 10 seconds or so, hold onto the harness for the rest of the ride, and make sure that our legs weren’t crossed as we were approaching the finish line. I didn’t really get the last part…
…until the ride came to its sudden halt. Wildplay essentially pulled the e-brake once we hit the end of the line, sending me into a half-somersault before I was able to put your feet back on the ground. It was the scariest part of all.
Until October 10. wildplay.com/niagarafalls