Niagara Falls in Niagara County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Challenging the Whirlpool Rapids
The Whirlpool Rapids provided the ideal location for daredevils to pursue their riskly feats during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They challenged these raging waters by swimming, riding in barrels, and navigating boats through them; some paid with their lives.
In 1861, Maid of the Mist II, a famous sight-seeing boat that carried people close to the falls, was sold to a Montreal company with the stipulation that the boat be delivered to Lake Ontario. Captain Joel Robinson and crew navigated the boat through the Whirlpool Rapids to the docks in Queenston, Ontario, completing the first planned trip through these rapids. From Karl S. Brong, The Niagara Daredevils (1955).
Captain Webb in Whirlpool from Greenhill and Mahoney, Niagara (c. 1883).
Captain Matthew Webb was the first person known to swim across the English Channel, died while attempting to swim the Whirlpool Rapids in 1883. From Karl S. Brong, The Niagara Daredevils (1955).
Martha E. Wagenfuhrer, known as the "Maid of the Niagara Falls Rapids," was the first woman to conquer the Whirlpool Rapids alone in a barrel. Martha planned
In 1886, Carlisle D. Graham was the first person to ride through the Whirlpool Rapids in a barrel. He repeated this stunt four more times, once with his head outside the barrel. This left his partially deaf from the waves pounding on his ears.
Great Gorge Route trolley line (1895-1935) along the Whirlpool Rapids section of the Niagara Gorge. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Entertainment • Railroads & Streetcars • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #25 William McKinley series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1861.
Location. 43° 7.213′ N, 79° 3.878′ W. Marker is in Niagara Falls, New York, in Niagara County. Marker can be reached from Robert Moses Parkway. Marker is located on the left side of the rear deck of the tourist shelter in Whirlpool State Park. Access to Whirlpool State Park is from the Niagara Scenic Parkway (nee: Robert Moses Parkway). There is no entrance fee. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Niagara Falls NY 14303, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Niagara Gorge Natural History (a few steps from this marker); Welcome to Whirlpool State Park (within shouting Eddy Basin (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Whirlpool Rapids (about 300 feet away); Niagara Spanish Aero Car (approx. Ό mile away in Canada); Pastimes and Parkways (approx. half a kilometer away); Whirlpool Rapids Gorge (approx. half a kilometer away in Canada); Thompson Point (approx. half a kilometer away in Canada). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Niagara Falls.
Also see . . .
1. Whirlpool State Park. New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website entry (Submitted on June 15, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
2. Daredevils of the Niagara Frontier. Niagara frontier website entry (Submitted on June 15, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
3. Niagara Gorge Railroad. Wikipedia entry:
Also see Thompson, Gordon J., "The Niagara Gorge Belt Line," Niagara Frontier Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, 2000. (Submitted on June 15, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
4. Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. Website homepage:
Current owner-operator of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (Submitted on June 15, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
Credits. This page was last revised on March 29, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 15, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 379 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on June 15, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. 5, 6. submitted on March 23, 2022, by Dan Smith of Arlington, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.