He took steady, measured steps on Friday night for 1,800 feet on a wire across the widest part of the gorge of the falls separating the US and Canada, accomplishing what he said was his childhood dream - albeit wearing a tether.
“I feel like I’m on cloud nine right now,” an exuberant Wallenda told reporters after his feat, performed before an estimated 112,000 people crowding the shores of both countries and millions more who watched a live television broadcast. “I hope what I do, and what I just did, inspires people around the world to reach for the skies,” he said.
He described a breathtaking view during the night-time walk, illuminated by spotlights, that “compared to nothing”.
“There was no way to focus on the movement of the cable,” said Wallenda, 33. “If I looked down at the cable there was water moving everywhere. And if I looked up there was heavy mist blowing in front of my face. So it was a very unique, weird sensation.”
He said he accomplished the feat through “a lot of praying, that’s for sure. But, you know, it’s all about the concentration, the focus, and the training”.
The seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas had long dreamed of pulling off the stunt, never before attempted. Other daredevils have wire-walked over the Niagara River but further downstream, and not since 1896.
“This is what dreams are made of, people,” said Wallenda, who wore a microphone for the broadcast, shortly after he stepped off from a platform on the American shore. Along the way, he calmly prayed aloud.
After passing the halfway mark, Wallenda expressed fatigue. “I’m strained, I’m drained,” he said. “This is so physical, not only mental but physical.”
Toward the end, as he neared the Canadian shore, Wallenda dropped to one knee and pumped his fist while the spectators cheered. He broke into a playful run about 15 feet from the finish line, where his wife and three children waited.
ABC televised the walk and insisted Wallenda use a tether to keep him from falling in the river. Wallenda said he agreed because he wasn’t willing to lose the chance to perform the walk it took him well over a year to win permission from two countries to do. Such stunts are normally illegal. Sponsorship by the US TV network ABC helped offset some of the $1.3 million (£835,000) cost of the spectacle.