Care to zip over Niagara Falls?
Niagara Falls is the latest natural wonder to add a zip line. It offers honeymooners and everyone else the chance to take an adrenaline-pumping plunge. It runs right toward churning mist. And, riders can go at speeds that top 40 mph.
The elevated cable rides have evolved. They now are more than just a novel way to explore jungle canopies. The rides are almost necessary additions to lure tourists to well-known destinations. It's a trend that's exposed a rift. The rift is between those who approach nature like thoughtful monks and others who require an extreme, Indiana Jones-style experience.
"We can't make these into museums," argued Tom Benson. He is co-founder and chief experience officer at WildPlay Element Parks. It built the Niagara Falls zip line. "How do you take a teenager and get them away from a game console to something that is going to capture their imagination?"
The commercial zip lines have boomed in popularity. Much of this has happened over the past five years. There are at least 200 zip lines in the United States alone. This means more people are experiencing nature in a way that would make Thoreau dizzy.
Riders can travel above the tree line at New River Gorge. It is in West Virginia. They can ride over California's Catalina Island. They can move above lush Hawaiian landscapes. Or they can ride in view of Denali in Alaska.
A zip line ride was built in Mexico's Copper Canyon. The ride runs more than a mile and a half. One in Nepal has a drop of 2,000 feet. Another in Sun City, South Africa, boasts top speeds of 100 mph.
"You feel all this air rushing past you. It's this great almost roller coaster-esque feeling," Quillan Brady said. Brady had just ridden on the new Eagle Flyer zip line. It is at Lake George in New York's Adirondacks. "But really, what I think makes it is looking around and seeing all this natural New York beauty."
James Bannister is a resident of the Niagara Falls area. He doesn't quite see it that way. To him, the new zip line there amounts to a "circus midway-style attraction."
"Every once in a while somebody comes along and says, 'Boy, you could build another great attraction here!' As if the falls itself wasn't enough of an attraction," Bannister said.
Zip line fans say it's still possible to marvel at nature. And that is even while whizzing above it at highway speeds.
At Niagara Falls, WildPlay's Benson said his four lines angle 2,200 feet. They are along the Canadian side of the gorge. The lines were designed to be sensitive to the local environment, he said.
Catalina Island's zip line makes stops for presentations. These are at designated "eco-stations." And riders of the Lake George zip line said they had a new perspective on the natural wonder.
The owner of the Lake George line is Ralph Macchio Sr. He is father of the "Karate Kid" actor with the same name. He said he got the idea for his attraction by gazing out from atop the majestic Adirondack peaks.
"I thought, 'Gee, if you could look at it like you were flying like a bird and get that view, that would be an Adirondack experience,'" Macchio said. "And that's why I built the zip line."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are there objections to the zip line?
Write your answers in the comments section below