Read an Excerpt
Where Is Niagara Falls?
It was a beautiful, hot summer afternoon in 1960. Seven-year-old Roger Woodward was excited. He and his older sister Deanne were about to go on a boat ride. It was Roger’s first time ever in a boat. They were going out onto the Niagara River in a motorboat that was just big enough to hold three people.
“Remember to wear your life jacket,” Roger’s father called out to him. His father knew they needed to be careful. They were going on a river that led to the biggest, most awesome waterfall in America.
The man who owned the boat was a family friend named Jim Honeycutt. Jim was a strong swimmer and lifeguard. He knew all about how to stay safe on the river. He made sure Roger kept his life jacket on.
As they passed under a bridge, Roger asked if he could steer the boat. It was a bad idea to let Roger steer right then. The boat was nearing a dangerous part of the river. Most boaters knew to turn around there. The river was full of rocks and rapids that led to the edge of Niagara Falls.
But for some reason, Jim said yes.
Suddenly, the boat hit something hard under the water. The engine screamed. A piece of the motor was broken. They couldn’t drive the boat away from the rocks. The rapids were pulling them toward the edge!
Jim grabbed some oars and began to row as hard as he could. He shouted to Deanne to put on the only other life jacket in the boat. Powerful waves tossed them up and down. When a huge one hit the boat, all three were thrown into the swirling, raging rapids.
Roger tried to hold on to Jim, but the water ripped him away.
People on the shore saw what was happening. They ran up and down, but no one could figure out a way to help.
Roger felt himself being bounced against rocks. Then he was dragged over the edge of the gigantic falls, like a fly being flushed down a toilet.
No one had ever survived going over Niagara Falls without something—a boat or a barrel—to protect them.
But somehow, a miracle happened! Roger found himself floating in the water below the falls. A tourist boat happened to be nearby. Someone spotted Roger’s red life jacket and fished him out of the water. He was saved!
Roger became famous that day. He was the first person ever to survive going over Niagara Falls without protection. When he grew up, he became a sailor. He loved the water and even joined the navy. His sister survived that day, too. She was pulled out of the river before ever reaching the falls.
But Jim Honeycutt died in the terrible accident. Sadly, he was not the first—or last—to lose his life to the biggest, most awesome, and most dangerous waterfall in America.