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High-Wire Artist Nik Wallenda Plans To Cross Dizzying Colorado River Gorge

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Nik Wallenda walking over the Niagara Falls on June 15, 2012 (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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Daredevil, aerialist and seventh-generation member of a circus family Nik Wallenda will attempt to cross a Colorado River gorge on a high-wire a dizzying 1,500 feet above the rapids below.

The Discovery Channel will air his stunt tonight June 23 at 5 pm PT. The footage will be streamed live—except for a 10-second delay just in case the stunt doesn't go according to plan.

Wallenda is part of a long line of acrobats and aerialists called The Flying Wallendas that trace their circus roots to 18th century, according to CNN. The family business has been a fatal one. His great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death at age 73 while crossing between two towers of the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico, but Nik completed that stunt in 2011. In 1962, his cousin Dieter lost his footing in a stunt in Detroit that ended up killing two family members. Another family member died while performing in Omaha.

Wallenda told The Telegraph, "I have no desire to go that way myself. I hope when I do go, I will be lying in bed next to my wife, at an old age."

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Wallenda also crossed the Niagara Falls recently, although he was bummed that ABC made him wear a harness—just in case the worst happened. This time he makes the crossing in Arizona, he won't have a harness—just a pole to help him keep his balance. In addition to the dizzying heights he will traverse, Wallenda will have to deal with gusts of wind.

He also has his faith although he doesn't look at what he does as a test of God: "My faith simply means that I have confidence in the fact that if I die, I know where I’m going."

Wallenda couldn't cross the Grand Canyon because he would not be able to get permission to do such a stunt on National Park lands. He did need to get permission of the Navajo Nation, near Cameron, Arizona. Geri Hongeva, spokesperson for Navajo Parks & Recreation, told Forbes: "Realistically, the Navajo Nation would not be able to afford this amount of marketing on its own. Many people will learn more about the Navajo people and culture."