The Twin Falls Plunge

Twin Falls (pop. 35,000) is located in south-central Idaho, where the Snake River cuts wide and deep through the high desert plateau. Three waterfalls sit upriver of Twin Falls, the highest being Shoshone Falls. With a vertical drop of 212 feet, Shoshone Falls is the end of the line for the few remaining native salmon that make it past the downstream hydroelectric dams. Additional tidbits of local trivia include Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue grew up here, and in 1974, Evel Knievel attempted to jump the chasm in his X-2 Skycycle rocket. Thousands of people watched Knievel shoot into the sky and drift unceremonously into the cliffside, thanks to the accidental deployment of his parachute as the rocket left the launch ramp. The remains of the ramp are still visible on the south rim of the canyon, a permanent monument to the unintended failure of an unbridled ego.

Today, Twin Falls is best known as the only place in the United States where you can BASE jump ("buildings, antennae, spans, and earth") without restriction. While we stood atop the canyon rim, several jumpers (some with British or perhaps Australian accents) watched as friends leaped into the 486 foot gap between Perrine Bridge and earth. One of them talked about the growing number of serious BASE jumping adherents who move to Twin Falls and get low-paying schlep jobs so they can jump every day. In Twin Falls, researchers who study abnormal brain function would find an ample supply of human specimens who jump off bridges in order to feel, well, normal.

As you might expect, the hobby of jumping from bridges and such has not been void of tragedy. One hundred people have died while BASE jumping over the years (click here), and since 2002, three people have died jumping off the Perrine Bridge. The most recent fatality was in May, when a California woman slammed into the Snake River with the velocity of a cruise missile after her chute failed to open. It must be a most unsettling way to die: you realize every nano-second that passes after you willingly jumped from a rapidly-shrinking bridge means you're another nano-second closer to death.

We witnessed a jump where everything went as intended, which was a very good thing.

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