9/08/1974 - Knievel braves Snake River Canyon
The highlight of Evel Knievel's career came on this day in 1974, when the daredevil attempted to leap Snake River Canyon. Knievel always talked about jumping the Grand Canyon but officials wouldn't let him near it. Instead, he settled for the mile-long Snake River gorge in Idaho and billed it as his farewell stunt. The hysteria over Knievel's jump was unbelievable. He was selling merchandise left and right, whether it was an Evel Knievel lunchbox or an Evel Knievel bicycle.
When that September day finally arrived, Knievel strapped himself onto an oversized bottle rocket in front of thousands of spectators. Knievel's "Skycycle X-2", manufactured by Polaris missile designer Robert Traux, had gone through two tests earlier in the week to see if it could cross the canyon. Both times it failed to reach the cliff.
This day was no different. Evel's final thought before launching was, "God, here I come." Before Knievel could even get off the starting ramp, the rocket's parachute deployed prematurely. He and the Skycycle plummeted towards the Snake River water, where he likely would've drowned had his parachute not clung to a rock. Knievel's performance was lambasted by the media, who had built up one of the biggest disappointments in TV history.
It was not the final stunt of his career. Knievel continued jumping and attempting to jump over a variety of objects, including a failed jump in 1977 that led to a cameraman losing an eye. In 1981, Evel finally retired for good. He would live to be 69 years old, a fairly miraculous age considering that he held the Guiness world record for most broken bones.