Monadnock Moments No. 53: Shooting the Falls
We have all heard of the numerous attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, to shoot, or go through, Niagara Falls. Closer to home, here in Cheshire County, however, the residents of North Walpole and Bellows Falls know of several people who have gone through the falls between these two villages on the Connecticut River.
One of the most publicized trips through the falls was that of Captain Paul Boyton on October 30, 1879. Captain Boyton was on a pleasure trip down the Connecticut at the time. He arrived at Bellows Falls at nightfall and decided that he would go through the falls the next morning. Word of the daring feat spread through the countryside and 2000 spectators gathered on the bridges and the riverbanks early the next day.
The water was quite high and rushed through the narrow gorge of the falls with great force. Boyton donned a rubber floating suit and paddled into the river above the falls. The current carried him toward the gorge. He became caught in several whirlpools and had to fight diligently to escape them. He was finally carried into the narrow gorge with great speed, and disappeared. He did not reappear for some time as the spectators watched anxiously. Boyton finally reappeared well down river and made his way to the shore.
He stayed at a hotel in Bellows Falls that evening and recounted his experience to an attentive audience. He stated that the water pushed him down to the bottom of the channel and he was sure he was about to die. Boyton said that it was the worst experience he had ever had, and nothing would persuade him to repeat his trip over Bellows Falls.