September 8, 1974 – Evel Knievel attempts to jump Snake River Canyon

Evel Knievel has lifted off

On this day in 1974 Evel Knievel attempted and failed to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in a steam-powered, rocket-like motorcycle. The widely publicized event was broadcast on pay-per-view and into movie theaters around the country. With tens of thousands watching on, Knievel launched at 3:36 PM. Shortly after the vehicle, dubbed the Skycycle X-2, left the launching ramp, its parachutes deployed prematurely. While photographs show that the craft did make it across, winds pushed the soaring bike and chute backward, sending it drifting to the bottom of the canyon.

Skycycle X-2. By Docob5 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

In order to obtain permission from the state of Idaho to complete the jump, the Skycycle X-2 had registered as an aircraft, opposed to a motorcycle. This was fitting, seeing as it spent most of its performing life aloft. The vehicle narrowly missed the Snake River at the bottom of the canyon. Had it hit the water, Kneivel said he would have drowned due to a malfunctioning harness he couldn’t escape without assistance.

In 1985 a memorial to Kneivel was dedicated about a mile and half from the jump site. Then, in 2016, stuntman Eddie Braun recreated the jump in a replica of the Skycycle X-2, which he named Evel Spirit. His jump, done in partnership with Evel Kneivel’s sons, was completed successfully. 

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