On September 6, 1926, Al Faussett (1879-1948) rides over Eagle Falls on the Skykomish River in Snohomish County in a homemade boat. The stunt, although not as impressive as Faussett's ride over Sunset Falls the previous May, still attracts considerable attention and burnishes Faussett's image as a falls-leaping daredevil. After Eagle Falls, Faussett will go on to jump five other falls in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho during the next three years.
Leap from Obscurity
Alfred “Al” Faussett was born in Minnesota on April 12, 1879, but moved to Monroe, Washington (Snohomish County), about 1893. He married, had a family, and lived an obscure life running his own small logging operation until the mid-1920s. Then, in 1926, opportunity knocked, and on May 30, Faussett successfully navigated Sunset Falls (also on the Skykomish River) in a homemade dugout canoe. The success of this adventure whetted his appetite for more.
Faussett next turned his eye on a ride over Snoqualmie Falls, but low water during the summer of 1926 foiled his attempt. (This would only be the first of several tries by Faussett to take on Snoqualmie Falls over the next year or so. But officials from King County -- as well as Puget Power, who owned the land near Snoqualmie Falls -- smelling the potential for a lawsuit or some other sort of costly disaster, stopped him at every turn.)
Preparing for Eagle Falls
Shortly before Labor Day 1926, Faussett announced he would run Eagle Falls on Labor Day. Eagle Falls is located about four miles southeast of the town of Index, Washington, and is the first of three large waterfalls on the South Fork of the Skykomish River. It is followed by Canyon Falls (which most consider too dangerous to attempt to canoe, even by an expert) and then Sunset Falls approximately two miles downriver from Eagle Falls. Eagle Falls drops 28 feet in a 60-foot wide chute; although these falls are not as impressive as Sunset Falls, they are still not to be taken lightly by people wanting to ride through them.
Faussett seems to have announced his decision to jump Eagle Falls relatively late, and it apparently generated far less hoopla than the six-week-long, suspense-building publicity that his ride over Sunset Falls attracted. Or maybe it was the falls themselves -- although there was some publicity that Faussett’s ride over Eagle Falls would be just as dangerous (or more so) as his ride over Sunset Falls, that really wasn’t true. But it was still a risky ride nonetheless.
Taking the Leap
On Labor Day, September 6, 1926, about 400 people were on hand to watch Faussett attempt Eagle Falls. He had built a new boat for the occasion, a 16-foot cigar-shaped craft that he had hollowed out from two halves of a log and banded together. He evidently did not name this boat (unlike his boat from his Sunset Falls run) -- or if he did, the newspapers failed to record it. Faussett built his new boat with a small, completely enclosed compartment to ride in, accessible via a hatch, and he would ride down Eagle Falls lying down inside this compartment, hatch closed, much as if he were riding inside a hollowed-out log.
About 2:30 p.m. Faussett put into the river above Eagle Falls and floated slowly toward the falls. Given the dry conditions, the water was low and rocks were exposed that normally would have been covered by water, adding to the risk of a collision. A cable was attached to the boat (to help keep it in mid-channel) and played out from a spool onshore as Faussett drifted into the falls.
Halfway through the falls, the boat got stuck in the rocks. After a brief pause, Faussett opened the hatch and called out to people on shore for a push. Several people ventured into the falls with a pike pole and prodded the recalcitrant ship back into action. Faussett scraped along to the bottom of the falls, uninjured except for a scratch on his nose, but his boat, having been slammed against numerous rocks, was rather the worse for wear.
Faussett went on to jump five other falls in the Northwest (including Spokane Falls in Spokane) in the next three years. Although he never achieved his dream of jumping either Snoqualmie Falls or Niagara Falls, he still achieved considerable fame as a falls-leaping daredevil.
In the 1930s, Faussett moved to Portland, Oregon, and died there on February 16, 1948.