On September 15th 1888 at approximately 3:20 p.m., nineteen year old Walter Campbell, with some friends and his pet dog, set out along the Niagara River in a small clinker built boat.
Campbell rowed to the old Maid of the Mist landing (south of the Michigan Central Railway Cantilever Bridge) where he dropped his friends off.
Campbell was wearing bathing trunks and a cork life preserver while on the boat. After departing from his friends, he set out from shore with his dog onboard. Campbell had to stand to use an oar as a rudder, which would help guide his boat to the middle of the river.
Campbell was swept downstream by the swift current into the Whirlpool Rapids. Upon entering the ferocious white water rapids, his dog was thrown into the water ahead of the boat and Campbell lost the oar he was holding. He then crouched down into the boat and held onto the sides of the boat as it swayed wildly in the water.
The boat began to quickly fill with water as it was forced through the rapids. Suddenly the strength of the rapids smashed the boat into pieces and threw Campbell into the water.
Campbell’s only chance of getting out of the rapids, without getting struck by debris from the boat, was to attempt to swim against the current. With this unsuccessful attempt, Campbell was swiftly carried into the Whirlpool. Upon entering the Whirlpool area, Campbell was able to swim to the Canadian shoreline and was rescued within 20 minutes after his journey began.
Campbell’s pet dog died from drowning during the perilous journey. Following his journey, Campbell earned a thousand dollars for a four week appearance at the old Wonderland in Buffalo, New York.