It is, of course, illegal to go over the falls (with or without a barrel).
Laws notwithstanding, some 18 daredevils since 1901 have reportedly gone over the falls in some sort of device, and a handful even survived. Thousands more have gone over the falls without a barrel, primarily in almost universally successful suicide attempts. The law prohibits this as well, although the perpetrators are rarely ticketed.
Not all daredevils choose to let gravity do their work for them. A number of tightrope walkers have walked across the gorge as well, including Maria Spelterina, an Italian daredevil who made several crossings in 1876. Tightrope crossings became illegal in 1896, although high-wire artist Nik Wallenda made an historic 2012 crossing after receiving special permission from both the U.S. and Canadian governments. Then there’s this guy. Experienced ice climber Will Gadd decided to put his own twist on Niagara Falls derring-do. A professional climber who has scaled the glaciers of Kilimanjaro, Will pined to climb Niagara ice for decades.
Gadd made his climb on January 27, 2015, followed by fellow climber Sarah Hueniken, who grew up near Niagara.
"It's the biggest, coolest, wildest, most well-known waterfall in North America," Gadd told CBC's Carol Off. "As an ice climber, that's very, very attractive."
As for whether his climb was illegal, it would seem not—because Gadd and his team planned ahead and got the proper permissions. Had he not gone through the proper channels before their climb, Will and Sarah could have been ticketed by the Niagara Parks Commission for a “provincial offense.” This is not a criminal violation, but something more like a traffic ticket.
The charge would be "unlawfully performing or attempting to perform stunt or feat with the Parks.” There is no set fine; a person charged would have to go to court. The maximum penalty would be a $5,000 fine, up to six months in jail, or both.
Permission from the Parks Commission notwithstanding, I think I’d prefer to keep my feet on the ground. What about you? Would you be brave enough to head over the falls in a barrel or attempt to scale those 167-foot icicles? Let me know on my Facebook page!