Once only used to transport goods and then, later, by extreme sports enthusiasts, zip lines now have become so popular and common that it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t tried them at least once.
There’s a reason why: zip lining is fun. So much fun, in fact, that they are now typically seen at all types of get-togethers, from corporate events and fundraisers to even large birthday parties.
But there are things you likely don’t know about zip lining. You’ve come to the right place to find out, so let’s check out some facts about zip lines.
Zip Lines are Hundreds of Years Old
Zip lines have been around for at least a couple hundred years and maybe much longer. Some crude rope transportation systems may have been developed as early as the Middle Ages in Europe, according to Low-Tech Magazine, and the use of ropes to cross treacherous areas has been in use in Asia for thousands of years.
Certainly by the 1800s they were being used to transport goods over mountainous terrain and long distances. Of course, they weren’t called that, yet. H.G. Wells refers to what is basically a zip line as an “incline strong” in his 1897 novel, “The Invisible Man.”
Facts About Zip Lines: The Aura of Danger
Part of the fun of zip lines is the thrill of potential danger, traveling through the air high above the ground. However, these days zip lines are perfectly safe. That, however, was not always the case. In Shrewsbury, England, back in the eighteenth century, a young man (just 28) had his fatal experience with a zip line recorded on his tombstone.
During that time, steeplejacks – people who used ropes to scale church steeples and building spires to perform maintenance – had to perform some fairly daring climbs and descents by rope. Noticing that people enjoyed watching this, some took to performing for crowds. One such steeplejack was Robert Cadman, who apparently attempted to slide by rope from the top of St. Mary’s Church across the River Severn, according to his tombstone. But a rope cord, drawn too tight, snapped and he fell to his death on Feb. 2, 1739.
Zip Lines as Entertainment
Scientists exploring the Costa Rican jungle in the 1970s and 1980s began to use zip lines to traverse over the forest rather than slug their way through it. This process was featured in the 1992 film “Medicine Man” with Sean Connery, which in turn helped stoke the desire to try zip lining for many people.
These days, zip lines are one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment across the United States and the world. Rather than handmade zip lines used by the scientists – or by poor Robert Cadman – modern zip lines are technical marvels, safe and exciting to use. Some thrill-seekers travel hundreds of miles to try the most challenging zip line tours.
The World’s Most Amazing Zip Lines
This list changes every year, but right now, these are some of the most impressive zip lines in the world, worth traveling to experience.
Icy Straight Point. This Hoonah, Alaska, zip line is the longest in the world, running more than a mile. It’s a frequent stop for cruise ships. The speed at which you slide along the line averages about 60 miles per hour in some sections, with amazing views of the mountains and ocean. The ride drops you 1,300 feet – that’s taller than the Empire State Building.
Gravity Canyon. Located in New Zealand, this zip line puts riders in stomach down, so you essentially feel as if you are flying like Superman or Thor (without the hammer). Here’s the other aspect of the ride that’s memorable: you go up to 100 miles per hour.
Sky Trek. Costa Rica is where modern zip lining got started, and there are still great zip lines over the forest canopy. One of the best is the two-mile long Sky Trek that goes over Arenal Lake and past Arenal Volcano – which last erupted in 1984. The view of both the lake and the volcano are spectacular.
Dragon’s Breath, Haiti. This zip line is used by passengers of the Royal Caribbean cruises and runs more than 2,600 feet over a beautiful cove.
Portable Zip Lines Grow in Popularity
With the continued development of the zip line, it is now possible to have one in your own backyard. They are increasingly being used at parties, carnivals and fundraising events.
Typically, mobile zip lines have a three-story metal stair that leads to a platform. From there, riders glide to a stop about a foot off the ground. It’s safe, with a five-point harness, and adds a new dimension of fun and thrills to a party.
So no matter how you enjoy zip lines, you are participating in a long-cherished sport that has been either providing practical help or entertainment to people for centuries.