Probably world's first canyoner was Francisco De Coronado who, in 1540, made his way towards Mexico among the Colorado canyon. In 1905, Martel sailed the gorge of Verdon on a primitive raft, facing a water flow five times bigger than the present one. Explorations, mainly led by spelaeologists, date back to the 70's, while the great diffusion of canyoning began first in France and then in Spain during the 80's; in Italy this activity gained a certain importance only in the 90's.

The imprint of extreme sport which first marked canyoning, gradually shaded off into an activity that everyone can attempt, if supported by a good feeling with water and sufficient fitness.