Waterworld…not with Kevin Costner…
Waterworld was set on a particularly steep section of the park. The entire section was on an incline until it leveled out a bit at the top; the end of the incline also marked the end of Waterworld. The first slide you saw back in the Action Park days was The Kamikaze, a simple three dip body slide that was built into the hill. There would be a short, straight section after each dip that would dissipate your speed in preparation for the next drop. Depending on how heavy you are, you could catch some air on the final dip. This was, however, the least dangerous or wild slide in Action Park.
On the left, down a nondescript path, was where the Tarzan Swings were located. A pair of slides, named Cannonball Falls, sat right next to the Tarzan Swings; both sitting in a densely wooded ravine. Also to the left was a small stage area for shows and further up was the Aerodium. If you managed to make the awful hike up to the top of this section, you were greeted by grouping of vertical slides called Geronimo Falls.
Lets start off with the Tarzan Swings which were, and still are, a spectacle of pain. The swing was huge first off; the beam to hold them must have hovered 30 feet above the water. The swings (there were three) had a triangle shaped bar to hang onto and riders would swing from platforms that were about 15 feet above the water. The goal of this attraction was to successfully swing over the bulk of the water and let go at the pinnacle of your swing; it rarely ever went that way though.
This is what would normally happen: You grab onto the bar, tumble off the platform, forget to tuck you’re legs in to avoid hitting the surface of the water, and finally you faceplant into the pool. I remember seeing one kid not let go of the swing at all; he reached the apex of the swing, started traveling backwards, and then slammed into this padded wall just under the platform. He then dropped like a dead bird into the water and had to swim the entire length of the pool to get out…which is not fun at all.
While I’m at this point, I’ll talk about the pools at Action Park; they are all freezing cold. Even today in the Mountain Creek era they’re still pretty damn cold. The Roaring Springs section must have no heat whatsoever in their rock basin looking pools. After waiting in a long line in the sun, the sudden wave of cold water upon entering a pool is like a shock. Some of the people’s reactions remind me of one particular episode of the Discovery Channel show Man vs Wild where survival expert Bear Grylls leapt into an ice pond and proceeded to flail around and nearly hyperventilate while trying to get out.
However the worst pools were the Tarzan Swing and Cannonball Falls splash pools. Both are in an intense shade provided by the wooded surroundings, and both look like natural pools; it was only recently that I found out that these are in fact fresh water pools. The bottom is simply made of concrete slabs with boulders and rocks making up the sides of the pool. The depth of each pool is around 15 feet and he shade makes it look very dark and murky (thanks Mike D for the info!) When at the park, I distinctly remember the ride ops announcing that the pool was 30 feet deep, which was sort of terrifying to think about.
Anyway, right next to the Tarzan Swings was Cannonball Falls. This is the ride where I actually hurt myself on! Add me to one of the countless people hurt at Action Park! The key word here is hurt, as opposed to injured or maimed. Cannonball Falls (or just Cannonball) are two short, black tubed waterslides; you are supposed to race the other person down the slide. The slides are very unassuming looking but pack a huge punch. Riders go down a tiny drop before sliding down a steady downward grade complete with a couple of turns. Riders gain quite some speed before being shot out of the tubes, which hover some 10 feet above the water. The way I was ‘hurt’ on this was when I was shot out of the tube; I fell into the pool on my side and basically landed on my arm. Nothing serious, but not comfortable either. I guess I really can’t even say I got hurt, but I’m sticking with it!
Here’s an on-ride/off-ride video of Cannonball Falls. I love how an on-ride video exists even though you can’t see anything. Thanks to BuLLNJ5 for uploading!
As you make your way past the start of the Kamikaze, you would have noticed a large round building to you’re left. This was one of those faux skydiving machines with the giant fan to simulate skydiving. According to Wikipedia it was called the Aerodium. I remember going into the building to see the people first hand attempt this feat. The noise in the building was deafening and the whole place rattled like hell when the fan was at full speed. Most people would never make it out of the building due to their inexperience. However, sometimes you would see some hotshot rise up from the structure and hover 15 or 20 feet above the building. I doubt that thing made much money for its size and probably it’s cost, but it was interesting.
If you make it to the top of the hill, you can turn around and see the spectacular view which overlooks many of the mountains and valleys of northern NJ, lined with tiny (and probably expensive) houses; or you can also go on the Geronimo Falls, a pair of steep speed slides. I have heard that this is one of the tallest vertical drop slides in the US, only topped by “Summit Plummet,” at Disney World’s Blizzard Beach.
This was the site of an alleged Action Park death. I say alleged because I’ve never found the report on it. The story is that some person sat up while going down the slide, despite all the warnings to lie down while riding. It was rider error, but a fatality none the less. If anyone knows about this story, then please drop me an e-mail.
Two things I always remembered about this slide complex were that there was like a 10 foot section of the taller slides that was covered. Maybe they put them there to prevent someone from falling off the top. The other thing was the wooden bridge that went over the ending section of the slide. The bridge gave a great vantage point to watch people drop down the vertical section, and then become engulfed in a spray of water as they hit the portion of the slide that levels out, at which point they would rumble under the bridge. The bridge also had a stairway on the far end which led to some overgrown weeds and the tree line.
There are a few more slides in Waterworld, none really that spectacular. They had a couple of kiddie rivers and slides which rarely ran. But they did have this old serpentine mat slide that was built into the hill. I recently looked at a park map of Mountain Creek and contrary to what I thought, they are in fact still operating under the name Sidewinder. I remember the ‘lifeguard’ who would tell people when to go down didn’t even care; he just stood there and said “go, go, go, go…” and everyone and their brother piled down the slide. I waited a bit and then went. It was pretty fast and long with a couple of tunnels.
Funnily enough, back in 2004 or so at Mountain Creek, I was talking to one of the lifeguards that stood at the top of the slide and instructed people to go down. I asked if I should go down and the bleach blonde surfer looking kid said: “um…you know just wait a second because I’m not sure. I sort of just guess. (chuckle)”
DoD3 reader Ari F. has a wild story to share about the seemingly un-assuming Serpentine Slides:
Back in the late 80s I went to Action park with my family; I must have been 15 or so at the time. The Serpentine was the first ride I went on. I got to the top, the lifeguard said “go”, and off I went. Of course no one told me you have to curl up the front of the mat. Not curling up the front of the mat results in vastly reduced speeds. In fact the slide was built in such a way that if you didn’t have sufficient speed around certain turns you just stopped and you had to push yourself down until you built up enough momentum. Well that is what happened to me. Which would have been bad enough but the fun didn’t end there…
After I slowed to a crawl and began pushing my way down, I briefly took a look back over my shoulder behind me and I see a 250 pound woman rounding the last turn coming at me at top speed. All she has time to do is say “Hold on to your mat Kid!” and it was a good thing she did. I complied and shut my eyes tight and ‘Pow!’ she slammed right into me. We raced down the rest of the slide at top speed. I screamed the whole way down. I felt like that bald guy in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome who ends up riding on the front of the speeding train. (Admin Note: He’s referring to this scene!)
So we are flying down the slide and then I begin to think “What the hell is going to happen in the splash pool! This lady is going to squash me.” So I prepared myself and just as we hit the splash pool I pushed downward and she flew right over me. We both smiled and went our merry ways, both happy that I avoided injury.
The Wave Pool
If you go all the way to the top of the path, you’ll stumble upon the giant wave pool. Somebody died here as well! It seemed like a fairly tame wave pool, but it apparently had some sort of odd rip-tide which led to unprecedented numbers of rescues each year. One thing I remember was that the entrance to the pool section had these posts with sprayers that sprayed freezing cold water. The water in the pool was also cold, even though it’s in direct sunlight.
If you go up a nondescript stairway to the left of the pool, you’ll come to the Surf Hill racing slides (renamed Riptide in the Mountain Creek era.) Surf Hill was one of those giant 8 lane slides with maybe 3 or 4 dips to traverse. You would ride headfirst on mats, and the object was to be the first one to hit the end of the slide.
Surf Hill slide was built right into a hillside slope and the walk to the top is horrible; the ride down is pretty fast though! Unfortunately they didn’t have room for a straight section to end the slide (though they seemed to have enough room for long straightaways after every dip) so instead there were small water filled pits in each lane and a large curved wall covered with that slick padding. If you’re going too slowly, you’ll slam into the pit of water and the mat will smack you in the face; too fast and you’ll fly across the pit, slide up the wall and tumble down. It was a lose/lose situation you see. These slides are apprently gone now, never to injure again. Check out the comments section below for a bunch of great Surf Hill stories; it seemed to be right up there with the “best” of Action Park!