Log Flume: Part one of a wet adventure

Arrow Development

The Log Flume attraction first debuted in 1963, but it was an evolution of the classic old water chute attraction that dated back to the early 1900’s. Those rides consisted of wooden flat bottom boats that floated alongside either a dark tunnel or scenery before concluding with a small wooden lift hill and a dive into the water. They were also called the “Tunnel of Love” and is referred as such in many books, movies and video games.  A few examples of remaining Old Mill/Mill chute in the world are Mill Chute at Lake Winnepesaukah in Lakeview, GA and River Caves at the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, UK. In the case of Mill Chute, it features a long float in a dark cave before a lift hill and dive into the natural lake. The velocity of the drop is what pushes the boat toward the return channel and it is a very simple and reliable idea. River Caves is more of a dark ride that features a small lift hill and drop at the end.

All those rides were popular, but the physic of water was not fully understood. Karl Bacon (he had founded Arrow Development along with Ed Morgan) started studying Hydrodynamic, which is the science that explains and control the movement of water. He used Navy research to properly understand water flow and thus, created the perfect water attraction. How much water is needed? What is the proper slope for a constant boat speed? Where can a small turn be added to create a thrilling rapid? Karl Bacon wrote the book on that and he can be considered the father of the modern water ride.

In 1962, after building crude waterways out of plywood, Karl and his team had discovered the formulas that would allow him to design a constant water level in his designs. Angus G Wynne, the founder of Six Flags Over Texas (Arlington, TX), was the first one to sign for the Log Flume. It replaced an attraction where guests travelled a trail in the woods on top of a mule and thus, Arrow could design a long layout that would effectively showcase what it could do. Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH) also bought one shortly after, but it opened after “El Asserradero” (The Sawmill) at Six Flags Over Texas.

El Asserradero opened in 1963 and was an incredible success. It brought record crowds to the park, although park management sometimes struggled with the wetness they expected guests to feel. The front of the boat has a scoop to project most of the water away from riders. In addition, the boat does not float at the bottom of big drops. It instead rolls on steel rails. The water in the runoff acts as a brake and creates the splash. Also, to control the wetness, rubber belts are present on the side of the rails and the height and size of those belts ultimately decide how wet riders will get. Many park managers used to test their rides wearing suits or dress clothes and who like to get their jacket soaked? They would then ask Arrow to raise all the skirts and make them so wide the boats could barely go through the middle. Of course, the guests were unhappy as they came off the ride bone dry, so the same managers would go back to Arrow and ask them to put it back to how it was originally.

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Those two pictures show El Asserradero. Both pictures appears courtesy of www.negative-g.com.

The ride use rubber conveyor belts to move the boats up the lift hills and then, it float down in a calculated way where the water level stay constant and the speed as well. Large water pumps were used to take the water to the highest level and then it flows down. 40000 gallons a minute pumps were used for example on the defunct Log Jammer at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Small drops can be included along the way and then the final drop was usually the biggest. Arrow started with 30 feet drops and then eventually designed 60 feet tall drops on flumes.

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This picture shows the Pitoune at La Ronde (Montreal, QC). This 1967 installation is a compact model where the park large lake serves as the reservoir for the ride and only one set of main pumps is required to run the ride. A small pump take water up for the show water on the drop, but what is remarkable is that after the first lift hill, the water in the channel goes uninterrupted until the bottom of that same lift hill as the channel continues under the second lift hill. The rubber skirts and steel running rails are seen after the drop.

Arrow at first only offered the log style boat, but at customer’s requests, came up with more models. For example, the barrel style boat were sold to Busch Gardens for two of their flumes.

Barrel Boat

Desperado Falls Barrel Boat

Barrel Boat History

The three photos above show the barrel boats used on the Desperado Falls at Great Escape (Queensbury, NY). The ride was originally the Log Flume at Busch Gardens California (Van Nuys, CA). After the park closed, Charles Wood, owner of Great Escape, bought the ride components and created a new flume ride at his park.

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Those unique bamboo boats were fabricated in 1969 for the Bamboo Chute log flume at Six Flags Astroworld (Houston, TX).

repainted Bamboo Chute Boat

After a few years of running at La Ronde (Montreal, QC), the boats were finally repainted brown to better suit the logging theme of the ride.

Old La Ronde Pitoune boat

What did La Ronde do with the old boats? Turned them into benches!

In 1972, Arrow evolved the flume with the new Hydroflume. Those featured a double chute on the last drop to improve capacity and the boats were shaped to “jump” across the water at the bottom. Also, for added thrill, a slight uphill trough is present at the bottom of the drop. When the boat bottoms out at the bottom of the drop, it rolls up a few feet before splashing into the water, thus making those rides the first water ride with a gravity uphill portion. Out of the remaining Hydroflume, only the Coal Cracker at Hersheypark and Yankee Clipper at Six Flags Great America still have the bump. Coal Cracker at Hersheypark (Hershey, PA) is the last one to use the two chutes. Jet Stream at Six Flags Magic Mountain is a Hydroflume with only one chute open and the bottom of the drop reprofiled to remove the uphill segment. Yankee Clipper has the same configuration.

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The original uphill segment on the Riptide at Six Flags Great Adventure.

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The original double chute configuration.

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The drop on Riptide post 1988 modifications.

One other improvement that came with the Hydroflume was the rotating turntable for loading. Older log flumes used a split loading station where boats would stop first, unload riders and then float down to load, where it was again stopped and then riders could board. It required a lot of manpower and required maintenance to maintain 6 different sets of brakes along with a guide paddle that would direct the boat to the proper side. In the case of the turntable, the boat enters one side, is slowed to the proper speed and then is slowly taken around. This allows exiting riders to leave and incoming riders to enter at their leisure. The turntable speed is adjusted to the proper dispatch timing for the lifts and drops. This option was then offered on both the traditional and Hydroflume rides.

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This is used to send the boats down one of the two stations.

Great Adventure History Log Flume Turntable

The Turntable on the Sawmill Log Flume at Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ). Picture appears courtesy of www.greatadventurehistory.com.

The Log Flume was immensely popular. So much that Six Flags Over Texas, Magic Mountain (Valencia, CA) and Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ) ultimately built a second ride to double capacity. In the case of Six Flags Over Texas, it opened in 1968 and was located next to the original ride. For the other parks, it opened a year after park opening and they were Hydroflume to make them different from the original ride. When Six Flags Over Georgia (Austell, GA) and Six Flags Saint-Louis (Eureka, MO) opened their flume, they went with a double flume configuration from the get go. In 1998, Six Flags Over Georgia closed one half of their flume to provide space for their new for 1999 Bollinger & Mabillard Stand-Up Coaster, Georgia Scorcher.

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The turntable on the Coal Cracker at Hersheypark (Hershey, PA).

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The unique custom Hydro Flume boats used on the Coal Cracker.

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Coal Cracker still uses both chutes and you can see the little hill at the bottom.

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Notice the boat rising into the hill.

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The boat is about to reintegrate the main flume.

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That white tipped extension moves and allows the boats to smoothly return to the main flume.

In 1973, Arrow added the “Spillway Drop” as a feature offered on its new log flume installation. This usually was the first drop on the flume and consisted of a 20-30 feet drop into an uphill section that ended with a splash down that served as a braking area. My research and observation make me strongly suspect that the first Spillway Drop was on the Stanley Falls log flume at Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, FL) and also appearing that year on the Powder Keg at Carowinds (Charlotte, NC). The Stanley Falls Log Flume opened in 1973 and after the first drop, currently features an area that would make it likely to have had that feature installed. It was removed on both rides at a certain point after. The Sawmill Log Flume at Six Flags Great Adventure (1974), Le Scoot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg (1975) were the other flumes that saw the element removed and the trough reprofiled. The Log Flume at Fuji-Q Highlands (Fujiyoshida, Japan) that closed in 2007 still featured it and the Log Jammer at Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA) is the last log flume to feature a Spillway Drop.

Fuji Q Spillway Drop

The Spillway Drop on the Fuji Q Log Flume.

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The beginning of the Spillway Drop at Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA).

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The Spillway Drop on the Log Jammer at Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA).

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A boat going up the uphill portion of the Spillway Drop.

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Log Jammer still feature the original Arrow Development logs.

In 1976, Marriott’s opened the two Marriott’s Great America theme park. One of the headliner’s opening day attraction at both parks in Gurnee, IL and Santa Clara, CA were the Logger’s Run and Yankee Clipper flume rides. Logger’s Run was a tall traditional flume with an added twist: a double down double chute. Like the Hydroflume, it had the double chute, but for added thrills, the drop level off in the middle and then drops again. Yankee Clipper is a Hydroflume with elevated portion and what make them unique is that both drops are intertwined. The left chute (the one still in use) of Yankee Clipper drops goes through the middle of Logger’s Run double chutes. Logger’s Run use regular logs and Yankee Clipper has custom boats that look like a small boat. Both rides still run at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, but Paramount removed in 1999 the Yankee Clipper side at the Santa Clara park.

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In the background, you can see the elevated portion of Yankee Clipper at Six Flags Great America.

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Here is the Logger’s Run. The supports in the middle are for the left chute of Yankee Clipper that goes through the middle of the Logger’s Run drops.

In 1979, Kings Dominion opened a huge artificial mountain called the “Lost World”. The headliner attraction was the Journey to Atlantis water dark ride. It used as a form of transportation a brand new type of log flume from Arrow. The main difference from the regular log flume was the boats. Instead of 4 riders inline separated by either a divider or the boat hull, it was wider and had 3 rows of two passengers. Journey To Atlantis had a long float inside the mountain before concluding with a 40 feet tall lift hill and straight drop outside. In 1980, it was rethemed to the “Haunted River” and it operated until 1995, when the mountain was gutted in preparation for a new project.

Wilderness Adventure was the other flume like Journey To Atlantis/Haunted River. It was very unique, as it featured large rapid sections and an indoor themed main lift hill. It is currently standing but not operating since 2012 when Ontario Place was closed for budget reasons by the Ontario government. The whole complex is currently undergoing redevelopment and the flume will hopefully reopen in 2017.

One Flume that proved to be a mystery for a long time is now sadly long gone: Zumba Falls at Canada’s Wonderland (Vaughan, ON) and it debuted in 1981. Zumba Falls had exceptional capacity due to using two separate lifts and drops at the end. It was believed for the longest time that this was an Arrow Development project, but the park mentionned in a Q&A session years ago that this was instead an in-house project. The designer and manufacturer was Taft Broadcasting/KECO, original owners and builders of the theme park. Looking at the boats, I do suspect that Arrow provided the boats for this unique creation, similar to how they sold boats to a japanese manufacturer called Sansei for their log flumes. Due to its unique nature, it was a challenge to maintain and it was removed after the 1994 season.  Top Gun- The Jet Coaster, a Suspended Looping Coaster from Vekoma was erected in its place in 1995. The ride was renamed “Flight Deck” after Cedar Fair took over the park and renamed rides away from the Paramount properties in 2008.

Zumba Flume Wonderland

Canada’s Wonderland provided this incredible picture of Zumba Falls. Notice the double chute and unique boat shape. For more informations on the park and to see what its replacement look like, please visit their website: https://www.canadaswonderland.com/

3 thoughts on “Log Flume: Part one of a wet adventure

  1. This is a very nice article of Log Flumes ride you have created here. I just noticed a slight error when referring to “Zumba Falls” at Canada’s Wonderland. The ride was actually named Zumba Flume and was built in-house by the original owners Taft Broadcasting. Just thought I’d let you know to be a little more accurate. I can’t wait to see part two of this Log Flume Article. Thanks. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Roller Coaster Phobia: How I Got Over My Fear Of Riding Roller Coasters & You Can Too | Travel Guide

  3. Pingback: Roller Coaster Phobia: How I Got Over My Fear Of Riding Roller Coasters & You Can Too | The Travel Guide

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