Dropping in for a soaking: Part 6 of our River Rapids history

The Nineties brought more river rapids, but as newer products such as the Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster and Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted Coaster appeared on the market, mature parks in North America turned their attention to those.  New parks around the world such as Fiesta Texas (San Antonio, TX) in 1992 and Port Aventura (Salou, Spain) in 1995 chose to install them as part of their opening day master plans.

In 1989, Leofoo Wild Life Park (Guanxi Township, Taiwan) was relaunched as Leofoo Village, a theme park experience.  As part of the original master plan, a River Rapids attraction was intended to be the flagship attraction of the Wild West Village.  Intamin had signed a contract to provide attractions to the park and the Big Canyon Rapids opened in 1994 as the headliner attraction of the Wild West Village.

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As part of the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the Theme Park, Leofoo Village put up a nice timeline and this poster mentions the grand opening of the Wild West Village.

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The Wild West Village was constructed to be as authentic as possible and this barn, complete with bales of hay to sit on, was constructed.

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The ride was constructed with a turntable and 9 seat rafts for high capacity.  Due to the tropical weather most of the year in Taiwan, a roof was constructed over part of the turntable to make it more comfortable for the ride operators.

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The course is quite long and is a great throwback to the original Six Flags River Rapids experiences.  The river combines wide segments like this where geysers and other things are present with narrow and fast segments.

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The course narrows for the first time at that point.

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The course features a wave pool, a water curtain that does not turn off and live bisons.  This is the only River Rapids attraction with live animals that we know of in the world.  The Water Curtain is called here the “Waterfall” and a sign in the waiting line is posted when it is turned on.

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The lift hill at the end.

Premier Parks (who merged with Six Flags and is now known as Six Flags Entertainment Corporation) was a good customer as well.  Their business model was to take failing amusement parks or in some cases, traditional amusement parks where the owners wanted to sell and then invest massively on new rides.  Geauga Lake (Aurora, OH) received a new River Rapids 9 in 1996 and this was followed in 1998 by the White Water Safari at Six Flags Marine World (Vallejo, CA).  Six Flags Marine World is now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

The Intamin River Rapids remained popular through the 1990’s in Europe as various parks built them to complete their offer.  Those often featured very compact layouts and in the case of Hurjakuru at Linnanmaki (Helsinki, Finland), they managed to squeeze a 370 meters (1213 feet) river inside an existing park. In 2010, a massive engineering feat was realised by Maurer AG when they installed a Spinning Coaster right over the rapids attraction.  This is one of the most incredible use of space in a park today.

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Europa Park opened Fjord Rafting in 1991 as a preview of the Scandinavia area of the park.  The theming was completed in 1992 and the river layout is amazing.  You experience great rapids, good waterfalls, a long cave and as you can see in this picture, powerful waves.

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The course is beautiful landscaped and you can see how large the rapids are in this photo.

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Thrillography provided us with this amazing picture of the Waterfall section of Fjord Rafting.

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Heide Park (Soltau, Germany) opened Mountain Rafting in 1992.  It also features a waterfall section like Fjord Rafting.

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Rio Bravo at Mirabilandia (Ravenna, Italy) opened in 1992 and as you can see, the park installed custom molded headrests on their 9 seat rafts.

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Back in North America, SeaWorld San Diego (San Diego, CA) opened Shipwreck Rapids in 1999.  It is quite efficient at soaking riders as you can see in this picture from Flex.

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The reason it is so exceptional is because of this: Intamin use two giant Archimede’s Screws to bring the water back to the higher level.  Those replace the traditional submerged pumps and have a huge visual impact. Thank you to Flex for this picture.

Intamin river rapids made a resurgence at existing facilities in 1999 in North America when Intamin introduced a new feature: a shoot the chutes style down ramp or drop.  The first Intamin river rapids to use that new element was Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Lake Buena Vista, FL).  Kali River Rapids feature a fleet of over 20 12 seat rafts on a short river.  The ride starts with what was the tallest lift hill on a River Rapids in the world at the time and immediately, things can get wet very fast as a large water geyser is placed right at the top of the lift.  The raft then turns past a rocky waterfall that was carved to look like a tiger head as we float on the Chakranadi River.  The river is quite mild with only small movements of the raft and no soaking.

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The entrance of the attraction.

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References to the Chakranadi River abounds in the area around the attraction.

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The waiting line goes through various temples and is quite beautiful.

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The mist enshrouded lift hill.

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On the raft on the turntable.

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In order to make the ride more accessible, a separate loading dock was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering for guests requiring more time to load.  The raft on the right is in that dock.

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When its time to push the raft into the course, the turntable stops and the metal fence lowers.

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A water jet then push the raft toward the course.  When the raft comes back, another metal gate rises up to block the lift hill and the boat then returns to the Accessible Dock.

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A view of an empty raft.

The ride main show scene followed:  illegal loggers have started to chop down the forest and have even set fire to it!  A truck hang dangerously above the river and fire shoots out of the embers near the river.  We then floated under a fire arch and went down the drop.  At 30 feet tall, it is quite thrilling and the resulting wave at the bottom soaks half the raft.  A gentle float past another waterfall and under the waiting line bridge follows and the raft goes through its worst rapids, which still don’t soak the boat much.  A second passage under a bridge and then, 3 elephant statues will get riders wet before it returns to the loading turntable.

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A view of one of the elephant.

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Other water jets were also installed to get riders wet.

In order to get a very low 38 inches height restriction, some boats were equipped with optional lap bars and the actual rapids toned down a lot.  The rapids are so weak they are mostly decorative and Walt Disney Imagineering was able to do that by using rubber pipes.  Instead of solid logs or steel pipes, the rapids are created with large rubber hoses that do a fine job of creating white water… but are completely ineffective at creating waves that would get riders wet.

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Guests between 38 and 42 inches are given a wristband and will need to sit in a special seat that is equipped with the lap bar.

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A seat with the lowered lap bar.

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All of this looks quite impressive, but does not produce much movement of the raft.

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This is sadly about as much action as the raft will get through the ride.

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It still look quite impressive.

Around 2004, the fire effects were deactivated in order to add a cast member position to oversee the Chute.  Smoke effects were installed as a replacement and it is sadly not as effective as before.

The 12 seat rafts were originally equipped with covered plastic pockets in the middle of the grab wheel, but they have since been removed.  They were not very effective at keeping water out and they slowed down loading quite a lot.  The replacement are complimentary lockers installed near the entrance, so no one should be bringing their bags and expensive electronics on the raft now.

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The complimentary lockers.

In 2001, Disney opened their second River Rapids attraction, Grizzly River Run at Disney’s California Adventure (Anaheim, CA).  It expanded upon Kali River Rapids by using smaller and nimbler 8 passenger rafts where riders sit in two pairs of 4.  To that end, the indexer (name given to the system that moves the boat for loading and unloading) was automated so that the same opening is always positioned correctly on the turntable.

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The entrance of the attraction.

The ride starts with a float toward the main lift hill, which is even taller than Kali River Rapids.  The base of the lift hill is set inside an old logging pump house and after the long climb, we start our journey.  The ride surroundings are amazingly themed with conifers and large rocks.  We go through a first cave and immediately, we notice that the river here is wilder than Kali.  We approach a second cave and the river slows down a lot as we about to go down the first Chute.  At the bottom, a waterfall on the right soak riders and we immediately enter the third cave, a large abandoned mine shaft.

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The lift hill.

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The new 8 seat raft that Intamin designed for the ride.

Exiting the mine, we float on an elevated flume section and past various abandoned pieces of equipment.  The second Chute, a taller 21 feet one, goes under the flume and a spinning wheel on the drop get our raft spinning so that one knows who will get soaked.  More rapids and geysers concludes our journey.

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The elevated flume was designed to leak as much as possible and it gives this impressive visual.

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A boat going down the second Downchute.

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One of the geyser at the end of the attraction.

The third Intamin River Rapids attraction to feature a drop is the Viking River Splash at Legoland Billund (Billund, Danemark).  It opened in 2006 and amazingly, features a third style of boat: 9 seat raft with headrests and grab bars.  It features two lift hlls: one standard at the start and an elevator that take the raft to the top of the big Chute.  The river is quite calm which is appropriate for the families that visit the park and many Lego props are placed along the river.  The ride feature two chutes before the elevator and one of them is a good size too.

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Flex provided us with this picture of Viking River Splash.  You can see the first chute on the left.

The elevator on this ride is quite unique:  the raft approach it from the right side and once the elevator platform is in the water, the raft is cleared to approach.  It is stopped at a precise spot and then, the elevator rises, lifting the raft up in the air.  The platform is composed of rollers who then roll the raft down to the chute once the raft is at the top.

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The elevator and Downchute.  You can also see one of the 9 seat raft.

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