Speed Rapids: Part 5 of our River Rapids Serie

Speed Rapids: Part 5 of our River Rapids Serie

From 1986 to 1988, more parks installed River Rapids, adapting the ride each time to their needs.


In 1986, Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH) opened Thunder Canyon at the end of the Frontier Trail. This Intamin 12 seat river rapids were the first in the world to feature the lift hill at the start of the ride, not the end. What you see here is not the beginning of the journey, but the end. Thanks to Flex for the picture.


The course itself relies on many waterfalls to soak riders. To that end, Cedar Point installed changing rooms and lockers near the ride so that guests can ride Thunder Canyon and Snake River Falls (Shoot the Chute attraction) and then get changed.


In 1986, Alton Towers (Staffordshire, England) opened the Grand Canyon Rapids in the Aqua Land area. The course was quite large and featured a long tunnel at one point in the ride. In 1990, the area around was renamed Katanga Canyon, and the ride renamed to Congo River Rapids. The boats were also changed at one point from the original six-seat rafts to the ones you see here, the nine-seat boats we will talk about later.


Thrillography provided us with this picture of Rumba Rapids at Thorpe Park (Chertsey, England).  The ride opened in 1987 and was called Thunder Rapids at the time.  It featured six-seat rafts, and it was quite a popular ride in the park.  In 2002, the attraction was refurbished and renamed to Ribena Rumba Rapids, after its sponsor, Ribena.  The ride was repainted in bright colors, and effects themed to the sponsor’s characters added to the rapids ride.  When the sponsorship ended after the 2006 season, the experience renamed as “Rumba Rapids.”  http://thrillography.blogspot.ca/

Knott’s Berry Farm (Buena Park, CA) found space in their landlocked property and installed Bigfoot Rapids in the southwest corner of their property in 1988.  It was quite an accomplishment to fit the ride in, and it is a winding and twisted course.


Bigfoot Rapids featured a waterfall generated by an upper course, but as you can see, it was landscaped quite well.


You can see the forest the ride is set in. The Wild Water Wilderness area was created around the ride, and the orange track in the background was added later when the Pony Express roller coaster was installed over and around Bigfoot Rapids. Thank you to Flex for this picture.


In this other picture from Flex, you can see one of the raft used on the ride.

For the 2019 season, the ride was renamed Calico River Rapids and given a new identity and theme.  Garner-Holt created dozens of new effects and animatronics that were placed around the river, and you finally encounter the Big Foot, something you didn’t do in the original version.


Also, in 1988, Walibi Belgium (Wavre, Belgium) opened the Radja River, an Intamin 12 seat river rapids themed to a rocky river in India. In addition to the station architecture, elaborate rockwork surrounds the river and even features a carved Tiger head that serves as the tunnel entrance. In the picture above, this is the ride only serious rapids action.


The ride instead relies on many waterfalls placed around the river and two excellent wave machines.  What you see in this picture shot in 2001 was the original “water tunnel” feature, where at the end, in addition to water curtains on each side of the channel, you also had to contend with high powered water jets over your head.  Unfortunately, the water jets were deactivated after, and the park instead installed geysers in the wave pool area right before to soak riders.

Radja River Walibi Belgium Water jets 2019

Amazingly, in the late 2010s, the water tunnel was brought back; combined with the two large geysers before, it is an incredible finish to the attraction.

Also, another modification was to remove the center grab rail and replace it with individual fixed lap bars in front of each seat.  It speeds up the passenger loading as you don’t have to walk around the large center rail to the other side of the raft.

In 1989, Intamin took the type of course created for White Water Canyon at Canada’s Wonderland and further improved on it. Called the “Speed Rapids,” a new kind of boat was created for it. It has the same diameter as the six-seat boat, and the seating area is where the big difference is. It went from 2 bucket seats to a bench seat technically capable of seating three people. Thus, with an efficient loader (employee who assign seats) and lots of families, parks saw an immediate 50% gain of capacity while keeping the same running costs and staffing requirements.

Six Flags Darien Lake , July 15, 2005 .  (PHOTO/harry scull jr)

Darien Lake provided us with this great picture of the Intamin 9 seat raft.  You can also see one of the many water feature present on the course on the left.  http://www.darienlake.com/

Darien Lake (Darien Center, NY) introduced the first one in 1989 and a way to identify one is by looking at the loading station: Speed Rapids have a straight station and boats are stopped by metal gates or side mounted conveyor belts for loading and unloading.  The course at Darien Lake tends to get riders quite wet due to the presence of 3 strategically placed water troughs that soak the raft at the beginning and a water curtain that does not turn off at the end.  Good rapids action in the middle give us a varied and exciting experience.

Six Flags Darien Lake , July 15, 2005 .  (PHOTO/harry scull jr)

Due to the number of waterfalls and how wet riders get, guests are allowed to ride the attraction in their bathing suit.  This picture appears courtesy of Darien Lake.  https://www.darienlake.com/

More pictures of the Grizzly Run, shot in 2019.

The second Speed Rapids also opened in 1989, at Walibi Rhones-Alpes (Les Avenieres, France) near Lyon in France.  Also named the Radja River, it features one of the fastest river rapid course in the world along with a long tunnel in the middle and a section with waterfalls on each side at the end.  It does not feature violent rapids and, this makes this the perfect family attraction, accessible to children 90 cm tall when accompanied (34 inches tall.)  The ride was renamed the Gold River in 2017 when the rafts changed to new eight-seater boats from french ride manufacturer Soquet.

A third one was constructed at Expo ’90 in Osaka, an international floral expo. That one was sadly demolished when the Expo ended, and we have not been able to track down what happened with the ride equipment. Reino Aventura in Mexico City and Walibi Aquitaine near Agen, France, installed Speed Rapids that are still in operation in 1992.


In 2000, Reino Aventura was renamed Six Flags Mexico, and you can see here the loading station of Rio Salvaje, their Speed Rapids.


Rio Salvaje first turn.


The lift at the end of Rio Salvaje.


In 2011, the theme park located near Agen was renamed Walibi Sud-Ouest as part of a broader rebranding of the Walibi Brand by la Compagnie des Alpes.  Walibi Sud-Ouest provided us with this picture of Radja River, the name given to their Speed Rapids attraction  http://www.parcagen.fr/


As you can see, the forest has grown in nicely to cover the course and this gives it a beautiful setting.  The ride is quite fast and features a few rapids before going under a trough that soak riders at the end.  Thanks again to Walibi Sud-Ouest for the picture.  http://www.parcagen.fr/

In 1989 Parc Asterix (Plailly, France) was initially stated to get a River Rapids 12, but plans were revised to feature the new nine-seater boats. The ride was originally called “La Descente du Styx” (Descent on the Styx), with the Styx being the mythological river deceased would have to cross to enter Hades in Greek mythology. The station covering part of the loading turntable was shaped to look like a giant conch, and the waiting line cross a bridge over the final part of the ride and into the infield gardens.


Thrillography provided us with this picture of the Conch loading station.  http://thrillography.blogspot.ca/

The ride starts with a speedy cruise in the forest past two decorative waterfalls and through a pool. Not much in terms of rapids, but the beautiful forest setting and natural-looking rocks that hide the waterfalls made this a pleasant experience. Initially, the boat would approach a covered portion, and a water curtain would shut down right before the raft would pass under it. Then, the walls of the dark section would consist of waterfalls that would get the boat wet as it approached them. The ride best wave is at the end of the dark part and gets the vessel reasonably wet. The ride then exits back into daylight and into the second pool, which features an effective wave machine.


Thrillography took this great shot of the beginning segment of the attraction.  http://thrillography.blogspot.ca/

The rest of the ride is confusing, to say the least as the ride slope levels off, and the river widens off. The boats slowly float back to the lift and the only noticeable water movement is from the wave machine. Initially, two giant elephant statues would shoot water at the boats from their snouts, and this would make riders wet. The ride then concludes with the lift back to the giant conch.


Thrillography also shot this picture of the slow float on the left and the ride reservoir on the right.  http://thrillography.blogspot.ca/

The ride had an accident in 2006 and was closed until 2008.  During that time, the ride cement channel was rebuilt and the rafts modified to feature giant headrests.  Unfortunately, effects such as the elephants and water curtains in the dark portion removed.  The ride’s new name is Romus et Rapidus, a clever pun using the naming convention of the Asterix comic.


In this picture, you can see the new headrests and grab bars added to the raft in 2008.

As of 2017, the ride environment was modified heavily as paths leading to the Pegase Express roller coaster were built where the forest was at the start.  The roller coaster itself goes over the river a few times as well, adding a lot of visual energy to the ride.  A few sections of the water curtains in the cave started getting riders wet again thankfully.  Flex provided us with those great shots of the ride.

Over in Asia, River Rapids did not take off as much as elsewhere around the world until the 2000s. Only two Intamin river rapids exist in Japan and, one of those operate at a Keihan Leisure Groups facility in Osaka: Hirakata Park. Pachanga was part of a massive streak of Intamin installations, and we estimate it opened around 1996. It has an extended layout with a tunnel, waterfalls and wave pools.


The entrance to Pachanga.


Pachanga is an Intamin 6 seat river rapids and the park went all out with a long course and turntable loading.


You can see here two of the raft used on the ride.


The course is nicely integrated with sculpted rocks and trees.


The course is quite active with many rapids and splashes.


The course narrows and widens along the ride to vary the speed of the raft.


This waterfall at the end is there simply as a decorative feature.


The rafts on this attraction feature both the regular black headrests and newer green headrests.


The end of the lift hill and the boats returning to the turntable.

The other is Aqua Ride II at Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. It opened with the park in 1993 and has a particular location: a compact location south of the Aqua Museum. The ride is quite short but still, packs a lot of excitement over its 1030 feet course. It uses the 6 seat Rapids boat and starts with some good rapid action. Next, what is possibly the best wave pool on a rapid ride today. It has not been tamed down, and the waves crashing against the rafts will soak riders, and boats will get trapped and passed over. A tunnel with pirate theming and waterfalls follows, and a slow float to the lift ends the ride. The II added to the name refers to the pirate theming that was added after the ride opened.


We found this picture of the end of the Wave Pool section of Aqua Ride II on the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise website.  Please visit them at http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/ for more information about this unique park.