New RiverRush water coaster to open in May at Dollywood's Splash Country

J. H. Osborne • Feb 16, 2013 at 6:23 AM

PIGEON FORGE — There’s a rush of excitement coming to Dollywood’s Splash Country.

Tennessee’s first water coaster will debut at Splash Country in May as the park launches its 2013 season.

RiverRush — a four-story-tall 1,175-track-feet-long hydromagnetic coaster — will launch riders up and through four drops, including a 25-foot, 45-degree plunge right at the get-go.

Initially propelled by a high-speed conveyor belt, RiverRush’s four-person toboggan-style boats will climb 237 feet before entering that first plunge. From there, riders will be sent on a trip up into the trees, back down and through multiple twists and turns — in and out of tunnels much like a traditional water slide attraction. But RiverRush is a water roller coaster, combining aspects of a water slide, log flume ride and traditional roller coaster.

The 10.5-foot toboggans are rushed through the course along with water that gushes at a rate of 12,000 gallons per minute. But unlike a typical water slide, these boats don’t just follow gravity to the bottom of a course.

That’s where the “coaster” part of the equation comes in — magnets in the track fire sequentially, moving the toboggans up hills just as fast.

“That ... shoots you up and over the next hill and then you slide down like you do in a regular coaster until you reach the bottom — and you hit another one of those magnetic sections and it launches you back up and over and around,” said Pete Owens, senior public relations manager for Dollywood. “You’re going up as fast as you’re going down, you don’t really slow down at all. You’ll be accelerating going up — so when you hit the top of the hill you’ll feel weightlessness.

“On a regular coaster you might build in a camelback or a hump in a track so you can have that negative g experience. You’re going to have that multiple times on this ride, just like you do on a regular roller coaster. So you have the opportunity not only of that thrilling experience you have of sliding down on a toboggan slide, but you have that acceleration and weightlessness that you go through as well.”

The closest similar installation of a water coaster featuring the same type technology by the same company is in Cincinnati, Owens said — but that’s an indoor ride. The closest similar ride outside is in Indiana.

“RiverRush is the fourth-largest installation of this type of technology ever done by this company,” Owens said. “It’s a very thrilling experience for families. It is a family ride. It’s a high adrenaline ride for us, but it is not a ride the family is not going to want to ride together. Moms and dads and kids can all ride it together and experience the thrill together. It’s something very, very unique for us and something very, very unique for the state and something that I think families are going to really like.”

Another unique characteristic of Splash Country’s RiverRush: Riders will climb into their toboggan after walking down a long boardwalk that begins near the ride’s uppermost peaks and winds down and across some sections of the track and through a shaded grove.

RiverRush’s location also offers spectators a unique vantage point for watching friends of family members ride the water coaster, because they’ll be able to look down on much of the ride, rather than crane their neck upward as they would when viewing a typical coaster.

Splash Country’s RiverRush will open in May as Tennessee’s first and only water coaster.

The $6 million attraction is the newest and largest expansion in Splash Country’s history.

RiverRush covers more than an acre in a newly developed area near Splash Country’s Big Bear Plunge (a slide inspired by white water rafting).

The minimum height requirement to ride RiverRush is 42 inches and the ride has a capacity of 720 passengers per hour.

“At Dollywood, we made history with Wild Eagle, the country’s first wing coaster, so I thought why not do it again at Dollywood’s Splash Country with my new RiverRush water coaster,” Dolly Parton said when the project first was announced last summer. “You know me, I love making a big splash, and RiverRush is all that and a whole lot more.”

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