Perhaps it’s just our group, but coasters seem like a lot of fun until we’re near the top and about to take the plunge.
Once we reached the top of the attraction we were divided into two groups, with four people assigned to a toboggan (less of a sled, and more of an inflated boat with low sides). In those few moments prior to takeoff, unaware of what we were about to experience, everything felt oddly calm.
If you’ve spent time in amusement parks you likely remember what it feels like to fall several hundred feet, how your stomach drops, and your mind tries to make sense of your surroundings. Likewise, if you’re a fan of water parks, you probably know what it feels like to scream down a slide, water enveloping you as you discover the best way to control your breath. Because it combines the features of a roller coaster with those of a massive water slide, RiverRush overwhelms the senses with things to see and feel.
The honest to goodness truth is that you would need to ride RiverRush half a dozen times to get a true sense of the experience. That’s because there are so many things going on at the same time. There is so much sensory overload that we wanted to try it again as soon as we were finished.
Imagine yourself in a toboggan with three of your closest friends. You’re sitting one behind the other (the person in front is generally the one who drew the short straw in our group). It’s not until you’re settled in that you fully comprehend that you’re four stories in the air, and just know that whatever happens next is going to be exciting. Take our word for it here, that moment of anticipation is half the fun.
Water rushes past you as your toboggan begins its descent. You’re only vaguely aware of the water at this point because you realize that you’re high in the trees, surrounded by the Smoky Mountain forest. Just as you decide that you’re going to take a moment to savor the view, your toboggan drops, and continues to drop. The water that was speeding past you is now spraying you and you wonder how long you’ve been soaking wet. One hairpin turn after another keeps you off kilter, but also makes you laugh.
There’s a break in the trees and you feel the sun on your skin right before the toboggan swooshes into a dark tunnel. Someone in your group screams and it echoes off the walls.
There are two truly unforgettable things about RiverRush. The first is that we experienced four dramatic drops along the 1,175 of track. The other is how the water attraction did something we did not expect — it climbed. As water splashed around us, the toboggan actually defied gravity by climbing back toward the treetops and speeding back down again.
The great thing about taking trips with people you’ve known for decades is how you can compare experiences. One of the highlights of RiverRush was how it makes anyone who rides feel like a kid again. It’s new, different, and incredibly fun.
– Save yourself a little trouble by deciding who’s going to ride together before you reach the top. There’s a weight limit per toboggan of 700 pounds (0.32 t), which sounds like a lot until you travel with a group that includes two former football players.
– Check the weather forecast before heading to the park. The day we were there we spent more than two hours in a cabana due to lightening concerns. We were told that the park closes attractions when lightening is spotted within seven miles. While we agree it’s a good policy, we did notice young families with extremely restless children.