This article used to span one giant page; it has now been broken up into three smaller ones. Each page, along with that page’s contents, are listed below for quick navigation.
- Page 1: Near the Park Entrance
- Cannonball Loop
- Alpine Slide
- Page 2: Waterworld/Wave Pool
- Tarzan Swings
- Cannonball Falls
- Geronemo Falls
- Serpentine Slides
- Wave Pool/Surf Hill
- Page 3: Roaring Springs/other
- Aqua Scoot
- The grotto pool
- Thunder Run/The Gauley
- Colorado River Ride
- Action Park Today
My home state of New Jersey is full of legendary things; The Jersey Devil, The Blue Hole, Jungle Habitat, mysterious orbs, and much more. But if there is one thing that the Garden State is most renowned for, that would be Action Park …the most dangerous waterpark EVER. It was like a testing site for water rides using humans as their crash dummies. If you ever get one of those “you know you’re from New Jersey…” chain letters, you’ll most definitely find “when you or someone you know has been injured at Action Park ” as one of the requirements.
Action Park opened its doors in 1978; it was one of the pioneering waterparks, a prototype almost. Today you’ll see similar slides at many waterparks across the country, but not at Action Park! Many of their slides show obvious signs of their age, from the wooden supports, to their older style slide colors and hard 90 degree turns.
Another difference from the usual waterpark environment was that the park was not located at the shore, or on some large flat piece of land. No, Action Park was located in the high hills of northern NJ (Vernon, NJ to be exact). Action Park was located in a ski area called Vernon Valley/Great Gorge (now Mountain Creek.) Actually,Action Park had many ski lifts that sat dormant in the park…well except for one, which we’ll talk about later.
Action Park had many sections to venture through. There was Waterworld, which featured various slides and other creations. Next to it was Roaring Springs, which was set in a rugged section of the mountain. Many of the attractions in Roaring Springs were river type rides which made their way through a lush and densely wooded landscape. Right inside the park gates was a largely overlooked section that contained some random attractions. I forget the name but it was something like Daredevil World, or some crap like that. Across the highway was Motorworld, an area filled with supped up go-kart tracks. Finally there was a section with a couple of dangerous bungee rides off to the side. I never knew how to get over the that section as it seemed like it was in a small nook-like area that was clear cut of trees. It was probably accessible by being shot out of a cannon.
Here’s a map of Action Park circa 1995 or 1996, both files are in PDF format. Thanks to Steve Walkuski for scanning them!
The Cannonball Loop
I was one of the idiots that accepted you-know-who’s crisp $100 bill to test run it. That was my last ride. $100 did not buy enough booze to drown out that memory.
-Tom Fergus, former Action Park employee
Immediately entering Action Park, a patron would notice the most infamous slide in waterpark history…the Cannonball Loop. Cannonball Loop was a slide built in 1985. It was set down in a little ravine, quite a bit off the main path; the top of the slide sat on a large winding staircase which itself sat on the rim of the ravine. The slide was enclosed (it looked like a pipe) and consisted of a long, straight section that was angled at maybe 45 degrees. At the end of the hill was a 15 to 20 foot loop… an honest to god vertical loop, not one of these wussy inclined loops that some slides have today. Immediately after the loop was the end of the slide which dumped riders into a long shallow splash pool.
The creepy thing about the slide was the fact that it was never open. It just sat there with nobody near it…like a crime scene waiting to be analyzed. The real story about the slide is hard to come by; some say it never opened, some say it opened for a month and injured people, some say that the dummies used during testing came out all mangled with missing limbs. The only actual fact I’ve seen was the story about the escape hatch at the bottom of the first hill. In the event that someone didn’t complete the loop, they could climb out the hatch. Someone once e-mailed me saying that they had been down it and had a video of people going down it. I asked for a screencap from the video and the person never responded. I still have my doubts as to whether this has opened to the public…then again…
Since adding this page to my site I have received a few e-mails regarding the Cannonball Loop; here is a notable one sent in by reader Chris Ish:
It was open – for a few brief periods. The picture you have up is real and not altered in any way. I used to work there and I rode on it once. Everyone makes it out to be the most insane things action park did but it wasn’t that bad. I remember one person getting stuck in the tube because instread of riding down with her feet crossed and arms folded across her chest she put them out and braked then didn’t have the speed to get around. That is why they built the hatch at the bottom of the slope (not the top of the loop as the wikipedia article suggests).
A few people did similar things or for some other reason did not get sufficient speed and they landed face first on the inside of the top of the loop. One person injured his two upper front teeth when he did this and had them dig into the soft lining (it was like wrestling mat material). The biggest problem is that sand and dirt and such would collect at the botton of the loop and the people would start comming out with abrasions over their entire backs. Then they would have to close it down and clean it out. I believe (and I could be wrong about this) that what finally closed it down was that after it was open for a short while an insurance adjuster finally came around to look at itand went ballistic.
DoD3 reader Eric then sent me these four photos that he had found on a message board. The photos were in turn taken by another DoD3 reader Shawn; the person on the platform is his brother. The photos basically prove that the slide did open at some point (according to the images in 1996, Action Parks final year.)
And finally, the coup de grâce; DoD3 Reader Dean D. has his story of actually riding the Cannonball Loop. His account seems pretty genuine to me, but you can be the judge.
The Action Park loop was real and I rode it
I rode the Action Park water loop 2 times on the same day. I could have sworn it was in 1980 with my high school buddies when I was 18, but Wiki says it opened in 1985 so I guess I’m wrong. That would have made me 23 which just doesn’t seem right to me. Anyway, none of my buddies did it. I remember it was the only water slide you just used your body. No rubber mat, raft, inner tube etc which was really unheard of at the time except for the 100 foot freefall water slide.
They made you cross your arms and legs and wet you down with a hose. The guy at the bottom would blow a whistle to the guy at the top signalling it was “all clear”. You laid on your back and the guy would push you and whistle to the guy at the bottom. I remember the tube was completely black inside. The inside was not very smooth. You could feel the seams on your back and legs. The water was very cold. The first 50 feet or so was practically a freefall and you reached a very high speed. It was hard to tell when you were going around the loop since it was completely dark and you were going so fast. Mostly I remember hitting the loop and shooting out into the light all disoriented and having a little trouble walking. I had no scrapes or physical problems at all. In fact it was awesome so I did it again.
I remember another latin man and his young son doing it when I was doing it. The man had no problems, but his son who was very young, and very brave, got stuck in the tube. He looked about 10 years old and was too light to build the momentum needed to make it all the way around the loop.I remember wondering how they were going to get him out. They opened a trap door at the bottom of the loop. It took several minutes to get him out, he looked a little shook up but otherwise fine. My friends and I went to go on other rides and later in the day I went to go on it again, but they had closed it “for the day”.
I went back to Action Park several more times over the years and always wanted to do it again. I was always disappointed because it was never open. It took some guts to ride that thing and wanted to test myself. I remember going in 1996 just before it was sold and it was still there, but it looked like an old, dried up relic of foregone days. It made me sad. But at least I can say I rode it!
Also near the entrance was the Alpine Ski Slide, the most popular attraction at the park. The Alpine Ski Slides were 3 long concrete troughs that winded their way down one of the ski slopes. You would ride to the top on a ski lift (the only one running) and slide down on a flat cart that had wheels and a handbrake. The trip up to the top was very long, maybe 8 to 10 minutes. At the top you had to jump off the ski lift chair before your chair left the unloading area. The stop for the Alpine Slides was just a midpoint stop really, the lift continued all the way to the top of the mountain. If you didn’t manage to scamper off the lift, then you were in store for a long lonesome trip.
At the beginning of the slides, you were greeted with a bunch of pictures of people with horrible scrapes. They show you these so you won’t screw around while traveling down the hill. The first time I rode I was pretty small so the photos scared the hell out of me andI burst into tears yelling “I don’t wanna ride!!” I eventually did, and it wasn’t bad. The trek from the top to the end is pretty damn long and if you don’t use your brake, you could probably end up going at some insane speed. Which, I guess, would result in the injures in the photos! The Alpine Ski Slide was the site of the first death for Action Park as well. A pleasant thought…I’m surprised they didn’t have a photo of a casket in their little collection.
If you keep traveling up the steep hill staying on the main path, you will eventually come to an intersection. If you go left, you will go to Waterworld, to the right is Roaring Springs, and straight up the hill is the wave pool. Lets go left to Waterworld!