What a rush! New Splash Country water coaster unique in Tennessee

May. 11, 2013 @ 11:23 AM

Dollywood's Splash Country opens for the season Saturday, and along with it the debut of Tennessee's first water coaster: RiverRush.

"It's amazing. I absolutely loved it. It's the best water ride I've ever ridden!" said Buddy Keyes, a Sevier County resident, as he and otehrs got to ride it on Friday.

Dolly Parton said that last year Dollywood boasted its largest attendance ever, which she attributes to the addition of the Wild Eagle roller coaster. From that, the idea for a water coaster developed.

"I love having a ride that the whole family can do together," she said during a special media event for the ride Friday. "Everybody knows that the family that plays together stays together. There's so many things now for people to do, from texting to Twitter to Facebook. Dollywood is just a wonderful place to have family time and everyone enjoys it."

Spanning almost an acre, RiverRush is located next to the waterpark's Bear Mountain Fire Tower.

A four-person boat carries riders 237 feet, just prior to the initial 25-foot, 45-degree drop. Afterward, moving water propels riders up hills, through twists and turns, and toward three more drops along the 1,176-foot track.

"There's a lot of fun in store at my Dollywood's Splash Country in 2013," Dolly said. "Growing up, playing in the creeks and streams here in the Smoky Mountains, I could only dream of something like a water coaster. But look at us now — not only does Dollywood's Splash Country have Tennessee's first and only water coaster, we're making water run uphill in it."

In anticipation of the new ride, Splash Country will also introduce Time Saver, a line reservation system that reserves a spot in select ride lines. This allows guests to visit other attractions until a waterproof wristwatch indicates it's time to return to the scheduled ride.

Located at five kiosks throughout the water park, the $20 device can be used on The Butterfly, Fire Tower Falls, Mountain Scream, Mountain Twist, Raging River Rapids, RiverRush, Slick Rock Racer, and SwiftWater Run.

While Parton said she loves making improvements to the park and adding new rides for others to enjoy, she personally declined riding the new coaster, at least for now.

"I'd mess up my makeup, and I'd lose my hair and my pride," she joked.

n jfrye@themountainpress.com