There Was Nothing in the World Like Action Park

Action Park

Action Park was one of the first water parks in the United States, and by the time it closed in 1996 it was the most dangerous. The park was a pioneer, not afraid to experiment with attractions in the quest for fun. Aggressive ad campaigns brought a million visitors per year and turned the northern New Jersey water park into a household name.

But a lax attitude toward safety eventually caught up with the owners. After 18 years of operation, a series of lawsuits stemming from injuries and deaths forced the park to close. This is a look-back at the classic water park and the wild attractions which made it famous.



Off-season Ski Area

Action Park was the brainchild of Great American Recreation (GAR), owners of the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area in New Jersey. In order to keep the turnstiles going in the summer, the company began offering seasonal attractions.

Action_Park_flyerIn 1977 an alpine slide was added to the mountain, which allowed riders to fly down the snow-free slopes on sleds controlled by nothing more than a hand brake.

The ride was immensely popular so park officials expanded the warm weather offerings the following year.

It was opened in 1978 as “Action Park,” featuring the new Waterworld attraction, one of the first water parks in America.

The park’s instant success pushed its owners to expand. In 1979 additional slides appeared, along with a deep-water swimming pool and a eventually a large wave pool. New attractions continued to appear every summer in the 1980s when Great American Recreation was experimenting with slide design.

Motorworld was the other major attraction, introduced later and built on unused land across Route 94. Park guests could unleash their inner Mario Andretti on a go-kart track, open wheel racers, or tanks.

Ultimately the park would grow into a major destination with approximately 75 different rides between the three major attraction areas.

[Jump to S-I index of Action Park attractions]

At its peak the water park overshadowed its ski resort sibling. Great American Recreation promoted Action Park with simple but effective TV commercials: Show people having a great time.

Cheesy era-appropriate jingles such as “There’s nothing in the world like Action Park!” and the ever-creative “The action never stops…at Action Park!” were kids’ rally-cries to their parents.

[Jump to S-I index of original Action Park TV ads]

Attendance grew each year as the crowds embraced the daring and unique attractions. If something looked like it might please the crowds, Great American Recreation was not afraid to try it.

Action_Park_TV_commercial_logoInjuries to guests were common for multiple reasons, the most common being horseplay.

Otherwise, it was a perfect storm for a disaster: Daring ride designs were poorly engineered and had little regard for safety. Under-trained teenage staff were often disinterested in enforcing safety guidelines, and alcohol was probably distributed a bit too freely.

After Action Park opened, doctors in four counties reported summertime increases in ankle sprains, broken bones, bloody elbows, and missing teeth.

Despite this, little action was taken by state regulators. Action Park was a great advertisement for the state, and a revenue generator. Most everyone was having such a great time, nobody wanted to disrupt it.

Action Park 1996 brochure (click to enlarge)


Spotty Safety Record

Action Park Flyer 1995 backSuch unrestrained freedom at the park came at a cost. Action Park was the site of several fatalities in just the first five years of operation. In 1980 a teenager died when his sled jumped off the Alpine Slide track.

In 1982 two visitors to the park died within a week of each other. When two more park visitors died in the summer of 1984, the park’s fortunes began to turn.

Lawsuits and a state investigation would slow growth and stop experimentation with rides, but attendance remained relatively strong.

By the mid-1980s, the park had developed a reputation for its unsafe rides. Rumors swirled of cut corners with maintenance and safety enforcement.

Friendly politicians and a lenient regulatory climate resulted in the park being fined only once in its first few years of operation, despite numerous citations for safety violations.

Despite these transgressions the park remained busy. It was one of a kind, and the most fun one could have for $24.95.




In 1987, the director of a nearby hospital’s Emergency Room admitted “five to ten” people were being brought in daily from the park. Reported injuries ran the gamut: Ankle sprains, broken bones, and cuts and contusions, dislocations, and concussions.

The park denied wrongdoing, but Great American Recreation purchased additional ambulances for the town of Vernon to keep up with the increased volume.

Action_Park_Map-1996Guests were not free of blame, however; many accidents were caused by the victims themselves. Injuries were often attributed to horseplay, hot-dogging, purposefully violating rules, or even just slipping while running.

A lack of rule enforcement encouraged frisky behavior and emboldened daredevils. Ride design catered to showmanship, with lines queued so that those waiting watched each person come down.

Still, there were enough cuts and broken bones from the water slides to raise red flags about the safety of the attractions.

Great American Recreation’s amusement park was often called Class Action Park,” “Traction Park,” or “Accident Park by the doctors and nurses who treated the wounded.

The doctors weren’t surprised when the injured arrived reeking of alcohol. Park alumni joke there were more beer kiosks than ice cream stands at Action Park.


Dark Side of Action Park

Action_Park_drowning_articleOf course there were repercussions for having precarious safety standards. At least seven deaths have resulted from injuries sustained at Action Park, with countless others rumored

In an attempt to downplay the numbers, park representatives noted the park’s overall attendance made the injury and death rate “statistically insignificant.”

Below is a list of known deaths associated with the Park in any capacity – both direct and indirect. A handful of rumored (and unsubstantiated) deaths will not be included.

      • On July 8, 1980, a 19-year-old park employee died from injuries sustained while riding the Alpine Slide. A malfunction resulted in the sled failing to negotiate a turn. His head struck a rock, causing a fatal head injury; he died 8 days later.
      • On July 24, 1982, a 15-year-old boy reportedly drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.
      • On August 1st, 1982, a 27-year-old man was electrocuted when he got out of his overturned kayak on the Kayak Experience to right it. He stepped on a grate exposed to live wire and was electrocuted. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
      • In 1984 a visitor reportedly suffered a fatal heart attack, believed to have been caused by shock of cold water exposure in the pool beneath the Tarzan Swing. The pool was filled with natural spring water which could get up to 30 degrees colder than the water in the park’s other pools.
      • On July 28th, 1987, a 55 year-old man sustained a fractured hip in a water slide accident. He was thrown sideways into the pool at the end of the slide and collided with the concrete spillway at the edge of the pool. He died 3 weeks later from complications resulting from the accident.
      • On July 26th, 1992, six were killed and 47 injured when a bus traveling to Action Park on Route 515 overturned and burst into flames. This tragedy was not the fault of Great American Recreation and the deaths are not considered part of the Action Park fatalities.


Beginning of the End

The lawsuits and settlements eventually caught up with Action Park. By the 1990s, Americans were spending less and insurance premiums were now suffocating the business. Years of negative headlines had eroded the park’s traffic.

The most dangerous rides disappeared first, closed as part of legal settlements or an inability to obtain insurance coverage. Ex-park employees have said Action Park operated without an in-force insurance policy for the last few years before closing.

In 1989 Action-Park-article-1Great American Recreation and International Broadcasting Corporation were close to a $50 million deal to sell Action Park, but the agreement collapsed before being finalized.

By 1995 the greater Vernon Valley-Great Gorge ski area was in serious financial trouble; liability insurance was dropped when park officials determined it was less expensive to self-insure.

Great American Recreation was forced into bankruptcy in 1995, but Action Park itself would quietly limp along for another year. When Action Park’s 1996 season ended on Labor Day (September 2nd), everyone expected it to re-open on Memorial Day weekend the following year.

But when the spring of 1997 rolled around, the park did not re-open. The park remained closed for weeks before officials would make an announcement. Whispers of a delayed opening in the summer never came to fruition. It wasn’t until July of 1997 Great American Recreation officially announced the park’s closure.


Version 2.0

Less than a year later the property was sold to Intrawest, a Canadian destination resort developer. The company renovated the grounds and re-opened the property in 1998 as Mountain Creek Waterpark.

No doubt a throwback to the many original attractions the new park retained, Mountain Creek announced their opening with the slogan “The Action is Back!” Mountain_Creek_WaterparkOvercoming Action Park’s decades-old stigma was a tall order, but Intrawest was a seasoned operator.

Rides which could be made safer were modified; the others were closed. An emphasis was placed on training the staff and higher employment standards improved accountability.

Among the casualties of the Mountain Creek conversion were the Alpine Slide and Motorworld. Most of the closed Action Park rides were replaced with newer, safer water slides. The rejuvenated amusement park would enjoy a modest Renaissance at the turn of the century, but attendance tapered as the decade wore on.

In 2008 the park’s fortunes headed South with the economy, and its owners were eager to sell. In 2010, the ownership of Mountain Creek ski area and Waterpark came full circle when it was sold to an investor group led by – of all people – Eugene Mulvihill, the former Great American Recreation executive who originally founded Action Park in the 1970s.

[ Jump to S-I water park fun facts ]

UPDATE: As of May 2015, Action Park is back in Action, according to New Jersey Monthly. The article tells us “the new Action Park has old-favorite attractions, plus the new Zero-G ride, a 100-foot looping waterslide reminiscent of Action Park’s infamous Cannonball Loop.” Mountain Creek president Bill Benneyan assures: “The world is a different place. The new rides we’re building are meticulously engineered.”

In July of 2015, Action Park installed a new 2,000-foot (610m) water slide. It was certified by Guiness Book of World Records as the largest in the world. Watch an employee make a test run with a GoPro:



Water parks today benefit from a mature industry which has already learned from Action Park’s mistakes. Rides are largely cookie-cutter affairs, engineered with knowledge from over 40 years of ride failures baked-in. Appropriately, safety rules design today and the threat of litigation prevents risk takers.

Action Park was from another era, and able try things that wouldn’t pass muster today. The park was rough around the edges, but it was a pioneering concept created from scratch when there was no template.

For 18 years the amusement park succeeded in its mission to entertain millions with its daring attractions. For many it was a summertime ritual, like camp, scouts, or flag football. Thousands of Action Park veterans have permanent scars, viewed as badges of honor among the cognoscenti.

If the standard was fond memories and good stories, Action Park set the bar.

What’s better than a tattoo? A scar from that time you almost died.

Action_Park_Waterslide We did learn from our mistakes at Action Park. Following the lawsuits, New Jersey toughened regulations for amusement parks and safety standards increased.

Other changes were wide-ranging: Bi-lingual signs were now required and ride information was provided in metric for the first time. Alcohol sales were limited to specific areas and most importantly, rules were established and enforced.

Chris Gethard, writer for Weird NJ, summarized the Action Park experience well:

Action Park was a true rite of passage for any New Jerseyan of my generation. When I get to talking about it with other Jerseyans, we share stories as if we are veterans who served in combat together.

I suspect that many of us may have come closest to death on some of those rides up in Vernon Valley. I consider it a true shame that future generations will never know the terror of proving their grit at New Jersey’s most dangerous amusement park.”



** Extras **


Action Park Attractions

A summary of the major attractions throughout the life of Action Park:

Action_Park_AerodiumThe Aerodium: The first and only of its kind in the world, the German-designed Aerodium made its international debut at Action Park in 1987.

More or less a first-generation vertical wind tunnel, it could reach updraft speeds approaching 100 miles per hour.

Park goers would wear a special skydiving suit and “skydive” over an air column powered by a 650-horsepower fan. (picture at right courtesy Chris Collura)

Flights were less than a minute long and limited to a maximum of 6 or 7 feet (2 m) above the ground; the perimeter seating allowed family and friends to watch.

The Aerodium contributed it’s fair share of injuries to Action Park’s resume; broken arms, legs, and shoulder and wrist dislocations were not uncommon. An up-charge attraction (+$5), it closed in 1997.

Action_Park_Alpine_Slide Alpine Slide: In the Alpine Slide, riders sat on a plastic sled while navigating down the mountain in a concrete toboggan (watch a similar ride). It was tremendous fun but also incredibly dangerous, and would lead Action Park in firsts.

It was the first ride, completed in 1977. It was responsible for the park’s first death, in 1980. It was the first attraction to produce double-digit injury numbers on the grounds. In the early years it was first in number of safety violations and led the list of lawsuit-generating attractions.

(click to enlarge)

Action_Park_chairlift_Alpine_Slide-2 Action_Park_Alpine_Slide-2

The sled ran on a track which passed beneath the mountain’s chairlift system. On one occasion a park-goer thought it was a good idea to spit from the chairlift onto the Alpine Sliders below; then it became tradition.

Park-goers joked the sled had two speeds: “Snail in peanut butter” and “death awaits.” The sleds were not secured to the track and frequently went flying.

The temptation of impressing those watching from the chairlift – and dodging saliva bombs – reinforced rambunctious behavior and a relaxed attitude toward safety.

courtesy Evan Solomon

It was closed in September of 1998 after being open for one season under the new Mountain Creek Resort. The ride was later modified and re-opened as an Alpine Coaster, a hybrid alpine slide/roller coaster.

Aqua Scoot: This attraction featured several chutes with warehouse-like rollers. Riders would descend the steep slides on plastic sleds, eventually landing in a shallow pool. (pictured below)

The attraction’s designers intended for riders to skip across the water like a flat stone, but reality seldom echoed intention at Action Park.

Balance was key; if the rider didn’t remain upright, they were likely to be flung from the sled upon contact with the water. Many visitors did this by design, but the hard concrete floor was 2 feet away and waiting to punish daredevils.

Aqua Scoot photos courtesy Chris Collura

The dangers weren’t limited to those who engaged in horseplay; riders leaving the pool still had to dodge those exiting the chutes at high rates of speed.

Bungee Tower: In the park’s later years a 120-ft (36m) tall bungee tower was constructed near the Alpine Slide.

The “Whipper Snapper” debuted in 1991 as an up-charge attraction; guests could pay $5 in addition to the park entry fee to ride. Bungee riders had to be at least 16 years old, 54 inches tall, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Cords were issued corresponding to weight ensuring every rider enjoyed the same “bounce.”

The bungee tower eventually closed with Action Park in 1996.


Cannonball Falls: In the Cannonball Falls, park guests could descend one of two dark, covered slides before being deposited 10 feet (3m) over a deep pool filled with natural spring water. The spring water could reach temperatures up to 30 degrees colder than other park pools.

 Cannonball Loop: The infamous Cannonball Loop (pictured below) was the park’s biggest failed attraction, but it’s sheer audacity in concept has given it legendary status in amusement park lore.  At the time, Great American Recreation was experimenting with new attractions.

At Action Park, attraction experimentation sometimes meant abandoning convention. In the case study of the Cannonball Loop, the convention which was abandoned appeared to be physics.

According to former employees, an expert from Switzerland was brought in to develop a radical new waterslide design.


The design was extreme and bordered on the fantasy. Testing did not go well. Dummies exited the pipe missing limbs; one came out in two pieces. If there was suspicion of poor design, it was confirmed when a hatch had to later be added to the loop to remove riders who got stuck.

Debris and rocks would collect at the bottom of the loop, creating a sandpaper-like surface. Those who dared make the plunge suffered terrible cases of slide rash. Employees were offered $100 to test the outlandish slide, but few dared accept the offer.

Said one employee who gave it a go: “$100 did not buy enough booze to drown out that memory.”

photos courtesy

The Cannonball Loop was ridiculous and everyone knew it. Those daring enough to try the slide left with scars, which ironically served as an informal ranking system among the regular park-goers.

It lasted for a month in 1985 before the state’s Advisory Board on Carnival Amusement Ride Safety ordered it closed. For the next eleven years it was abandoned near the entrance of Waterworld. Shortly after Action Park closed it was dismantled and never rebuilt.

Update (courtesy travelsonic): The Cannonball Loop is making a spiritual return in the Summer of 2016!

Action Park Cannonball Loop sign summer 2016

Action_Park_Colorado_RiverColorado River Ride: A circular raft ride, the Colorado River was a long and winding concrete trough fashioned to look like a natural river. Opened in 1987, it was billed as a family ride by Action Park – yet the trip was bumpy and sometimes violent. (pictured at right)

A group of riders could share a raft down the Colorado, which would throw riders against rocks in corners and at points descends into a tunnel.

Protruding rocks would tag unsecured riders who could not see in the darkness; concussions were common.

The Colorado River Ride is still open at Mountain Creek today (video), although helmets have wisely been introduced since the Action Park days.

The Diving Cliffs: Near the Roaring Springs were a pair of diving platforms, artificially constructed to appear as natural cliffs in a tropical, grotto-like environment. The platforms were 23 feet (7m) and 18 feet (5.4m) above ground level; the large man-made pool was built to appear as natural and reached 16 feet (5m) deep at its lowest point. (pictured below)

The swimmers, cliff jumpers, and those exiting water slides created congestion in the pool, which kept the lifeguards busy. More than a few almost drowned; one park employee shared: “The bottom of the pool was eventually painted white to make it easier to spot any bodies on the bottom.” The diving platforms are open at Mountain Creek today as the Canyon Cliffs.

(update: as of July 2015, Action Park has a “Cliff Cam” operating. Click Here for live views!)

(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 Gladiator Challenge: The Gladiator Challenge was opened in 1992 and based on the TV series American Gladiators. Park visitors would compete against each other in a jousting match or through an obstacle course.

The attraction was designed and operated by former bodybuilders who scoured local gyms for talent. It was removed in 1995 and replaced with the beach volleyball court.

Grass_skier Grass Skiing: Few attraction names describe the ride better than Grass Skiing. Under a chairlift on the beginner and intermediate slopes of the mountain, patrons could “ski” downhill over grass on wheeled skis not dissimilar to roller-blades.

While fun, it requires skill and is not ideal for the novice.

It ultimately proved too dangerous for the typical inebriated park-goer; a rash of injuries followed the launching of the attraction. It was abandoned after one season.

Kamikaze: This was another landmark attraction at Action Park and one of the few original attractions to survive the conversion to Mountain Creek Resort in 1998.

The Kamikaze was a pair of 4-story tall speed slides which would send dueling riders down chutes at high speeds into a small pool at the bottom.

After nearly 30 years of service, the Kamikaze was eventually dismantled after the 2009 season. Park staff shared the reasons off-the-record: An increasing occurrence of injuries – the latest allegedly being a broken neck.

The Kayak Experience: This attraction was a mock whitewater course which used submerged electric fans to agitate the water, creating a faux rapids.  It was also one of the first attractions to be closed at Action Park. Kayaks would frequently get stuck or tip over, spilling the person into the river – which can be deadly if a live wire is exposed underwater.

This happened to a park-goer in 1982; he was electrocuted and died. The ride was immediately closed, and a spokesperson for the park explained: “Action Park will close this ride because people will always be intimidated by it.

Action_Park_Motorworld_speedwayMotorworld: On the west side of Route 94 was a separate section of the grounds known as Motorworld. This driver-themed amusement park had several attractions.

The Super Go Karts were gas-powered karts driven around a small, paved loop. They had speed governors limiting them to 20 mph, but these were easily circumvented with a tennis ball.

The LOLA cars (pictured at right) were miniature versions of the professional race car and a step up from the Super Go Karts. An open cockpit design and a longer track allowed the LOLAs – which also had a defeatable governor – to achieve greater speeds.

The most popular ride was arguably the Tank Ride, miniature tanks equipped with cannons capable of firing tennis-balls at each other. If a tank’s sensor was struck, the vehicle would stop for 15 seconds.

Action_Park_4wheelingUltimately patrons favored targeting the staff, finding more joy in beaning the pour soul trying to rescue stalled tanks rather than disable an opponent.

Watercraft also featured in Motorworld with both Super Speedboats and Bumper Boats. While neither could be modified for higher speeds, frequent inebriation during their use resulted in several accidents.

Motorworld was closed with the rest of Action Park in 1996 and has since been replaced with a housing development, restaurant, and additional parking for the Mountain Creek ski resort.

Roaring Springs:  This is a raft-based whitewater ride with two options: Single-tube riders went down the Gauley (video) on the left; double-tube riders used Thunder Run (video) on the right.

As did every other Action Park attraction, the Roaring Springs had a blotter.

Thunder Run

Fractured collar bones, femurs, and noses appeared in the park’s 1984 filings to the state. Also included: Broken elbows and several dislocated knees and shoulders. Sadly this isn’t enough to place the Roaring Springs in the top five at Action Park in injuries.

The rapids closed with Action Park in 1996 but were re-opened by Mountain Creek two years later.

Action_Park_Roaring_Springs Action_Park_Roaring_Springs-2-GauleyThe Gauley (courtesy Johnny Pluckman)

The Roaring Springs remained open until 2005, when Mountain Creek closed the ride due to a high number of injuries.

Action_Park_Sling_ShotThird time’s a charm, or strike out? Mountain Creek re-opened the rapids in 2012, and within months it dealt another rash of injuries to riders. Six were injured and one woman almost drowned.

Sling Shot: Two riders are flanked by large bungee cords and flung into the air (pictured at right). It was also an “up-charge” attraction requiring riders to pay an additional $5.

Up-charge attractions were usually a result of required additional insurance coverage for the park operator. The increased operating costs drove the additional fee.

The Sling Shot was opened in 1993 and would close two years later in 1995. (video of similar ride at Six Flags)

Action_Park_Space_Shot-brochureSkate Park: One of the shortest-lived attractions, the poorly-planned skateboard park was a nightmare and lasted all of one season. Crudely-poured pavement had uneven lines and gaps between joints.

A former park employee recalled “the skate park was responsible for so many injuries, we covered it up with dirt and pretended it never existed.”

Space Shot: This ride shot passengers 200-feet (61m) in the air before allowing gravity to drop them in a free fall (pictured at right).

Copies are common in amusement parks today, the Space Shot ride lived beyond the Action Park era and wasn’t closed until the Mountain Creek years. It was reportedly dismantled in July of 1998. (video of similar attraction)

Super Speed Water Slides: Affectionately known as Geronimo Falls, these super chutes had near-vertical slopes allowing riders to attain high speeds before slowing into small pools at the bottom.

Despite being one of the more dangerous attractions, the Super Speed Slides ironically reported one of the lower injury rates of the Action Park attractions – although admittedly that standard may not have been very high.

The original slides are gone, eventually replaced by a single 99-foot slide known as the H2-Oh-No (video).

Action_Park_slidesSurf Hill: This was the blue, large, multi-lane hump slide common to many water parks today. Park visitors would ride on mats head-first down a slide built into the side of the mountain. At the end of the slide were small pools meant to slow riders.

An eighth lane offered a special jump allowing riders to “show off” in front of others; it was nicknamed the Back Breaker.

Action Park’s Surf Hill (courtesy Chris Collura)

As expected, horseplay was common and usually the genesis of injuries. Minimal barriers between lanes resulted in riders crashing into each other on the way down; typical souvenirs consisted of bruised elbows and forearms.

Surf Hill was closed by Mountain Creek in 2005 before being reopened in 2012.

Action Park Tarzan Swing
Action Park Tarzan Swing

Tarzan Swing: A natural spring ran through Action Park. Great American Recreation created a pool fed by the (cold!) fresh spring water for the Tarzan Swing attraction. (pictured at right)

Visitors could swing from 20 ft-long (6.1m) cables suspended by a large steel beam arching over a man-made pool fashioned as natural jungle habitat. (video)

Park officials likely didn’t envision visitors shouting loud strings of obscenities when they drew up this attraction, but that’s exactly the soundtrack which accompanied most jumps.

During peak days in the summer, staff reported the ride had turned into a competition among the park-goers to see who could set the bar the lowest. Rude words, single-finger gestures, and the occasional garment removal were not uncommon.

The attraction evolved over the years as park officials dealt with injuries. Riders scraped knuckles, skinned knees, and broke toes. Cushions were added and launching platforms moved forward.

Tarzan Swing (courtesy
Tarzan Swing (courtesy

But it wasn’t the bumps and bruises which would permanently scar the Tarzan Swing; the frigid spring water could temporarily stun visitors. Cold water can shock the muscles, preventing basic motor functionality – and swimming.

In the most extreme cases, cold water shock can cause cardiac arrest. In 1984 an Action Park visitor reportedly died from a heart attack believed to be caused from the shock of landing in the spring pool.

Tidal Wave Pool: The largest and deadliest attraction at Action Park, the “Grave Pool,” was 100 feet (30m) wide by 250 feet (76m) long. The massive freshwater pool reached 8 feet deep and was reportedly able to accommodate up to 1,000 people. Twelve lifeguards were on duty at all times.

Waves over 3 feet tall were generated in 20-minute sessions and spread between 10-minute intervals. Twelve lifeguards kept watch over the Tidal Wave Pool, and on the busiest weekends they were known to rescue as many as 30 people.

Action Park Tidal Wave Pool (courtesy

A big problem was that many of the wave pool’s users were just not good swimmers. A park official explained the matter with diplomacy: “Action Park attracts many people from urban areas who have few chances to swim and frequently must be rescued from the water. They don’t know how to swim and jump right into the water.”

The fresh water was not as buoyant as the salt water of the ocean, so park goers would have to work harder to stay afloat. Crowded swimming conditions resulted in people colliding into each other – or the ladders – as they tried to get out of the frenzy.


For the Cartographers

While Action Park is no more, Mountain Creek Waterpark still uses a handful of the original rides today. Some of the defunct Action Park fossils are also still visible. Check out the resort in Google Maps or Bing Maps.

Users on Wikimapia have done a great job mapping the rides in Mountain Creek. The image below is from this page, which breaks down each ride’s location in detail.



Water Park Fun Facts

There are more than 1200 water parks in North America. The rest of the world has around 720.

 The oldest water ride in operation is the Old Mill in Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania mill ride was opened in 1901 and has been remodeled under several different themes during its life.

The first official water park in the United States was Wet ‘n Wild in Orlando. SeaWorld creator George Millay founded the park in 1977.

The first indoor water park was World Waterpark, opened in Canada in 1986. The Edmonton, Alberta facility is the second-largest indoor water park in the world today.

The largest indoor water park in the world today is Tropical Islands Resort in Germany (pictured below). A converted airship hangar, it covers an area of 710,000 square feet (66,000 sq m).

Bali Pavilion, Tropical Islands, Germany
Bali Pavilion inside converted airship hanger Tropical Islands Water Park

With five indoor water parks, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin is known today as the “Water Park Capital of the World.” Noah’s Ark Water Park is also the largest in the United States with 51 water slides.

The largest indoor water park in the UK was opened in 1986. The Sandcastle Water Park is located in Blackpool

In London, the Croydon Water Palace was opened in 1990, however financial difficulties closed it in 1996.

In Moscow, Russia, Transvaal Park was closed in 2004 after the roof collapsed and killed 28 people.

The tallest & fastest free-fall waterslide in the U.S. is Summit Plummet at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Riders hit 60 mph (97 km/h) and at 120 feet (37m) high, it’s the 3rd tallest in the world.

The 2nd-tallest water slide in the world is as tall as a 14-story building. Insano at Beach Park, Brazil, is actually the tallest freestanding water slide in the world at 135 feet (41m) tall; riders can hit speeds of 65 mph (105 km/h). (POV video)

The current record-holder as tallest water slide in the world belongs to Kilimanjaro in Barra do Pirai, Brazil. However it is not a freestanding structure; the 164 feet (50m) drop comes by way of a slide installed on the side of a large hill. (pictured below)


 The future record holder as tallest water slide will be Verrückt in Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn Water Park. The new slide will have two drops and is taller than Niagara Falls (however it appears unlikely passengers will go down in a barrel).

Verrückt is expected to open in May of 2014. Here’s the promotional video – and it does look insane, so it will make sense to Germans:

 The largest outdoor wave pool in the world today is Talay Krung Thep, part of the Siam Park City theme park in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s a pretty sight on the map but is apparently no longer very popular.

 New water parks are opened every week around the world. By the time you finish reading this, most of the superlative information above will be outdated.

 Top 10 Water parks in the world by attendance:

  1. Typhoon Lagoon (2,100,000), Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
  2. Chimelong Water Park (2,021,000), Guangzhou, China
  3. Blizzard Beach (1,929,000), Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
  4. Ocean World (1,72,000), Gangwon-Do, South Korea
  5. Aquatica (1,538,000), Orlando, FL
  6. Caribbean Bay (1,508,000), Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea
  7. Aquaventure (1,300,000), Dubai, U.A.E.
  8. Wet ‘N Wild Water World (1,247,000), Orlando, FL
  9. Wet N Wild Gold Coast (1,200,000), Gold Coast, QLD Australia
  10. Sunway Lagoon (1,200,000), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

*according to TEA/AECOM Attendance Report 2012


TV Commercials & Other Media

Below are Action Park TV commercials from 1982, 1983, 1986, and 1994.






Home Video of Action Park in 1994:




  1. This is exactly the kind of thing that made America great! Then all you commie tree-huggers come along and ruin all the fun. “Abandoning the convention of physics”? We didn’t need physics to send a man to the moon! Just gumption, sexual repression, and good ‘ol American know-how! With all these “safety” concerns, we’ll all be speaking Chinese soon!
    (great post as always)

  2. People are still carted away from mountain creek resort in ambulances nearly every weekend. Today it operates as a downhill bike park in the summer. It is filled with massive jumps and drops. Riders wear body armor and full-face helmets. Gondolas take you to the top of the mountain and you ride downhill all day. While it isn’t the most dangerous in the world, it does feature some of the largest bike features in the US. Other than drowning, riding there is actually more dangerous than the water park was. However with iron clad liability wavers, average bikes costing $4000, and fewer attendees, liability and injuries are far less.

    Youtube has hundreds of videos of the downhill biking there. Here is one to check out:

  3. This is so cool. I just wanted to say I love your blog and get so excited whenever I see the email with a new post. When I first found this blog, I went through and read every single article. Keep up the amazing work!

  4. Some of those stats may be outdated. Wetnwild Sydney, Australia paports to be the largest outdoor water themed park in the world and has been open for 4 months.. loved the story btw.

    • You make a good point. One of the statistics I found was a new waterpark was opened every week somewhere in the world. At that rate the information listed in the superlative section would be outdated in a few weeks time. In retrospect, that section was probably not the best idea. πŸ˜‰

  5. I went to action park at least once every summer from about 81-89. Here are some memories; the place attracted a fair amount of families, but was always packed with teens, many of whom were drunk, stoned, and totally reckless. Also in the mix was a fair amount of people who, ahem, could not swim, or could barely swim at all. Most employees were teenagers who were not all that effective (or interested) in trying to control the rowdy masses. On to the rides:
    Geronimo Falls- Also known as wedgie slides. The two higher slides were super fast. Girls in bikini tops, who did not cross their arms properly, often had their tops come up due to the force. Crowds of guys would wait at the bottom, watch, and cheer.
    Surf Hill- Fast and fun. I remember going down on my back, catching air, and bruising my tailbone.
    Alpine Slide- Stay off the brake. I flew off the track one time and landed in the grass. Lucky
    Aqua Scoot- Fast and fun. As long as you sat up straight and did not panic.
    Cannonball Falls- Totally dark, until you flew out over and into FREEZING cold water. The drop seemed pretty high, too.
    Cannonball Loop- Never saw it open. It looked scary and impossible, like it was placed there as a joke. The run out was super small and shallow. The rumor back then was that two people died the first week and it was shut down.
    Colorado River Ride- Way too many rocks on the sides.
    Diving Cliffs/Slide- The slide was fast and the high cliff was a nice drop. One time I saw a guy jump off the high cliff and clip a girl who came off the slide and was in the water. She seemed to have an arm/shoulder injury.
    Roaring Springs-You best keep your elbows in.
    Tarzan Rope- Just swing out and let go at the right time and you wont get hurt. Hopefully.
    Bungee Jump- One of my friends broke his ankle. He sued them because he was not secured properly.
    Tidal Wave Pool- Straight up chaos. TONS of people in the pool. Poor swimmers were often swept into the deep end. One time, in the deep end, a heavyset woman grabbed me and pulled me under to try and save herself as she was in trouble. For a few seconds, I thought I was going to die. I was able to break free and lifeguards jumped in to save her.

    Remember, this was the 80’s, and sunscreen was not used by everyone. I remember seeing people in the late afternoon with crazy sunburns. Looking back, I would say that Action Park may have been the greatest place ever.

    • Oh this is fantastic! Thanks, Kid Gravy. It’s nice to have additional insight from those who were able to experience it first-hand. Interesting about the wave pool, the more I hear about it the scarier it sounds.

      I appreciate that despite being absurdly dangerous, Action Park is remembered so positively by nearly all who attended. It really is fascinating, actually.

  6. Brilliant. I actually went here in 1995 without knowing any of this… I even did a bungee jump in the carpark on the way out, thinking ‘oh it must be safe, this is America’.

  7. Went to Mountain Creek in 2009, 13 years after my adventure to Action Park as a little kid w/ family… The Roaring springs slides – well, at least the Gauley as one of them is know wn today, was still open, and I went on it.

    I am one of the couple of people responsible for Wikimapia being so well covered Action Park goes, and am staying on it updating stuff – it kinda became a child I want to help grow and mature, if that makes any sense.

  8. I felt I needed to come and comment this as soon as I heard. ACTION PARK is back! Since it is under old management again they’ve renamed Mountain Creek to it’s original glory. As an old veteran of action park I had a nostalgia attack and just thought it necessary to let y’all know!

    • Loads of people will argue that the change is in name only – I think such a notion, pardon my French, is bullshit to the core. The push was largely nostalgic, but also I saw blatant thoughts of “Well, this is what it really is, and what it will be in years to come” in their reasoning.

      The park not too long ago got reacquired by the original owners – I believe when the resort got sold back to them in May 2010, the water park was still ran by Palace Entertainment for a couple of years after. The park may no longer be the accident trap it used to be, but the park was about far more than that. It was also a creative spirit, a desire to have rides where you control the action, and very uniquely designed rides unlike anything at other parks.

      That creative spirit is already showing – JUST from looking at the Zero-G, their new double-looping slide, and looking the Drop Kick – the new inflatable slide with a ramp that launches you into an airbag, both of which are opening this Saturday. Look at the future – from the hinting, foreshadowing done by the owners in articles on the park in recent months, and look at the minutes for the Vernon, NJ land use boar meetings involved in the resort. Those show major plans for the park to bring it back to a level of awesomeness it had before – just without the accidents. The best part, IMO, is that the updates to the Action Park master plan seen in the aforementioned board meetings are **JUST** the proposed plans for the year ahead being put into action. Who knows what the years after will see? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  9. Just updated the Wikipedia page for Action Park, and the Wikimapia overlays for Action Park – seems like the Treetop Cabanas, sandwhiched between the Tidal Wave Pool, the Rogue River, and the Kid’s World, in fact uses the Aqua Skoot’s starting platform… makes sense when you look at the placement [exactly where the platform was], the fact that the platform is designed exactly the same down to the diagonal cross beams, and on the platform itself it is sectioned off in such a way where you can make out the 3 sled starting areas and the common pathways.

  10. I went thru the Cannon Ball Loop around 1984. When I came out of it , my wife and friends had to help me walk. I was so beat up from the flat spots in the loop that I was seeing double for about an hour after. I remember the entire park seemed pretty lax on Any rules. We watched a women get rescued in the wave pool. I have vivid recollection of her bathing suit top being ripped off when they got her to safety.

  11. I dunno if you heard, but next year they are putting in a new “cannonball Loop” style ride, one with a steeper, taller approach, and teardrop loop, as well as a cage/coffin type thing you ride in.

    Additionally, in July (yes, THIS JULY), they are going to begin testing a 2,000 foot long inflatable slide, an alleged record breaker that was made in New Zealand for charity, featured in an episode of Xtreme Waterparks on the Travel Channel (which aired last night). They’re bringing it over to Action Park, as opposed to making their own version.

    • Thanks for the update, that sounds exciting! Also sounds like they are moving pretty quick. I look forward to seeing this new cannonball loop, as well as that inflatable slide. Thanks again for keeping us in the loop over here travelsonic. πŸ™‚

      • Check out the cliff camera they have on Unlike last year, this year’s cam is controllable, and you can basically look around, up/down, and zoom in/out, of the majority of the Roaring Springs part of the park.

        I also updated the Wikipedia article not too long ago – lots of interesting stuff that I am surprised nobody has talked about, given how easy it was to Google this stuff….

        For example:
        – Great American Recreation and International Broadcasting Corporation, almost worked out a deal in 1989 that would have resulted in the sale of Vernon Valley – Great Gorge, Action Park for $50 million, but IBC backed out.
        – VV-GG operated without liability insurance in early 1995 – in spite of warnings that a lawsuit and/or injury would basically finish them financially. Apparently, they found it more cost effective to go to court, partially because they were self insuring (even after the 1984 flap where they tried self-insuring through the Cayman Islands)
        – The Space Shot was dismantled in July of 1998, and shipped to Quebec

        • I wanted to offer a belated thanks again travelsonic, your contributions here have helped me keep the article current. Admittedly I don’t have the time to stay on top of all new developments, so I rely on people like you. Cheers, and thanks for your contributions. I’ve made the updates. πŸ™‚

  12. I remember going to the park when I was little kid back in ’79 and again in ’83. The attractions were not designed to for little ones. But the one attraction I remember and you can see in the video is a white boat log flume type ride. I remember it had several drops and a dark tunnel plunge. I can not remember the name of it and I never see it mentioned anywhere. Does anyone remember the name of this attraction or have additional pictures?

  13. Bad news: Looks like the owners who took over the resort last summer are rebranding the park to Mountain Creek Waterpark, and it seems Cannonball Falls is – at least for now – closed. Hope the new Cannonball Loop ride is still coming.

    • Thanks for the update tra, that’s a bummer. I wonder what was behind that decision, was Action Park’s reputation that poor?

      I know we have lawyers but we also have waivers. There’s got to be a way to make the Canonball Loop work! πŸ˜‰

  14. Well, looks like the Cannonball Falls slide is closed for good.

    The reasoning for the re-rebrand given in a NJ Herald article is, IMO, suspect as hell. I mean, my BS meter was flying off the charts.

    One reason is a claimed lack of brand recognition, and confusion with the under-34 age group.

    For one, that is a big group – including people who were born on the tail end of 1982 through 1989, people who were between 6 to 14 1/2 years old when the park was last open under GAR ownership in 1996. Even then, with the 26 and unders, the brand recognition is strong, and it’s not effing hard to look stuff up, understand what it is, why the name change was, the past – the rebrand was covered by news and print media all over the country + world, the legends recounted on the internet and spread wide and far before that. Read the comments section on articles on the park, and youtube videos, and you will see lots of younger people commenting about how cool the place is/wanting to go, or even being cautious about wanting to go. In online games I play, if I bring up Action Park, I almost always get a few people who heard about it talking about it. They definitely brought attention to the resort with stunts like bringing the longest waterslide to the park, and whatnot as well.

    Additionally, I also call (pardon my French) bullshit on attendance based reasons. It is no secret that the park was only rebranded for 2 summers. The first summer was walloped with below average temperatures, which messed up attendance all over the tri state area, even with that Bill Bennyean was cited as saying they got closer to normal numbers during August. Second summer was probably closer to normal, definitely not a big enough sample size to draw any conclusions, especially not about whether the rebrand was a direct cause of any decline or not.

    On top of that, shouldn’t the resort be at least partially responsible for trying to be persistent with a brand change? People remembered Action Park, but knew what Mountain Creek Waterpark was after Intrawest reopened the park as such in 1998 because they stuck with it (even if people still remembered it as Action Park, talked about the Action Park days, etc)

    In an article about the owners’ future plans for the resort, in an article in the NJ Herald dated June 28th, 2016, they say, black and white, they want to steer away from the Action Park name, reputation, and make the park more family friendly/oriented. Am I the only one who reads that, after hearing about the “oh, age group brand recognition issues, attendance issues” stuff behind the rebrand, and instinctively feels something is wrong, even if you can’t put your finger on WHAT that is?

    • Thanks for the update travelsonic. That’s disappointing to hear, I agree it sounds like they are trying to distance themselves from the Action Park name. I assume it’s already challenging enough to operate a water park profitably, but to have to worry about dancing around the potential legal liabilities too? That probably neuters a lot of the fun (for both the operator and visitor). Is this a corollary of a litigious society?

      • I guess what pisses me off is that all that stuff about low attendance, confusing younger crowds, etc feels like such a farce, a crock, when they say they want to not only steer away from the name and reputation, but also cater more towards younger children, it feels somewhat contradictory in reasoning.

        . I mean, come on, looking on Facebook, the park got probably the highest number of 3-5 star reviews during the time the Mulvihills re-owned the resort, AND when the park was Action Park again. People of all ages know about the park, whether fro mtheir own research, or from older siblings, or from the internet. Hell, I run into younger people commenting on Youtube who had heard of the park, and really loved the idea, and occasionally in the numerous online games I play. The park was featured in news and print media around the world, there is no way for people to not know what it is, understand what it is about.

        Part of me wonders if these new owners have any experience with water parks, really understand the park they took ownership of, and/or actually have good insurance.

        • You might be on to something, my friend. I suspect there might be other reasons for its subsequent failure and perhaps the owners are at a loss for the exact cause. But to your point, it’s not easy to run a waterpark; I doubt it’s very profitable. The name was probably the easiest scapegoat.

          • One thing is for certain, customer service is not the same. Slower responses on social media (sometimes up to a month versus the day or two under Mulvihill ownership). Also some reports on social media of longer lines, shortages of helmets on the Colorado River Ride, low staffing on that specific ride.

            They closed cannonball falls, turned the pool into a deep water swimming pool. From what few pictures I’ve seen the slides might still be in place for now, but it is hard to tell.

            Well, on the bright side, maybe I can finally go under, and see how many quarters were dropped down there over the years. Hehe

            One other thing that pisses me off: The new owners seem to be confused, and believe “safety first,” and having fun rides, new ride ideas (that have actually been tested, and built to regulation) are mutually exclusive, evident by the apparent cancellation of ALL the ride ideas Bennyean had – including the new Cannonball Loop. It was a BS confusion when Intrawest did it after taking over Action PArk in 1998, it is just as much BS now, IMO.

  15. MISSING FROM THE ORIGINAL ATTRACTIONS LIST – we went to Vernon Valley just after it opened in 1977. They had an attraction that did not last: HONDA ODYSSEYs! These were 1st generation balloon-tire models with no suspension. They had a roll bar but not a full cage. A park employee would lead a string of several drivers over a dirt course thru the woods and around the grounds. “No racing, no bumping” etc were the rules, which many immediately violated. I was an experienced dirt biker and I realized that if we didn’t obey the rules, bad stuff could happen. BUT it was a BLAST! The next time we went they had shut down that attraction. A few years later I had an opportunity to drive another 1st Gen Oddysey down at the Pine Barrens (before they closed it down) and have a short video clip a friend shot (Betamax!). At the end I slide up to the camera and declare, “That is more fun than a (censored)” It really was.

    We did ride the Alpine Slide (I seem to recall going off the track once!) many times, and the Vernon Valley Grand Prix Lola race cars. No kidding: at that time the lap record was held by a guy named “John Fast” PS they did require a regular drivers’ license so that was a real name. I still have my competition license from the VVGP.

    • Oh that’s hilarious! Great story, thanks for sharing. I had to Google “Honda Odyssey” because I only knew the minivan – never knew about the ATV. Looks fun & dangerous i.e. perfect for that place.

      “The next time we went they had shut down that attraction.” I laughed when you said this, that could have been the slogan for the park. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the comment.

  16. What an amazing write up you have here! I never had the chance to visit as the park was before my time, but it is absolutely fascinating to me. Thanks for putting this all together and thanks for all the contributions. The loop slide is insane and anyone who took park is a crazy!!

  17. I was a kid growing up in NJ in the late 70’s/early 80’s and we went to Action Park all the time! I remember going there when it was just the alpine slide and that was soooo much fun! Going up on the chair lift you would always see one of two things:

    1. People going crazy fast and wondering how the heck they stayed on.
    2. One person riding the brake (yes they actually worked contrary to popular belief) and then a whole long line of people stuck behind them.

    I do vividly remember the cannonball loop slide, but I never rode it. It was never open when we were there. My dad definitely drove the LOLA cars across the way at Motoworld. And I remember the tank pen, I never drove them but did shot at them from the outside.

    Again, contrary to popular beliefs, I don’t remember Action Park being all that dangerous. Sure, we saw people flying off the Alpine Slide because they were going to fast. I honestly don’t remember anything bad happening to myself or my younger brother, and we were your typical knuckle headed boys back then. My family and I went there at least once a summer if not more and it was all good fun as far as we were concerned!

  18. GAR had two smaller parks one in Pine Hills NJ called Action Mountain and one in Tannersville PA called You guessed it Action Park. The Pocono one was a much smaller affair than the New Jersey one, it had water attractions and gokarts. If went under around the same time The original did (Probably due to the larger one being a self insured nightmare. The site of the Tannersville park is now home to the Crossings Factory Outlet stores.

  19. Thanks for the update travelsonic. That’s disappointing to hear, I agree it sounds like they are trying to distance themselves from the Action Park name. I assume it’s already challenging enough to operate a water park profitably, but to have to worry about dancing around the potential legal liabilities too? That probably neuters a lot of the fun (for both the operator and visitor). Is this a corollary of a litigious society?

  20. I’ve heard about this park it’s really messed up! Especially the upside down water slide the cannon loop! Glad they shut the whole park down. And I was born in 2001 so I missed all this.

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