Courtesy of Schlitterbahn
Twelve-year-old Sarah Pitchford and her friends call it the “dream stream;” it’s the lazy river at Castle Rock Resort and Water Park in Branson. They fancy floating without the inner tube and letting the jets push them along instead. The lazy river comes highly recommended as a water park escape on hot Missouri afternoons.
Water parks have grown enormously in popularity since their introduction in the late 1940s. The United States has the largest water park market in the world, with more than one thousand parks now operating and dozens of new ones opening each year.
Missouri is home to fourteen water parks, the oldest of which is White Water at Silver Dollar City in Branson, which opened in 1980. Oceans of Fun in Kansas City boasts the title of biggest water park in the Midwest, with sixty acres.
Features vary, but there are a few standards that can be found at most water parks: the lazy river, water slides of varying types and lengths, hot tubs, and splash pads.
Wave pools are another water park hot spot. The Surf City Wave Pool at Oceans of Fun in Kansas City features a more than one-million-gallon wave pool that greets up to five thousand ocean-lovers daily during the summer.
Among the many attractions at Missouri water parks, Water Wars at Super Splash USA at Raytown is an interactive experience in which participants launch water balloons at one another from opposing battle stations. Participants must stand their ground.
At Super Splash USA, the Water Wars battle zone is a chaotic place. The balloons soar high through the air and come splashing down on opponents. Suffice it to say getting sprinkled, sprayed, doused, or thoroughly saturated are all possibilities.
As intense as Water Wars is, the water slides at many parks are a source of pride, given the unique parameters by which they are built. Water slides typically run into a pool at the end. Some, however, have long, straight sections at the bottom with frictional material or rollers attached to the slide designed to slow sliders down and allow them to safely exit.
Nicholas Myers of Columbia, an eight-year-old and thus, naturally an expert on water slides, loves The Rapids at Big Surf, a slide that lets you choose your own adventure: fast and furious from the top, or start closer to the ground for a gentler ride into the catch pool.
At Aquaport in Maryland Heights, the water slide is similar to being flushed down a giant toilet bowl. You get shot out of a tube fast enough to do at least four revolutions before being expelled out the bottom of an enclosed tube.
Adults and kids alike take the trip more than once in a day’s visit, prompting the staff at the top of the slide to ask, “Again?”
Yes, flush please.
For the truly fearless, the Storm Blaster at
Schlitterbahn in Kansas City fits the bill. It’s literally a wet roller coaster with all the ups and downs, including an anxious ascension before taking a three-story plunge followed by more twists and turns until it spits you out into a pool of water.
For a slightly more mild adventure, take your group for a spin on a raft ride. At the Ohana Falls ride at White Water in Branson, everyone hangs on together as you maneuver through the rapids.
Aquanauts who seek a soothing experience can grab an inner tube and relax while they gently float down the current in the lazy river.
Sherri Vaughan of Ozark, a mother of four, says the lazy river also helps her small children learn to swim with the aid of the current.
Dawn Longino of Ava, who is a regular at White Water along with her family, prefers the competitive edge of the racing slides at Kalani Towers. It features four lanes and 312 feet of drops that will send you soaring more than twenty-five miles per hour to the finish line. “We ride all day long,” Dawn says.
Oceans of Fun in Kansas City features excellent activities for children and adult alike, including a kids’ area with a pirate ship and water cannons. Adults over the age of twenty-one can take it easy at the adult pool that includes a swim-up bar.
When visions of drinks with little umbrellas, beaches, and sunshine start dancing in your head, catch a wave, drift on a current, or soar down a slide at one of Missouri's water parks.