Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A First-Timer's Look at Clementon Park & Splash World

It always irks me when there's a park not too far from me that I've never visited.  For whatever reason, Clementon Park & Splash World was on that list, so I finally decided to fix that.  The park sits just below Philadelphia in Clementon, New Jersey, in an interesting location.  The park is right along a road that runs through town, sandwiched alongside Clementon Lake.  It is pretty hard to miss the park, since some water slides are maybe 15 feet from the road!

Like many parks of the Northeast, Clementon got its start way back when as a trolley park, and to be specific way back when was 1907.  That means the park is well over a hundred years old, and has seen a lot of change and adaptation over the decades to survive.  I visited the park on an extremely busy, sunny and hot Saturday afternoon, with the property absolutely filled with family reunions and other picnic events.  A big part of Clementon's business appears to come from their groves, so much so that the grove area even has a separate entrance.

Heading backward a bit in time, Clementon Park really got its name on the map in 1919 when several amusements were added - including the wooden coaster Jack Rabbit, the Mill Chute, and Noah's Arc, a fun house.  The Jack Rabbit closed in 2003, and was located in the open space seen in the lower left of the park map above.  As you can gather, the water park sits on the right, with rides and the midway on the left.  Parking is up front, and the whole property borders a small lake.

As the years rolled by, Clementon Park added new rides when it could, replacing older aging ones.  The park eventually changed hands and the new owners set out on an expansion plan that would modernize the park in the 1980s.  Splash World came online in the early 1990s, and brought the crowds back to the park in a big way.  To handle the masses, more classic rides were removed and replaced with modern flats that had big street appeal.

The most recent owner of Clementon Park is Premier Parks, LLC, which was founded by former Six Flags executives.  They purchased the park from Adrenaline Family Entertainment, which spent several years adding new attractions to the property.

Splash World was absolutely hopping when I visited, and though the skies didn't show it the day was very hot and humid.  Above is a look at the park's latest expansion, a big one that brought Big Wave Bay to Splash World.  Considering the extremely limited space the park has, it is pretty amazing that the pool even fit - several rides had to be relocated in order to make it happen.

This family play tower is named Laguna Kahuna, which like most features a giant bucket but also has a large tower that sprays water.  Another recent addition to Splash World is Torpedo Rush, two trap-door launch slides that went up in 2011.  The rest of the park features a lazy river, a mat racing slide, tube slides, family raft ride and children's play areas.  Considering the popularity of the water park, I wouldn't be surprised to see more expansion take place in that area in the future.

Turning toward the dry side of the park, Clementon is mostly one long midway with a couple small branches coming off of it.  Naturally, that midway follows the border of the lake with buildings and rides on either side of it.  The park's one roller coaster, Hellcat, frames the midway nicely in the background.

The park has a decent variety of flat rides considering its size, some of which are newer and some of which have been around for a while.  Above are four of these, the Flying Pharaoh swings, Sea Dragon, Victorian Railway, and Thunderdrop.  Clementon Park also has a Carousel, Ferris Wheel and two family rides, the Kite Flyer and Samba Tower.

Here is the Ring of Fire, which is positioned right by the entrance gates from the parking lot.  The high energy ride gets a lot of looks as people move in and out of the park - plenty of screaming coming from that one as well!

Kidzland is the park's collection of kiddie rides, which were moved under a large building many years ago.  While not the easiest on the eye, it does protect kids from the sun when they are riding and playing.  There's even a big bounce house and a large climbing structure as well.

Out over Clementon Lake, literally, is King Neptune's Revenge.  This classic log flume has a great setting, with the log's path over the lake at nearly all times.  Plenty of folks were enjoying the ride's final splash as well... cooling them down on this hot afternoon.

But how about that big wooden roller coaster we saw earlier?  It's name is Hellcat, and boy is it one.  Hellcat first opened in 2004 and was named Tsunami, but that was changed after the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean that year.  2005 saw the ride renamed as J2, which was for Jack Rabbit 2 - a confusing throwback to the park's original coaster.  After a few more operating seasons the park renamed the coaster to Hellcat, giving it a more clear and memorable moniker.

Here is Hellcat from the sky, so you can see how it fits in at the park.  The coaster surrounds the park's pavilion area, also bordering the far edge of the park's property.  The first hill stands 110 feet tall, with a 105 foot drop immediately after at a surprisingly steep 62 degrees.  The rest of the ride contains several highly banked curves, a crazy upward helix, and a few air-time hills on the journey back to the station.

Hellcat uses PTC trains, seating a total of 16 riders at a time, though I'm not sure how often they run two trains.  In fact, I don't know that I actually saw a second train when I was there!  Either way, Hellcat means business.  The first drop is steep and fast, and when you get to the bottom and zoom at 56 miles per hour you quickly know the ride isn't kidding around.

The coaster was built by S&S Worldwide, making it fairly unique.  The wooden track is supported by a steel structure, and while they started off with a bang S&S only ever built four wooden rides.  Above is Hellcat's first drop, which has trims near the top to slow things down - however - I did not feel nor hear them when I was on the ride.  I could have missed it entirely, but from hearing how aggressive this coaster is without them I think I may have experience the ride trimless. (Hellcat is extremely aggressive!)

After that first drop the trains encounter this second hill, with a pop of air at the top depending on where you sit.  Things are a bit of a blur after that, but I certainly remember this element:

I think this amounts to a 630 or so degree upward helix that the train absolutely tears through.  It also gives riders a fair amount of force as you bounce around in your seat.  The rest of the ride is a long run back toward the station with a handful of air-time hills along the way.  Some of these give better air than others, then finally there is a last hop up onto the brake run.

I did notice that the heavily banked 180 degree turn before the upward helix has a ton of fresh track on it.  You have to look through the ride's supports in the photo above, but you can see the new, lighter colored wood on the turn toward the left.  The bank is really steep, has to be nearing 90 degrees if it's not, and it needs to be to handle the train's speed.  The new wood was noticeably smoother than the rest of the run, which was appreciated mid-ride.  Bottom line on this ride, if you like rough and wild wooden coasters, Hellcat will be perfect for you.

So there you have it, a quick look at Clementon Park!  I'm intrigued to see how the latest owners plan to keep the crowds coming - focusing on the water park or perhaps putting that open space where the old Jack Rabbit was to good use?  Time will tell.