River Rapids, Alton Towers
idea of many theme park rides is to mimic as closely as possible a real
life adventure, invariably one that people cannot experience first hand.
Free Fall rides try and created the closest feeling to parachute jumping
and Bolliger and Mabillard said themselves that they wanted to get as
close to the sensation of flying as possible with the inverted coaster.
of the more successful attempts was the rapids ride, originally thought
up by Swiss manufacturers, Intamin. Designers wanted a completely random
and varied sensation, as close as possible to real life white water
rafting. Through time, these rides have become better themed, faster,
more varied and more wild.
Towers didnít wait long before jumping on the rapids bandwagon,
something many other parks have since done. Although a rather simplistic
ride, a lot of time and effort goes into building them due mainly to the
amount of excavation required. Alton Towers also had rock dating back to
the Triassic period to combat, eventually removed by the liberal use of
this mile-or-so long gorge had been created and filled with concrete
creating the course familiar to you and me, Alton Towers had themselves
one of the longest Rapids rides in the world. The Grand Canyon Rapids as
they were then called, along with the Log Flume were part of the
Aqualand section that existed in the days of John Broome and the Thunder
As the Beast moved
to the area next to the Thunder Looper creating Thunder Valley, Aqualand
was re-themed to deepest Africa, namely Katanga Canyon, and Gloomy Wood
debuted with the Haunted House. These changes occurred when Tussauds
brought out the park, and the Katanga Canyon area featured the new
powered Runaway Mine Train as well as more theming around the course of
the Grand Canyon Rapids, the name of which was now the Congo River
had before been a rather baron and forgotten area of the park was now
one of the most thriving, and with the Haunted House linking the path to
the Thunder Looper, Alton Towers was now a more consistent and tight
knit theme park, as opposed to a few rides dotted here and there
requiring the stamina of a sprint walker to get to each.
Merrie England the path will weave through densely foliated paths,
following for the majority part of the Congo River Rapids course. The
six-seater boats are thrown over churning waters and through waterfalls
as they work their way around a lake, into which a jeep has crashed.
enter the ride, you turn right just before the entrance to the Runaway
Mine Train and then work your way around a hillside next to the lake.
The rest of the park disappears from view as you hike around this
incredibly lengthy queue-line.
wrap around the outside of the African themed station, before crossing a
few bridges that take you into the centre of a large turntable. From
here you can board your boat. Each has six high-back seats facing the
centre. Common sense is your only restraint as it is up to each rider to
take hold of the circular grab-bar in the centre of the boat.
the end of the turntable, the boat peels away before turning 180 degrees
through the first bend. You accelerate down a straight stretch of water,
over bumps and ripples in the water, under a bridge, before a gradual
turn to the left takes you into your first taste of the rapids.
pace slows as the boat negotiates waves and swells, dips created by the
pipes under the water, and splashes rebounding from the walls. To each
side, bushes and trees, and as you finally pull out of this rough
section, you enter a long, dark tunnel.
isnít unknown for the boat to hit a wave in complete darkness soaking
riders, so here you must be vigilant. Your attention may at one point be
distracted as the tunnel is shared by the Runaway Mine Train that may
clatter though, with 38 riders vigorously waving at you.
endure a slow part of the course where wave machines virtually stop the
boat. You pass behind the Katanga Cookhouse restaurant, and then under a
bridge that takes people into the centre of Katanga Canyon.
waterway then widens, now under the watchful eye of park visitors on the
trail leaving or heading for Merrie England. Here, wave machines thrust
the water to the far side meaning that there is virtually no forward
moving current. The boat hovers for what seems an eternity, hitting the
isnít rare for boats to pass you at this point, and as you start to
wonder whether the boat will actually continue along the route, the boat
is violently bounced off revolving barrels in the water before
continuing along the raging torrents of water.
pace speeds up, although there are some notably wet dips and splashes to
watch out for, before you pass a ramshackle hut, home to the on-ride
camera before you head towards one of the most incontestably menacing
sections of the ride Ė the waterfalls.
like the sea has parted for Moses, two walls of water on each side
cascade down into the rapids below. The boat seems to slow here, and
although the waterfalls do not directly pour down on you, the spray as
it hits the side of the boat is enough to get you wetter than you
perhaps wish, or indeed expect.
you gently turn away from the walkway, the pace is brisk yet the water
is still quite choppy with still a chance of you getting wet. You then
slow right down before coming to a stop at the base of a large conveyor
that will take you back up to the station.
at the turntable the boat is turned so that you can get off safely
before you cross the same bridge that you entered, forthcoming riders
surveying you as they wonder what is in store for them.
should be reassured by the likelihood that your back and backside would
be wet, otherwise to all intents and purposes unscathed.
moving your upper body around on the ride, leaning out of the way of
waves and turning your legs away from the sporadic splashes of water
that may come gushing down the steps into your boat, the worst that can
(and probably will) happen is for a wave to splash over the back of your
seat soaking your back.
rapids rides go, the Alton Towers one is a good one. Although the
theming around the circuit is as good as non-existent, which is
(surprisingly) customary, rating just the dips and dints around the
route created by the water-course it seems to get the balance of
saturation just right.
rapids rides you go on expecting to come off soaking, some are fast but
have no dips, the Congo River Rapids seem to get you wet enough to
tolerate in the questionable British climate, but not wet to the point
that you would ever need or want to avoid them for that reason.
is a great mixture of fast, smooth sections, and slow, rough sections.
The wave machines tease you by holding up proceedings and it has both
the habitual tunnel and waterfalls. The waterfalls are superb; they
donít hit you, just the boat, therefore you still get wet, but not
factor that works in every rapids favour is the air of unknown, the
complete haphazard aspect meaning that whilst on one ride you can leave
practically parched, the next you will leave drenched. Admittedly, this
scale is somewhat less vivid on the Congo River Rapids, but each ride
remains polls apart.
the scenery is lacking, and around the course there isnít enough to
look at, dodging waves and having fun on the Congo River Rapids is
hardly demanding, and you will probably enjoy coming off without needing
a change of clothes on standby.
▪ Good use of wave pools
A very long rapids
A good chance of
getting wet or staying dry. A good element of chance
▪ Bridge over the final
lift is a good opportunity for people to spit from
▪ Very popular, so it
can get very long queues
▪ The new 9-seater boats are simply terrible