Falls, Chessington World of Adventures
In the days when the log flume was a popular water ride,
invariably and unoriginally themed after the hapless adventures of a log
floating down a river (interested yet?), Chessington was a park eager to
Whilst the Fifth Dimension was as camp as Graham Norton, it
was a superb ride and unique to the country. Although they opened a few
years later, the Vampire and the Bubbleworks showed how the park wanted
to stand, arms outstretched and proclaim that it was the best themed
park in the country – which, back then, it was.
Dragon River, as it was originally known, further
embellished this point. Whilst every flume ride was taking you through
forests in a fibreglass log, Dragon River stood as one of the best
flumes in the country.
Newer flumes use technology to their advantage with
coaster-style stretches of track and reverse drops and dips to
entertain, however, a few years before that, only the drops and theming
It seems strange then that the log alternatives seemed
somewhat illusive. Chessington, though, strived to embarrass all other
flumes, not with never seen before trickery, but by providing riders
with a satisfying medley of drops and meandering.
The ride is perhaps one of the first things you see as you
enter the parks’ Mystic East section. As you approach the spidered
mass of Samurai, to your right hand side an elevated trough runs through
As you become mesmerised by the smooth and undulating
motions of the parks’ Top Scan, Samurai, your attention may be
distracted, albeit momentarily, as a boat drops between two giant tiled
faces of the Buddha, splashing down and skimming through a small wave of
water, splashing into the lake below.
Although the rides’ highlight is here, the entrance is
far further away into the Mystic East. Past the Coca Cola Pagoda, up and
bridge, you approach a stark rock-face. Boats climb the side of
this and crawl along the peak of this range. Breaking the bland and
nondescript rock, an enormously spectacular Buddha sits, cross-legged,
guarding the entrance to a tunnel through which you walk. In your mind,
you’re probably imagining that this behemoth is 20-or-so foot tall.
Wrong – our Asian friend is the best part of 55ft tall, towering over
almost everything in the area.
Once through the tunnel, the path passes a brightly
coloured Chinese dragon and a small drop into which the five-seater
boats drop. Finally, in front the oriental decorated front of the
station building beacons. The maroon pillars, the polished amber tiles
and dragon décor ring true with the orient, and you cross a bridge into
a forest of bamboo. With luck, most of this queue will be just walking
– to queue here is a complete bore and a total waste of time. Dragon
Falls is perhaps the most unreliable ride in the park so it would be
typical to queue for an hour and it breaks down.
Once inside the station, you immediately ascend a flight of
stairs towards a high walkway that wraps around three of the stations’
walls one floor up looking down on the loading of the ride below. As
large paper lanterns hang from above, dimly lighting the station, a path
of boats scathes through the centre of the station, loading on one side,
unloading on the other.
The ceiling above is a suspended polystyrene tile affair
with about one out of every six stencilled with a Chinese motif of some
sort. This somewhat detracts from the lanterns’ elegance and the
dramatic mural on the wall, a picturesque map of the world from the days
when Singapore Airlines aptly sponsored the ride.
One form of entertainment can be found as people stand up
to leave the ride and bash their head on a sign hanging below. This may
sound rather masochistic, but the sign is only suspended by chains, so
doesn’t do any damage, but the mirthful quirk of fate is that the sign
asks you to remain seated.
After crossing over the
conveyor-worth of boats, you go down some stairs before are asked by the
member of staff how many are to ride. Each boat seats five at a push.
Each boat is themed modestly as a small Chinese junk with a wood design.
A single bench goes down the centre
with grab rails either side. You must sit on the bench and hold on to
the sides, one behind another. If you have got long legs, avoid the
front as your knees will end up being bashed to death.
The boat progresses towards the end
of the station, past a curtain hiding boats in various states of
undress, before you dip out into the water and meander off into the
pace is reasonable as you pass the queue that enters the building and
you turn a corner before hitting the rather modest first hill.
conveyor takes you to the top before a thump as the boat levels out and
drops into a small, first drop. The boat plunges quickly down before
swooping out into the water creating a small splash.
soon progress towards the open jaws of the vividly coloured oriental
dragon seen as you enter the area. You go through the opened fangs of
this monster and once inside, it is dark, drab and devoid of any
interest, much like a storm drain.
one point you would approach a curtain of water. As you got perhaps too
close for comfort, the lights would go out and you would pass under
without getting a drip on you. This is gone and so the tunnel is a bore.
out, the view hardly inspires. So much so, in fact, that you quickly go
into yet another tunnel before passing through a dense bamboo forest,
making another turn over a lake, past the veranda of one of the areas’
boutiques and progressing into a climb up the side of the mountain ridge
seen as you enter the area.
lift is quite shallow, but is very tall. At the top, you slow
dramatically, gently floating around a 150-degree bend. The pace here is
painful, and those of you with butterflies in your stomach will be
writhing with dread. At this point, below you the roof of Tomb Blaster, and in front, Samurai.
The water soon cascades out of view as you hit a conveyor,
taking you over the top of the rides’ main drop. Without a pause, you
plunge into a single steep drop. As you scrape past the two walls either
side there is a flash of a camera before you drop down into the water,
skimming it for what seems seconds before you slow and a wave of water
splashes out in front and to the sides.
themed log flume. Go on it but don't wait too long for it
You may squirm out the way, you won’t get too wet anyway,
but you slow and pass several feet above the lake before going under the
main walkway, over another lake taking you towards the station and past
a half-dead looking elephant, famed at one point for squirting water at
riders (and once mashed potato, Bodger and Badger fans may remember),
now just looking a mess and in need of burying.
You climb up the conveyor back into the station, past your
mug shot from the drop. Before you have a chance to hit your head on the
sign in a much-fashioned blunder many make, your boat will probably be
sadistically hit from behind by the boat following before you stand up
and are assisted off the ride and past the reliably frustrating photo
A rather superficial view of the ride may not impress, but
when considering it’s age you cannot help but be fulfilled. The
elegant theming touches like the Buddhas that surround the drop and
welcome you into the area really set this ride apart from the rest, and
to make such a feature of the tunnel is superb and pulled off to a
The drops are not bad. The first is very short, admittedly,
but the final is not too bad at all. It isn’t too tall, but it is
fast, and with the walls either side that accompany you half way down,
it adds to the feeling of speed.
The simple effects that this park cannot be bothered to
maintain are ultimately its downfall though. With its latex skin peeling
off, the elephant at the end looks a sorry mess and should either be
fixed or removed. The water in the tunnel really was the only feature in
there. Now it is a mess in there too.
If you manage to go on without a queue, without it breaking
down and with an open mind, happy to accept that this is an old ride
that was well before it’s time, then you will have a great time on it.
you go on after queuing expecting something that can compare with Menhir
Express or Storm Force 10, then you’ll leave thwarted.
Original theming, most
of which is to a high standard
Nice moments of tranquillity
away from the hustle of the park
Good final drop
▪ Poorly maintained
effects here and there
▪ Only two drops, one of
which is pretty small
▪ A popular ride, often
with long queues