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[RCT3] Ponderosa Valley Amusement Park

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List of Updates:

-July 1972: First visit (Just past this list)

-March 1973: Park resurrected!

-August 1973: Wilderness Outpost and Centennial ghost town announced!

-May 1974: Wilderness Outpost opens!

-September 1976: Lightnin' Loop announced!

-May 1977: Lightnin' Loop media preview!

-June 1980: Troubled times ahead...

-May 1981: A mining museum?

-August 1981: The Shaft drops into Centennial!

-May 1982: The Shaft media preview!

[Fast forward...]

-October 1993: Forbidden Forest announced!

-June 1994: Forbidden Forest opens!

-May 1995: Landscaping improvements! Yay!

-September 1995: 4000+ ft coaster?!

-August 1996: Adventure Outpost and Anaconda announced!

-June 1997: Anaconda opens!

-August 1997: RIP Roll-O-Plane and Super Slide...

-October 1997: New County Fair flats announced!

-May 1998: Terminal Velocity and Sooper Looper open!

-October 1998: Forbidden Forest gets some new flats!

-June 1999: Tarantula and Secret Vault now open!

-August 1999: New expansion teased; first clues released...

-November 1999: Multi-phase expansion Kingdom of Legends announced!

-July 2001: Kingdom of Legends opens!


-IRL Announcement: Coming to a close...


July 1972


Hi folks! Steve Thompson here. I recently moved from bustling New York to a quiet little town called Ponderosa Valley nestled in the foothills, and was delighted to find an old amusement park just outside the town limits. The park was celebrating their 30th anniversary, so they had a lot of discounts (and crowds). Apparently it was the most crowded the park had been in years. Some rumors were circling among some of the other parkgoers that the family that managed the park was looking to sell it off, with the possibility of the park getting razed. Hope their buyer is someone that's able to keep the park going! In case things go south, I documented my last visit:


A rather elegant little entry gate. You wouldn't guess this park is in practically the middle of nowhere!


A look down the main midway. You can see Rotor with a big line, as well as the station for the park's signature PTC coaster, Thunderbolt.


The Merry Go Round. No park is complete without one!


Opposite Rotor is the Sky Jump. It's pretty much the same as the one that used to be at Coney Island.


Next to Sky Jump is this fun little kiddie coaster called Tumble Bug.


On the back side of Thunderbolt is a Roll-o-Plane and a toboggan slide. Really feels like I stepped back in time!


Got in line for Thunderbolt, which fortunately wasn't very long.


The staff were kind enough to let me bring my camera on. I nearly lost it a few times trying to get a good shot. The airtime on this thing is ridiculous!


Tilt-a-Whirl with Thunderbolt doing its thing in the background.


Lusse Auto Skooters? A+ in my book.


They even had a nice Flying Turns style ride themed to the Alps. Very nice considering they're almost all gone. Line was too long though, so I had to skip it this time...


On my way out, I snapped this picture of the Ferris Wheel. Around the corner was an old dark ride, but it was closed. Hopefully there is a next time to visit here, because it's a fantastic little park. I hope the rumors of it closing aren't true...

Edited by MayTheGForceBeWithYou
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This park is looking good. I love the choice of colors for nearly everything. The park has a decent variety of rides that all match the time period. All the little details like fencing, flowering and themeing all flow together well. Flying Turns & Roll-o-Plane are my favorite coaster & flat in the park.


Yes, keep going.

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The allure that I always had with timeline parks is growth and evolution. Planting the seeds of a thrill seeker's paradise and watching it grow and evolve from a dinky little family park to a roller coaster enthusiast's utopia. That's why I enjoy reading them and building them in RCT3. I have no doubt that your park is going to be a very interesting story to unfold

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Still working on some updates, but here's a little bit of exposition to hold you over/build some hype. It is a story-based park after all...


September 1972


I meant to go back to Ponderosa Valley Park once more (still had to ride the Alpine Bobs and Haunted Castle), when I opened the daily paper and found this smack on the front page:



September 14, 1972-After 30 years of operation, the Lowry family that had been operating the Ponderosa Valley Amusement Park has sold the property to developers with undisclosed plans. With many smaller parks recently closing their gates permanently, Ponderosa appears to be meeting the same demise as other smaller neighborhood parks. The Lowry family said the developers to which the park had been sold did have new plans for the site, but also urged people not to mourn their decision.


“While we have sold the park, we did make sure the property went into proper hands”, former owner Roger Lowry told me. “There are new plans for the site, but I believe the future for the community will be brighter than ever.”


“I’m going to miss it. I grew up on Thunderbolt and the Alpine Bobs, and I’m sad my kids won’t experience the same joy”, said resident Jeff Palmer. I interviewed some other park visitors about their memories of the park, and all were equally disappointed and saddened that the once popular fun spot would be no more.


“Ponderosa Valley is a classic gem of amusement history”, cited local historian Eric Rice. “Thunderbolt is one of the most forceful and exciting coasters produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and the Alpine Bobs are now one of only two Flying Turns coasters left in the world. If the park is really set to close, I do hope these rides find new homes.”


Today was Ponderosa’s last day of operation. Ground clearing is expected to begin within the week.


I was deeply saddened over the decision, as the park seemed pretty busy when I was there in July, and would never had guessed the park was struggling. I was going to try and take some pictures of the shuttered park the next Monday when much to my surprise, I saw this headline:



September 18, 1972-Less than a week after the closure of the Ponderosa Valley Amusement Park, one man has stepped in and purchased the property off the developers with the intent of reopening the park next season. Sam Dawson bought the property off the developers of a new shopping center for an undisclosed sum, citing his concern for small town parks.


“Over the last decade, I’ve seen wonderful parks crumble into the past. Steeplechase, Palisades, Riverview, all relegated to history”, stated Dawson. “I just wanted to try and breathe some new life into one of these parks to keep the tradition alive.”


Dawson claims an overall investment of several million dollars will go into new state-of-the-art rides and renovating infrastructure. He declined to make any official announcements regarding the new additions, only claiming Ponderosa Valley “will have new life for this decade, and hopefully many more to come. I guarantee Ponderosa Valley will become a major destination.”


Dawson did say the park will open March 23 for its 31st year of operation.

So not only is the park going to keep operating, it's now under the thumb of an ambitious businessman that's aggressively looking to expand it. If he's able to keep the charm of the old park underneath his plans, I'll be excited to go along for the ride.

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Since I'm going to be traveling internationally for the next two weeks, here's an update for where the park stands now. Enjoy!


March 1973


With the park under new management and reopening, I made sure to get there opening weekend. Park is still mostly the same, but with some other parts of the park nice and spiffed up. Also, three new attractions opened for this year, including one thrill ride that's among the first of its kind in the world! Although what got me most exited wasn't what was new this year...it's what wasn't done yet (you'll see when we get there). Without any further ado, here's my last trip:


Right up against the parking lot, there's something new driving along.


Here's what management was keeping hidden from the paper last year...Enterprise! Apparently they were just going into production when the park was bought out, so one of the first was opened here for this year!


Getting in line for Enterprise. That is a LOT of empty land over there, though...


Looking up at Enterprise mid cycle. Really good addition to the skyline!


Enterprise was pretty intense (and made me feel a little nauseated), so I made sure my next ride was a little more mild. Ponderosa Turnpike fit the bill nicely. Very nice and scenic drive through the woods.


Missed my chance last year, so I made sure to go on the Haunted Castle this time. Apparently, this was one of the rides that got fully refurbished for this season.


One shot near the end of the ride shows some of the nifty sets they have inside. It's a pretty nice mix of old school cheese with some really nice effects.


Walked around the backside of Thunderbolt to see the third and final new addition for this year: a mini golf course.


Continued around the path to put my check in the block for Alpine Bobs when I saw that big area cleared near Enterprise wrapped all the way around the Bobs and over to this end of the park. What on Earth are they planning?!


One other shot because it's really making me curious.


Anyway, I'm still hitting myself for not taking a photo of the Bobs' station house before, but it got some new paint and roofing done!


The interior was really nice. They even added a little fireplace for some extra flair.


Anyway, line was still pretty long. The new queue made it a bit more manageable though, so that's a plus.


Can't believe I skipped this last season! Even with a long wait, this was just plain fun! The mountain facade definitely added to the ride, and made for a few good headchoppers!


Leaving Ponderosa Valley after a lovely opening weekend. New rides, some great renovations, and big lot for expansion. The future is definitely looking quite great for the park!

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The worlds first enterprise? Sounds awfully familiar.



I do like the Bobsleigh coaster. It has a wonderful rock facade that seems to really add to the ride experience. With a freely moving car, it makes it that much scarier. The queue also has some nice touches to it, a bit bare, but still nearly up there with Universal and Disney as far as decor goes. The park also has a dark ride, the Haunted Castle. That should offer something a bit more outside the box for guests, and a break from the heat too. That is quite a big plot of land being cleared relative to current park size. I can see a new area of the park, or possibly a coaster (judging by the early start) opening up there by the end of this season or the beginning of next season.

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The worlds first enterprise? Sounds awfully familiar.

It fit that plot of land up against the Bobs and Merry Go Round, so I just went with it.


That is quite a big plot of land being cleared relative to current park size. I can see a new area of the park, or possibly a coaster (judging by the early start) opening up there by the end of this season or the beginning of next season.

Trying to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but you're on the right track.

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  • 2 weeks later...

August 1973


Steve here again. Been busy with work the past few months so I unfortunately haven't been to the park lately. That said, I've heard it's been doing stellar since running under new management, and could mean that big empty lot behind Alpine Bobs might see some development.


Anyways, I left work and found this leaflet on my car's windshield...my suspicions were indeed confirmed. If this was what that cleared land was for, I might have to call in sick next season!




Ponderosa Valley Park welcomes pioneers of all ages to our new expansion of wild west adventure! Journey to the old outpost town of Centennial ca. 1876 and experience a slice of American history like never before!


Expansion includes:

-WILDERNESS EXPRESS: A rip roarin' railroad through hoodoo canyons and twisted tracks. A wild ride for the whole family!

-SAWMILL SPLASHDOWN: Ride a log through a forest of towering pines and wildlife on your way to the mill before plunging down a raging waterfall!

-RODEO: Mechanical bulls with varying programs from mild to wild. Can you survive level 5?

-SHOWDOWN AT SAUCY SAL'S: Action and comedy combine in this exciting show. Can Sheriff save the town from the notorious Pecos Pete?

-MUSTANG HERD: Visit our new animal friends in a large open pasture. Adopt a horse, and 50% of funds go to wild horse conservation efforts!


The adventures begin May 1974!

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May 1974


Hi folks! St...well, I think you should know who I am by now, so I'll skip the formalities. I've been waiting months to see how Wilderness Outpost turned out after the leaflet got me hyped at the end of last summer, and today was my first chance to visit! Apparently, it added 35% more area to the park, which means they added a LOT of new things (and space for even more newer things). To keep my overall review short, the expansion not only met my inflated expectations, but wildly exceeded them! Anyway, onto the photos!


Feels like ages since I've been in here...


Looking down the Haunted Castle midway. What's that I see around the corner?


Looks like I've made it to Wilderness Outpost and the town of Centennial!


First stop going this way around was Rodeo. I rode it on a more moderate setting and had a good amount of fun. Kid next to me decided to try the most intense program, and fell off within just a few seconds!


Next stop was Wilderness Express, the new mine train coaster.


While it's advertised as a family coaster, this was pretty intense! Threw you around quite a bit, but wasn't at all rough.


Next to Wilderness Express was the new log flume, Sawmill Splashdown.


It was actually pretty cool! The flume between the first and second parts of the drop was enclosed into a dark ride section with a bunch of cool sets.


Eek! Mountain lion!


Looks like we've made it to the mill!


After the mill, you go up one more lift before going down the big drop! Didn't want to get my camera wet, so I took an off ride photo.


Some nice details they threw in.


The dynamite shack was a clever gag. The shack would occasionally have recordings of a little conversation inside where someone accidentally threw a match and...well, it would blow up!


Backside of the Centennial area, near the mustang herd.


Really majestic!


Not normally into shows, but Showdown at Saucy Sal's was seating when I took the last photo, so I decided to just go for it.


It was actually pretty entertaining. This was the best part!


On the way out, I could see they cleared out even MORE land! A sign nearby said "More fun coming soon", but I don't know what "soon" exactly entails.


On the way out, I saw another fantastic little detail near Wilderness Express and Rodeo. This animatronic is caught in a gunfight...


...With the Sheriff! The funniest part is that the guns are loaded with little air cannons that fire on people in the queue. Made several people jump.


Overall, FANTASTIC addition to the park. Really happy the park changed management, and can't wait to see what they've got up their sleeves next!


(PSST! I know people are lurking here, since the teaser from yesterday has almost 100 views as of this posting. Be sure to drop a comment if you're reading!)

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  • 2 months later...

A little backstory and hype for next update:


September 1976


I apologize for not reporting the last few seasons, but you honestly haven't missed much. The park has been going well, albeit some of the development seems to have slowed down a bit. In the last two years, the only addition to the park had been a secondhand Scrambler. The long empty lot at the back of the park had long sat cleared with no real signs of development. I was worrying a bit about the park slowing down, but others were gossiping that the lack of recent additions could be a sign they're saving up for something really big. Rumors ranged wildly, but the loudest ones seemed to come in earlier this year, after some parks out in California managed to make roller coasters loop again. Management initially wouldn't confirm or deny any rumors, but today, that changed when the park left this leaflet on my windshield:




After years of public speculation, Ponderosa Valley hopes you'll flip for the largest single ride investment in the park's history, LIGHTNIN' LOOP! A first of its kind coaster developed in collaboration with German engineers, Lightnin' Loop will deliver an electrifying and intense roller coaster experience! Lightnin' Loop will launch 28 riders into a 72 foot loop at 54 mph, before climbing a near vertical spire and doing it all over again...BACKWARDS! It's unlike anything you've ever experienced!



Opening May 27

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May 1977


It was a few days before Lightnin' Loop was set to open, but the park was kind enough to invite me to a preview day before it opened. I had been extremely excited since they announced it, and was really hoping it lived up to the hype it was given. My overall review? WOW. Just, wow. The launch had some good kick, the loop was incredibly forceful, and the spires gave me some good butterflies in my stomach. Ponderosa's definitely got a winner on their hands!


Anyways, enough yik yak. Onto the photos!


First time to the park in a few years, and it's still looking nice as ever. What's that peeking over the entrance?


The skyline's changed quite a bit! Lightnin' Loop really dominates the end of the entry midway.


This end of the park looks way better now! The fountains were a nice touch.


Let's head over and see if it rides as well as it looks...


Just had to show my access pass, and I was cleared to go in...


Early access=no line. I'll bet this queue will be PACKED when it opens.


Got the front seat, and the staff was, once again, kind enough to let me bring my camera on board. This is the view out of the station.


Ponderosa...UPSIDE DOWN!


Wow, what a rush...


A spectacular addition to an already spectacular lineup. A big thank you to Ponderosa Valley for making this review possible!

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  • 2 weeks later...

June 1980


Sorry for not visiting Ponderosa the last few seasons, but let's just say...well, it's had some VERY rough times after Lightnin' Loop opened. The last three years saw some very major incidents that dampened spirits (and attendance) of parkgoers, and there's word again the new owners may not be able to salvage it. Here's some of the headlines from the past few years:



July 17, 1978


A forest fire started in the southeast corner of Ponderosa Valley Park last night, threatening many of the park's attractions. Firefighters responded at about 11 PM last night, and were able to contain the fire around 5 o' clock this morning. While the crews prevented most damage to some of the park's attractions, Ponderosa Turnpike, a scenic car ride, was declared a total loss in the wake of the flames.


Official investigations have pointed to the likely possibility of arson. Ponderosa's owner has pledged to press charges against the arsonist if he or she is caught. Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Ponderosa Valley Police.



August 14, 1979


3 passengers on one of Ponderosa Valley Park's signature roller coasters are in the hospital with non life threatening injuries after an axle in the front car became partially detached and caused the ride to come to a sudden stop. The incident occurred on the Alpine Bobs coaster, one of the rides from the park's opening day over 37 years ago. The ride has now been closed indefinitely as a safety precaution, with no word on whether the ride will ever reopen.


Image courtesy of Steve Thompson

"Safety is our top priority, and we do not want to risk a repeat of this incident in the future," claims park owner Sam Dawson. "As much of a classic Alpine Bobs has become, it's not worth the possibility of an even more catastrophic incident at this time."


Alpine Bobs is the last existing Flying Turns style coaster in existence. Could this incident spell the end for this breed of coaster?



May 31, 1980


Ponderosa Valley Amusement Park has officially stated that the Showdown at Saucy Sal's stunt show will not be reopening due to an incident in which an actor broke his neck after a serious fall. Jon Fletcher was taken to the hospital in critical condition after he landed on his head following a scripted fall from a second story balcony. A park guest kindly allowed us to use his photo of the stunt in question that he had taken when the show first premiered five years ago:


Image courtesy of Steve Thompson

"We are deeply saddened by the incident involving one of our staff, and our hearts go out to his family and friends," the park said in an official statement. "We've decided to close the show in light of this incident." The incident marks the second year in a row in which guests or staff have been seriously injured by attractions at the park.


"The last few seasons have been exceedingly challenging, and have forced us to properly reevaluate our entertainment options. We hope that these incidents will provide us opportunity to learn and create new experiences that everyone can enjoy."


Losing 3 rides to accidents in 3 years, and it worries me that we could possibly be seeing the closure of the park if management doesn't step up to the plate and make an effort to bring back visitors. With the hinting after the closure of the stunt show, I have a feeling the next big ride will be opening there, assuming the park even survives its next few seasons...

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  • 1 month later...

May 1981


With the old Wild West show gone forever, I heard news of the park opening a little mining exhibit in its place. Since it opened last weekend, I decided to go and take a peek at they put together.


Centennial looks quite different with the new mine facade.


You enter through here and get on board an "elevator" that takes you to the mines below.


The inside of the mines had all sorts of old equipment with some atmospheric lighting. Another "elevator" then brings you back to the surface after you spend a few minutes here.

It was a nice little tour, but given the rocky history the park's faced the last few years, they're gonna need to do a LOT more than this to get back on track. If anything, this feels like a bit of a holdover for something big coming in the next few seasons, and would not be surprised to see it go soon.

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August 1981


Today I discovered that my initial observations that the little mining exhibit was serving as a placeholder for something big was finally confirmed today. Newspapers ran the announcement today:




August 25, 1981-After a few years of steadily falling attendance, Ponderosa Valley Park seems to believe the best remedy is to literally have guests fall the height of a 13 story building! Park owner Sam Dawson unveiled plans today to redevelop the park in an effort to revitalize its image. Among these plans, a new state of the art thrill experience that will be opening to the public next May.


"Having been forced to look at our entertainment options following a tragic turn of events, we've opted to showcase some of the best up and coming ride experiences entering the market," owner Sam Dawson claimed. Dawson then announced the first of his coming additions: a 13 story freefall tower on the site of the hastily built mining "museum" that replaced the old stunt show, to be dubbed the Shaft.


"With the recent development of this attraction, we opted to look into how we could properly integrate it into the park," Dawson stated. "We felt the mining tour we provided earlier this year was a great start to developing that portion of the park." Dawson then claimed the new attraction would include a variety of special atmospheric effects to complete the package. "We really are excited to see how guests react to this new ride, and if it will be indicative of where we hope to take Ponderosa Valley in the future."

(PSST: I know you're lurking...please let me know what you think!)

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  • 2 weeks later...
Looks good, realistic but simple for the most part.


I'd suggest some path covers and curbs to give it some more realism. Aceana's Pavement Essentials was my go to for that.


Would love to see some night time shots, great lighting makes parks extra special, keep up the good work!

Will do when possible (I'm away from my RCT computer right now, but I'll be sure to do these in the future!)


Love the park... can't wait to see where it goes! Do you plan on bringing this park all the way up to present day?

I plan to. To be honest, I kind of broke timeline last save, which leaves me with two options: keep the park going with the current narration through the 80s and hide the stuff I've already added, or skip the filler and cut to the major stuff circa mid 90s (not gonna spoil it...yet).


Maybe I can put it to a vote?

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  • 2 months later...

May 1982


The folks over at Ponderosa Valley were kind enough to invite me to the media previews for the Shaft, the new freefall tower they're opening in the next week or so. As far as the rut the park was in, I'm definitely hoping this is their ticket out of it, because it was a ton of fun! Fantastic story and effects, and the drop itself caught me completely off guard! I'll let the photos speak for themselves, so you can judge this new addition:


Another lovely season for Ponderosa Valley Park. It's their 40th anniversary, and they're celebrating big time!


Something new has appeared on the park's skyline behind Enterprise!


The Shaft towers over Centennial, and makes for a very imposing superstructure.


The Shaft dangles riders over the edge...


Before plunging them to their inevitable doom!


The queue uses the same path as the old Mining Museum...


But feels very different!


The queue really makes you feel as though you've descended into a haunted mine shaft. Angry bats and all!


Once on board, the angry spirits take over your cabin and send you skyward. What did I ever do to them?


I tried to snap a picture from the top, but the drop caught me off guard and left me fumbling with my camera! I at least managed to snag this pic after the drop. He seemed just as shocked as I was!


The exit winds you through a few tunnels before emptying out back onto the plaza. Overall, a vast improvement over the museum, and a wonderful way to draw some much needed attention to the park!


On the way out, I stopped by Alpine Bobs...or at least what's left of it. It appears everything's still there, but there seems to be no work being done to get it running again. I'm hoping they can preserve the last Flying Turns out there, but only time will tell its fate.


(As per popular demand, the next update will pick up in 1994. Stay tuned: it's gonna get BIG!)

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^Sometime in the next few days. Here's the story and preview to get you hyped:


October 1993


A lot of time has passed since I first discovered this little gem of a park more than 20 years ago. I was disappointed to have missed the 50th anniversary, but to be fair, all they added was a go-kart track for the event. It seemed the park's age was finally getting to it, and the old entrepreneur that snagged it from developers sold it to new hands. Until now, there wasn't much word on what the new owner has decided to do with it, except that he said he's got some plans of his own. He had kept it under close secrecy, until I found this flyer:




It's no trick! We've felt this Halloween season was the perfect time to announce our largest expansion in 20 years: the FORBIDDEN FOREST! Tucked in the dark pine forest behind the venerable Haunted Castle, this new expansion will welcome two new rides for guests of all ages:

-MONSTER MADNESS: This carousel-style ride has a few spooks up its sleeve, and it will be a fright for the entire family!

-REAPER: This state-of-the-art roller coaster experience will send you hurtling at breakneck speeds through the darkest depths of the forest. Did we mention you'll also be suspended beneath the rails as you scream through five inversions? Only the fearless need apply: it's a heart-stopping adrenaline rush!


Face your fears JUNE 1994...

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