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A brief stop at Camden Park


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This past weekend we took a brief trip to Indianapolis to visit my in-laws. Since we were driving within such close proximity of Camden Park, I figured we would tempt fate and make a quick stop. My wife generally rolls her eyes and goes along with what I suggest, but after this home run, I don’t know that she will be so trusting in the future. As you are driving through Huntington, WV it becomes readily apparent that you are not about to find a Cedar Fair Park, Knoebels, Kennywood, or even backwoods county fair.

 

Then there’s the clown… Yes, pulling up here is possibly one of the most terrifying experiences to ever be had at an amusement park. Any time a clown says “Fun for All!” the universal translation is “Run the other way, and don’t look back.” At this point my wife is really laying on the “what the heck have you done now?” But, we turn in and pay the $5 to park in the parking lot that is better maintained than most Six Flags parks I’ve been to and stroll up to the outhouse with a register in it, aka the ticket booth.

 

For those interested in visiting Camden Park, their website and ticket booths both show ticket prices at $19, although you can buy them online for $16, or you can pay at the gate for $22. There is no way to pay $19 for a ticket, but that’s ok because hey, you’re at Camden Park.

 

We strolled right in and noticed the park looked... well, it looked like a park you would find on the back roads in West Virginia. I couldn’t remember exactly what my track record was sitting at but I knew it was 248 or 249 and I was thinking it was 249. I figured that getting on the classic 1950’s Big Dipper was going to be as good a way to hit 250 as any so we went straight there.

 

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As we approached the station I told my wife we should sit in the second to last row. As it turns out, that was exactly where we would get, but even if we wanted to sit in the back seat, it would not have been possible as the back seat of the train was entirely missing and was just an empty compartment. We sat down and lowered the buzz bar and my wife said – I don’t like that you can see the ground through the floor… Holy hammer, she’s right. The floor of the train is literally like 3 2x6s with rather large gaps between them. No mats or anything on top. Oh well, the ride op took the safety rope off the manual brake, and the adventure was under way. I will say, this is actually a pretty fun woodie, albeit sketchy. There is one rather crazy pop of airtime early in the ride and a couple decent moments. It was fun, and I’d ride again.

 

We did see, after riding, there is a trim brake that is powered by gravity… lol. Meaning the “power” for this trim brake is a rope tied to the brake on one end and a cinderblock hanging through the structure that is attached the some other scrap metal and concrete on the other end.

 

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After getting off, my wife declared that was as scared as she has ever been on a rollercoaster. I happened to check my coaster count after the ride and noticed that Big Dipper was, in fact, #249 for me. So the honors of having my #250 slot would go to none other than… Hawnted House. Heck yes!

 

So, Hawnted House a wooden floor with a steel rail in the middle. They then purchased some 2-seat office chairs and fixed them to the track. You jump in the car, then the ride op pushes your chair onto the chain lift. At the top of the hill you make small dip, then roll through the dark-ride-wild-mouse portion of Hawnted House on your office chair seeing all sorts of terrifying sights such as a bird, a cat, and a pig roast. At the end of the ride (and I know it was the end, because out office chair went under the illuminated EXIT sign) the next ride op physically caught our desk chair and stopped it. He made a remark saying “This is one of a kind using gravity and all.” Then he flung our car down the station which careened into the occupied group of cars waiting for dispatch. It was, an experience.

 

We then rode Slingshot, which appears to be the only ride in the park built this side of the Cold War. It was fine. I don’t know what else to say – it’s a figure 8 spinning coaster.

 

We wanted to finish our credit whoring but to my dismay, Little Dipper was not staffed so we turned around, only to be accosted by the ride op for the whip who was desperately trying to get patrons to ride his ride. We declines and instead went on to ride the chairlift.

 

As we waited to board the chairlift we were told to wait until the chair after the one coming now. It didn’t take long to find out the reason for this. There was no chair... there was only the metal frame hanging from the cable. Ok, next chair it is. Our chair was nice and comfy, with no locking restraints; it was literally a ski lift with a rusty creaking hinge on the top. The chair went over and gave wonderful views of, the mini golf course. I also was very close to stubbing my toe on a street lamp in the middle. This may actually be one of the slower chairlifts I have ridden. I’m pretty confident I could’ve walked faster. It was fairly relaxing though, even though there was no shade.

 

After we got back we decided we needed to head towards our destination, but I couldn’t help by be intrigued by a food stall that offered “Hot Dogs and Pronto Pups” I then decided that 4 rides was pushing our luck as it was so we left without a pup. Total time in park was in the ballpark of 50 minutes and a good chunk of that was our mini-golf tour.

 

Can I recommend this park? It’s not worth any kind of drive, but if you’re driving I64 through Huntington it’s worth a stop, sure. Certainly know what you’re going for though. There was more to do here than what we did, but we were on a tight schedule and I was already pressing my luck with the wife.

 

Side note, the town west of Huntington was adorable and actually a pretty nice town for WV. It also contained the nicest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen. It looked closer to the likes of an El Rodeo than a fast food joint. Go figure.

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I also stopped by the park this year, first time in about 10 years. You probably won't believe this but the park looks so much better than my previous trip. The Haunted House (which it not a coaster, I don't car what RCDB says) was completely repainted and had stunts fixed by Chuck Burnham (The Dark Ride Artist) after 7 years ago and stills looks so much better than the decrepit state it had been in. Maybe I just know what to be looking for during the ride. The ride vehicles are traditional for that Bill Tracy ride.

 

The park has made recent additions in the Rattler and Flying Scooters. I think the mini golf course was also a huge recent upgrade. The sky ride was in pieces years ago without even having the cable attached a few years ago. However, by skipping The Whip you missed their best ride, and one of the only two whips in the US run properly. Also the paratrooper still runs really well.

 

I sat in the same seat with you on Big Dipper, after not being able to sit in the last row. I also didn't eat in the park but that West Virginia Grille looked much better than any offering from my last visit.

 

Overall the park is far from aesthetically pleasing, but it has improved in recent years.

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The back row on Big Dipper

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Haunted House

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I was at Camden once, in 2011. My friend and I had a great time! Anytime I get to ride a woodie without seat dividers and ratcheting lap bars, it's a good day for me. The "old schoolness" of seeing the track and weighted trim brakes don't bother me one bit. I had more fun there than at MOST Six Flags parks, to be honest. I'll definitely be back.

 

Also.. I love that strange NAD coaster design; ramp hill, followed by a round hill... and stuff just generally "whatever." Colossus at Magic Mountain was originally like that. It gets a feeling of variety and different effects. A very smart design in my book. We get way too much repetition these days.

 

PS - That last row on Big Dipper is not available on purpose, it's been like that for years. That POP of airtime (real airtime, where you leave the seat a good few inches) can be quite strong. It's probably easier for the park to keep that seat closed than to deal with higher height requirements/seatbelts/no singles/whatever for that back seat. Don't get me wrong, I was dying to ride that seat when I was there! The benches pop out relatively easy, that's why they just took it out.

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Camden is worth a stop if you're in the area. It's odd and even more bizarre if you happened to be at the park like I did when they were having some sort of church picnic day. I have never seen sooo many beehive hairdos and dresses down to the cankles. I must say, the place looks better than when I was there in the early 2000's when the rotting hulk of Thunderbolt Express, nee the relocated Demon from Kings Island still sorta stood as the gateway icon of the park.

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Cool report of a rarely traveled park. Big Dipper sounds like a solid wooden coaster. Does it run mostly smooth? I only hear about that pop of air in the few accounts I read.

 

Everything about this park sounds retro.

 

Big Dipper is slow and boring. Didn't feel much air at all, I don't know where the pop of air supposedly occurs.

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Very entertaining report! Camden has long been high on my list of must-visit parks, even though it's somewhat remote as far as US parks go, and it sounds like it only warrants a quick stop. But a classic park with two woodies, a Whip, and a traditional dark ride? I'm in.

 

This was the most illuminating part of your report for me:

At the top of the hill you make small dip, then roll through the dark-ride-wild-mouse portion of Hawnted House on your office chair seeing all sorts of terrifying sights such as a bird, a cat, and a pig roast.

Color me terrified!

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Big Dipper at Camden isn't that exciting, fun though. Unless, unless it has rained or is raining and the track is wet. The coaster becomes a whole different ride. It becomes a bit wild. And actually Little Dipper is quite a cool woodie which also runs the original NAD trains too. Either way, if you are near, it is worth a stop in. They have a cool in the ground flume ride too. And finally, Praise bee to the higher hair and the B52's JT.

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I loved Big Dipper as well. Especially that one major pop of air was one of the increasingly rare "oh crap" moments. I would have loved to ride again, but I don't think there was going to be any convincing my wife to join me.

 

The park, no doubt had some charm. It was just a... different kind of charm.

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