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Photo TR: Andy's Visit to Camden Park


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I started off my 2019 theme park season with a bang last week (June 26), making my first-ever visit to Camden Park in Huntington, West Virginia. This isn't a park that gets a ton of traveling enthusiasts, as it's a long ways away from anywhere in particular. Hopefully those of you who have yet to visit will enjoy this trip report. I'll be as fair as I can, but keep in mind that I'm reviewing a park that was featured in a post-apocalyptic video game.

 

My visit to Camden Park was short -- just over an hour and a half. It was part of a long one-day road trip along the Ohio River that I did with a friend, spanning various sites from Cincinnati to Huntington. With that said, I had enough time to ride everything important, and get enough pictures for a fairly comprehensive TR.

 

My first impression of the park was the big fat clown sign on the way in. If that doesn't set the tone for the afternoon, how about the ticket booth attendant who may have actually been asleep standing up when I approached to purchase admission? He claimed he was reading a book on his phone, but that's an unlikely excuse around those parts. Doing the math on my 15% discount coupon took a bit of time as well, but soon enough, we were on our way into the park -- on a hot summer afternoon with light attendance.

 

We decided to clear out the back half of the park first, starting with the one ride I figured might actually have a line -- the Log Flume. They were running 3 or 4 boats and the dispatches weren't too slow, so I figured we'd be on in a few minutes with only about 10 people ahead of us. My prediction was not to be, as Boat #5 had taken on a good bit of water and needed to be drained. We got to witness this process play out in real time, as the boat was brought most of the way up the lift hill, and then manually bailed out with a small bucket. Low-tech is the way they do things at Camden Park. That was fun to watch. As for the ride, it's alright -- not bad for a small park. It's short, but it has two drops, and is custom-built -- not one of those semi-portable models. The first drop is small, but perfectly designed to send a wall of water over the lip of the front of the boat, soaking your shoes to the core. The second drop is larger, but generates only a pleasant mist. On a hot day in June, that didn't feel too bad.

 

Our second ride was Lil' Dipper, the park's kiddie woodie. It runs NAD trains with seats that are a little too small to comfortably fit two adults, but a little too big to fit just one. That provides quite a bit of room to move on the coaster's rather shaky turns, though the small bunny hills are kind of fun. This ride was running half-empty trains, so we could have gotten on again, but we wanted to keep moving.

 

Skyliner is the park's chair lift, and I'll never pass up an aerial observation ride of any kind -- especially for photography's sake! You can get some pretty good views over the back half of the park from this ride, including the log flume and the kiddie woodie, as well as the park's train. You'll also get a great view of the mini golf course, which appeared to be in a general state of disrepair. The chair lift operates as a full loop, and the turnaround is at the far edge of the park's property.

 

I did some photography of the rides in the back, but we opted to skip the other flats (due to lack of interest), the train (in the interest of time), and the mini golf course (in the interest of it looking like it's seen better days).

 

Next, we headed to the front of the park to get a ride on the one coaster I was really looking forward to -- Big Dipper. This ride dates back to 1958 and probably hasn't changed much at all since then. It's still running with a NAD train, manual hand brakes, and fixed restraint bars. The coaster was actually running really well -- smoother than the kiddie woodie, even. It gave a pretty enjoyable ride, which helped distract from the peeling paint all over the ride's wooden structure, and the fact that the seat in the last row of the train has apparently been missing for years. This is definitely a back seat ride, because the big drop contains one of those WTF airtime moments you sometimes hear about on older, sketchy wooden coasters -- like Cyclops at Mount Olympus. It's a crazy, sudden jolt, and it's the single best thing about Camden Park.

 

The park's next coaster, if you want to count it as such, is Haunted House -- or is that Hawnted House? Honestly, I couldn't tell you for sure -- the way it's written on the sign is somewhat ambiguous. The neat thing about this ride is that it's a gravity-driven coaster / dark ride, so I guess it counts as a credit. The not-so-neat thing is that it's perhaps the least thrilling / exciting haunted dark ride I've ever been on -- and I've been on Ghost Hole at Coney Island. Heck, Boo Blasters at Kings Island is more frightening, though that's probably because the guns on that ride barely work half of the time. But I digress.

 

Yes, we also rode Slingshot, the requisite every small park is buying one SBF Visa spinner. Nothing wrong with these rides. I think they're a good fit for parks like this.

 

With more time, we might have gone on a few more rides, but there wasn't anything else too unique that I couldn't find at other parks. I finished up my pictures and we headed out of the park to start the drive back to Cincinnati.

 

So, how can I sum up this review? Any dedicated coaster fan should experience Big Dipper in the back row. Well, second-to-back row, since the back row doesn't actually exist. But is anyone going to make the trip to Huntington, West Virginia, just for that?

 

Yes, you are, because you're on Theme Park Review and you're probably a coaster nut.

 

Adjust your expectations for the rest of the park, and have a great time!

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On the way into Camden Park for about 100 minutes of fun. If you look closely, you can see sleeping-ticket-booth dude.

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Here's the park's main entrance. Quite the line to get in.

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My full Camden Park ticket, before the right section was removed by the employee at the entrance.

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Park map!

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So, we'll start with the log flume!

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Here is the little splash. If you're in the front row, it's deadly.

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Say goodbye to dry feet.

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The big hill (which isn't all that big) is not quite as wet.

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There's a splash.

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And then it's done.

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And then you're refreshed by the good clean West Virginia water.

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A side view.

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Splash goes up.

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Splash comes down.

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Here's the station for Lil' Dipper, the kiddie woodie. You wouldn't know its name just by looking at the station, because there's no sign for the ride.

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Lil' lift hill.

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DO NOT STAND! Because, with these restraints, you pretty much could.

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An overview of the ride.

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At the top of the lift.

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A little bit of herky-jerky airtime.

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A lotta bit of shuffling around the corner.

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Pulling into the brake run.

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The park also has a Whip, which we did not ride.

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The roof of the ride is themed to "decrepit West Virginia barn-quality sheet-metal that an EF0 tornado would rip apart."

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Some interesting artwork on the side of the Whip.

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The Skyliner sky ride was up next.

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The ride offers fantastic aerial views of the Ladies restroom.

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To the right is one of the picnic pavilions.

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Further to the right is the parking lot. That's basically the entire crowd for the day.

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To the left is the kiddie woodie.

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A typical half-empty train.

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Right below the sky ride is the mini golf course.

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Its official name is "West Virginia Adventure Golf."

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It looks like quite the adventure.

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It has a few cute set pieces, but...

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Yikes.

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Yeah, that's not gonna do.

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Interesting use of rust as an accent color on the sky ride supports. Wonder if Kings Island is considering that for their new giga?

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It's the turnaround! We're halfway done!

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A view to the park's train.

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It offered a scenic ride around the pond, and we might have gone on it if we had more time.

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The far end of the pond -- and a Coke ad.

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Here's a wider view over the pond, with a few rides across the way.

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There are swan boats, but none of them were in use.

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The ride op must have found some other way to pass the time.

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The Tilt-a-Whirl was running.

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It is very, very blue.

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They also had a George Foreman Grill thing.

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Not really interested in riding one of these.

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The north end of the park also has a Rockin' Tug

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The train pulls back into the station.

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The log flume splashes down.

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Lil' Dipper climbs the hill.

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The side of the train is about the only place you'll find the ride's name, and it uses the full "Little Dipper" spelling.

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There are also horses.

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And pony cart rides.

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One picture of the train engine, and now we'll head up to the front half of the park.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures, continued!

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Here's the detailed facade of Haunted House.

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Or is it Hawnted House?

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There's a gravity-powered drop just before you pass by Satan himself!

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The park has a carousel.

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It's housed in an open pavilion.

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It has lots of horses.

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Some of their saddles are losing paint.

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The green horse is interesting, though.

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There's also a chariot, featuring that classic West Virginia palm tree beach scene.

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Another flat at the park is the Paratroop.

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Short the "ER" on the sign, but the ride still looked like it was running fine.

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SBF Visa spinners are proliferating like rabbits.

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Slingshot is so modern and bright for this park.

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Ride sign picture.

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Spinning...

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More spinning...

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Rattler is also a very modern-looking ride. I had wondered if this was one of those inverting frisbees, but it was not.

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Two-ride shot!

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Rattler is the type of ride I'm inclined to skip on hot days, and it was a hot day.

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It's one of the park's newer rides, and it was drawing some of the better crowds, even if it never quite filled the gondola.

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Sideways airtime.

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Spinning and spinning...

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Airtime and hairtime.

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OK, let's get to the good coaster -- Big Dipper. Here's the ride entrance. Like its smaller cousin across the park, there is no ride sign. I am somewhat baffled by that.

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Big Dipper is an ACE Landmark.

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A straight-on view of the Big Dipper station.

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The last row is conspicuously missing.

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The NAD train hits the brakes...

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...and pulls back into the station.

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Actually, the rest of the train seemed to be in pretty good shape. It's just that back row that had me puzzled.

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Manual brake operations!

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Big Dipper is a tough coaster to try to photograph -- there really aren't any views to be had of the majority of the ride, aside from views at sharp angles like this.

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At the top of the lift.

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There's a small first drop, before the coaster makes a 180-degree turn to head into the second drop.

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This second drop is the one part of the ride that is /very/ easily accessible for photography. The walkway is right next to it! Probably too close!

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It's quite the jolt of air in the back car.

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At the bottom of the big drop.

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Heading back up the next hill.

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Here are a few distant shots of Big Dipper from the sky ride.

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Another photography challenge -- lots of wires in the way.

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There are a few open looks, though.

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Another Big Dipper view.

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More Big Dipper.

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More wires in the way.

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I did the best I could to focus past them!

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Big Dipper is a classic "don't make 'em like that anymore" coaster, and it's the one thing I can legitimately say is awesome about Camden Park.

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There's a set of flyers.

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Half of them are painted with some kind of bird icon.

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Half of them are not.

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They didn't look particularly snap-able -- they ran a fairly tame cycle.

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The Scrambler did not appear to be operating.

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The park also has a few kiddie rides scattered around.

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This is what I think is the main midway -- a small pavilion with shops and games on either side.

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Games!

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More games, and a souvenir shop.

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The Happy Clown Toy Store, which doesn't creep me out at all.

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Did not stop to eat at the West Virginia Grille, but we did get some free water.

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I presume this is a stage, so maybe they bring in some music on occasion.

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Oh, and this has got to be the most unique attraction at Camden Park -- a Native American burial mound!

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It's from the Adena culture, and has been estimated to be 2000-3000 years old.

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That's it from Camden Park. Goodbye, creepy clown!

Edited by The Great Zo
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Camden Park / Huntington Trip Report Addendum

 

OK, as I like to do, here's a quick look at a few other things you might want to see in the area. After all, if you're making the road trip to Huntington, you might as well explore the area a bit.

 

I found downtown Huntington very nice -- and that's not sarcasm at all. I've visited a lot of mid-size rust belt Ohio Valley cities, most of which are decades beyond their best days. I've seen some that are almost beyond repair. Huntington isn't one of them. They've revitalized the downtown, there's some good local restaurants, and some nice parks as well.

 

So, a quick look at Huntington, as detailed in the captions below.

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A distant view of downtown Huntington from an overlook on Kinetic Drive.

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The Cabell County courthouse.

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Huntington City Hall.

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A train engine on display at Heritage Station, a mixed-use development that also houses the city's tourism office and welcome center.

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Pullman Square, a public gathering space and retail center.

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There were several well-rated restaurants near Pullman Square and 3rd Ave / 4th Ave, and it actually wasn't easy to pick. Backyard Pizza won out, and it was a great choice.

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Creative pizzas in a wood-burning oven? That's a winner.

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Huntington is protected by a flood wall. You don't want to see the Ohio River above 72 feet.

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But, you can head down for a view over the water if you want.

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They were setting up for a concert at the riverfront park, so it clearly gets some use.

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Want to see the spot where three states meet? Virginia Point Park lets you view Kentucky (left), Ohio (right), and West Virginia (foreground) at the same time. I know, real exciting stuff.

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Watch some boats on the river!

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Or, if you're into college football (or just saw the movie "We Are Marshall") you can visit the site of the 1970 plane crash.

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The runway where the plane was trying to land is just at the top of that hill.

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I'm gonna end with this one, because it makes no sense at all. This display was at a pediatric dentist's office that we just happened to drive past. If anyone can figure out what dentistry has to do with wild animals on a jungle rafting trip, I'd be curious to hear.

 

Thanks for reading!

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Fantastic pics (as usual) Andy, so happy to see a new trip report from you!

 

slowly getting thru, but just FYI - that artwork on the side of the Whip?

 

is Marvel Comics character Thundra (she most often appeared in the Incredible Hulk in the 70's). .tho they have her mis-colored.

 

93331-154571-thundra.PNG

 

I'm sure they TOTALLY paid Marvel a licensing fee to use the image tho, right?

 

 

 

EDIT to add: I'm a little confused by the Carousel (no, not the green horse, tho that's a headscratcher when the rest of the horses are so natural - well, other than the Pink one, LOL). . but looking at the upper tier, there is no detail. No detail on the inside center sections either.

 

it kind of looks like it's painted over - like maybe they started to re-furb it, and then decided just screw it, and painted over the detailing and never bothered going back to paint in all the detail?

 

that's so freaking weird.

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Awesome report! It's great to relive the haphazard glory of Camden Park.

 

The airtime on Big Dipper is real. It's remarkable how smooth that ride is considering the appearance. I still won't forget the time I was evacuated after the op dispatched our train with the lap bars up and yelled at us when they physically wouldn't lower.

 

Also I don't think reading a book on your phone is acceptable on the job.

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Cool TR. The only time I was there was back in 2002 when the Thunderbolt Express was supposed to reopen. I was excited as I remembered riding it at Kings Island back in the 1970's. It was not to be. It was a rusting old hulk, SBNO. So since then, from your trip report, the only changes to the park are, 1 they remover the old demon, and 2 the addition of the SBF Spinner and the Rattler. Otherwise, all looks exactly the same, right down to the missing seat on the back of the Big Dipper. Wow. At least they are consistent. Still, it is worth a detour to stop at Camden. Edit * Dang that is really a cheap admission price !

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The old Thunderbolt Express AKA Screamin Demon at KI.

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Fantastic pics (as usual) Andy, so happy to see a new trip report from you!

 

Thanks! This is just a short one-off report, still hoping to finish my stuff from California last year, but 2019 might get in the way soon.

 

Awesome report! It's great to relive the haphazard glory of Camden Park.

 

The airtime on Big Dipper is real. It's remarkable how smooth that ride is considering the appearance. I still won't forget the time I was evacuated after the op dispatched our train with the lap bars up and yelled at us when they physically wouldn't lower.

 

I read your report from last year and there were definitely some similarities in our experiences. I didn't even mention the restrooms in my report, but yours was still accurate a year later.

 

They did have two ops on Big Dipper, though, and they were checking restraints the whole time. It's insane that I even need to mention that.

 

So since then, from your trip report, the only changes to the park are, 1 they remover the old demon, and 2 the addition of the SBF Spinner and the Rattler. Otherwise, all looks exactly the same, right down to the missing seat on the back of the Big Dipper. Wow. At least they are consistent. Still, it is worth a detour to stop at Camden. Edit * Dang that is really a cheap admission price !

 

Aside from those two new rides, this place really is a bit of a time warp. The price is right, though -- it's hard to argue against the place when admission is under $20.

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Always love to see a report from you Andy! This is one of those parks that you think, if they had a few hundred thousand dollars for infrastructure and restoration that it could really make the park look better.

 

David

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I finally made it to this park a few years back. It was fine for a small park, but it definitely wasn't anything to go out of the way for. It certainly could be something special if it was cleaned up a bit but I don't think it needs to based on where it is and who it's actually drawing in.

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Great report Andy! I’m a tad bit ashamed that I lived in Kentucky for the first 23 years of my life and never made it to Camden Park (my college roommate was actually from Huntington and begged me not to risk my life), but I’m hoping the place sticks around long enough for me to make it there eventually. They used to have one of those Skydiver flat rides that I’ve always wanted to try out. Seems as though that opportunity has passed.

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Nice report! Love long ones like this that go into a lot of detail. I'd really like to go to Camden at some point - maybe on the way to Dollywood; I love old parks like this, especially as you never know how much longer they're going to last, so I'd say that it would be worth it.

 

From pictures I've seen, Big Dipper used to have a sign that left out the "IG" at the end. What a perfect addition to the park's other confusing signs! Anyway, I love those NAD Century Flyer trains anywhere. Did the Big Dipper train ever have four cars?

 

I'm wondering what the deal is with that short flume drop and why the band organ in the carousel is missing its drums on the sides. Besides that, the organ looks just like the Wurlitzer 153 here at KW.

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Always love to see a report from you Andy! This is one of those parks that you think, if they had a few hundred thousand dollars for infrastructure and restoration that it could really make the park look better.

 

David

 

Thanks David! Yep, a bit of upkeep here and there would make a difference.

 

I finally made it to this park a few years back. It was fine for a small park, but it definitely wasn't anything to go out of the way for. It certainly could be something special if it was cleaned up a bit but I don't think it needs to based on where it is and who it's actually drawing in.

 

You live in Florida, I live not even three hours away in Ohio, and you made it here before I did. That says something, though I'm not quite sure what.

 

(my college roommate was actually from Huntington and begged me not to risk my life)

 

 

Admittedly, nothing at Camden was as frightening as my experience on the dearly-departed Dragon Coaster at Beech Bend in Kentucky. I think your home state wins. Or loses, I guess.

 

From pictures I've seen, Big Dipper used to have a sign that left out the "IG" at the end. What a perfect addition to the park's other confusing signs!

 

Yeah, I saw that in some old reports too! It's peculiar. Maybe we'll eventually lose the rest of the PARATROOP sign in a year or two also.

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