RiverRush provides new family thrills at Dollywood

Visitors try out the new RiverRush ride at Dollywood’s Splash Country on Friday, May 10, in Pigeon Forge.$RETURN$$RETURN$

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Visitors try out the new RiverRush ride at Dollywood’s Splash Country on Friday, May 10, in Pigeon Forge.$RETURN$$RETURN$

As the summer heat continues to build in East Tennessee, Dolly Parton is still doing her best to keep the patrons of Dollywood cooled off.

Parton herself pulled a giant gold lever to officially open Dollywood’s Splash Country new $6 million water coaster RiverRush on May 10.

The 1,175-foot-long behemoth opens on the heels of the $20 million dollar Wild Eagle roller coaster, which drew record crowds to Dollywood in 2012. Parton says a new water coaster will have the same effect on Splash Country.

“Last year when we opened our Wild Eagle roller coaster ride, it was the most attendance we ever had,” said Parton. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we have a coaster out on the water park?’ ”

The coaster is designed to be family friendly, yet still provide the thrills customers have come to expect from a Dollywood coaster.

The ride is more than four stories high at its highest point and drops 25 feet before being propelled uphill by hydro-magnetic launch technology, which is the best part, according to Splash Country’s general manager, Mike Brown.

“The best part is where you’re going up the hill and you’re not really sure what to expect, especially if you have never ridden it before,” said Brown. “And then once you take the plunge downhill, you can actually feel the ride propelling you back uphill.”

The blue and green cylinder then takes you through dark tunnels and hairpin turns that provide thrills sure to please all members of a family. However, getting wet is not optional. RiverRush assures all of its riders a thorough soaking.

“We want to keep the experience wet and wild,” says Brown. “So here is a family experience where we accomplish everything: You get the family four-person raft, you get the thrill of the roller coaster and of course the water factor, you will get wet.”

Making the new coaster family friendly was the most important factor for Parton and the team at Dollywood. The rafts in which riders sit during the ride can hold up to four people. Including rides in the parks that all members of a family can enjoy is they key to what Parton is trying to accomplish.

“We want to get things the kids enjoy that the parents can also enjoy together,” said Parton. “Dollywood is all about making time for family. This day and time people are always off texting or Twittering or Facebooking.”

The new ride also means new available jobs at Dollywood. All parts of Dollywood account for more than 3,000 jobs for East Tennesseans, and the intricacies of a new ride like RiverRush provide a whole list of new jobs.

“That’s one of the things we’re proudest of every year when we expand ... it does provide a lot of jobs for a lot of the local people,” said Parton.

While RiverRush is the first coaster to come to Splash Country, Brown would not admit to it being Splash Country’s last.

“We are always looking for new technology,” said Brown. “If a ride presents itself like this again and it’s in the park’s scope we will certainly look into it.”

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