Happy 25th, Wild Waters!

I just read in today's newspaper that today is opening day for the season at Wild Waters. Not only that, it's the opening day for their 25th season. 25 years of Wild Waters! We're talking 1982. So many fragmented memories. I was ten and that was a long, hot, chlorine-soaked, prune-skinned summer indeed. I can't recall if my parents allowed me the luxury of a much-desired Wild Waters Season Pass that first year or not, but I was a proud card-carrying member for probably 2-3 years in a row. They even put your geeky little picture on your pass and it made me feel like I was really somebody important with it at the front of my dayglo nylon velcro wallet. It always seemed like such an enormously long climb to the top of that hill on a scorching day. Or maybe I was already lazy back then. I dunno, but it felt great to get to the top and line up for your slide of choice. The slides varied in wildness, from the mellow Jersey Cream to the intensity of the Twister and the Double Trouble. Some of the best days to go were cloudy and rainy days because few people braved it on days like that, and we could basically have the whole park to ourselves. There could be quite a howling breeze atop the mountain with just a few hardcore kids standing around dripping and shivering in the rain. The water would actually seem comfortingly warm to jump into on those days. Like anyplace where kids of various ages gather, there was kind of a caste system in effect at Wild Waters, and the 16-year-old attendants that worked the top of the hill ruled the roost. Looking back, I think they had some kind of superiority complex, power trips, and they would make you wait forever when you just wanted to dive into that slide and go go go. There was some kind of tricky science to the way the water flowed through those tubes, you weren't supposed to go unless the water was gushing a certain way. Only the uber-cool attendants knew the exact moment when it was time for you to begin your watery descent. Still, if you weren't careful you'd get stuck halfway down in a dry spot and the person after you would suddenly come around the corner and whoosh! A painful and wet collision would ensue. Then there was the threat of catching too much air on the way down and flying right out of the slide into the dirt. I don't know if that actually happened to anyone or not, but some of those corners got pretty hairy at 35 mph or whatever. Every once in a great while, a great surge of water would come up under you in such a certain, specific way that it would pull your swimming trunks or bikini bottoms right off your body, and you'd have to catch up with them when you landed in the pool at the bottom, hoping and praying that no-one even noticed. Seems like someone always noticed. I could never really get into the short slides further down the hill, the really fast ones that were basically vertical with a ten foot drop at the bottom. Those were scary to me, and I avoided them in favor of the long, slow tube float. It was fun to hover around forever stuck inside a giant round floater, slowly plopping down from level to level. The back rubber of those innertubes could get asphalt hot in the sun, so you'd have to flip the exposed side over every now and then, to let it cool in the lukewarm water of the pool. It was also endlessly entertaining to paddle around in the channels that ran between the main pools, because you could swim under the wooden footbridges. Then there was the giant silver water faucet with the red handle whose mighty water flowed so forcefully, it was daring and painful experience to stick your head under it. One place or another, we would stay in bleachy, urine-filled Wild Waters until we were red-eyed and bloated, our hands pickled and wrinkly, like those of a hundred year old woman. The Zoo was the radio station of choice and hits like "Don't You Want Me?", "Eye of the Tiger", "Rio", and "Little Red Corvette" flowed out of the omnipresent speakers, from the snack bar to the grassy area to the top of the hill. On those rare moments we weren't in the water we could be found by in the "Surfside Cafe" with a hot dog and a blue raspberry Icee, or in the gift shop caught up in a game of Ms. Pac Man. I remember the gift shop was kind of tragic - what did they sell besides a ton of useless crap with the Wild Waters logo? Few people know that Wild Waters was actually the first waterpark ever to open in the entire Northwest. In fact, there were only a handful in the entire country at the time. One early 80's summer, my cousins from San Jose, California came to visit for a few weeks and they didn't even have any water slides yet! It was the one cool thing that we had here in Idaho and they didn't. We put in a lot of hours there while they were in town, listening to Journey, sliding and diving and soaking up the sun. Eventually, the novelty wore off of Wild Waters, or maybe we just outgrew it. Anyway, it was kind of nice to return to the nature and simplicity of our abundant lakes and rivers. These days it's $25 for single day's admission, which is not too far under what an entire season pass must have cost in 1982. One of those now runs a whopping $110, which seems like it might be a little more than it's really worth. To stay competitive with Silverwood's Boulder beach waterpark up the road, Wild Waters is putting in some new stuff, including a 12,000 foot "Lazy River" ride, waterfalls and a "Wild Willy Rope Swing" (sounds kinky.) Judging by the amount of tourists who ask me for directions there on a daily basis, Wild Waters doesn't seem to have slowed down or lost it's appeal over the years. Here's an idea: I'll find someone I know with a summertime birthday and convince them to spring for one of the group birthday party packages that Wild Waters offers. Wouldn't that be kitschy? I don't know how eager I am to send my tired old body flying down any water slides, but it sure would be a fun retro way to spend the day sometime. I'm sure the moment I walked in the gate and that smell of chlorine hits my nose, a million long-suppressed childhood memories would come flooding back.

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The summer of 1983. That's when I had my first season pass. I think your mom drove us up there pretty much every day. "It's Wild Waters! Hey Wild Waters! You're gonna have the time of your life!"
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