Jackie Strause—Think water slides are just for kids? Think again.
There are rides out there that are so terrifying, most adults won’t want to set foot on them. They have rip-roaring rapids and 17-story plunges that will send you swerving through pitch-black tunnels at speeds up to 65 mph. Some will drop the floor out from under you. Others will shoot you into a mega-sized funnel of zigzagging rafts. There is one that will propel you directly into a Cobra’s jaws!
Here are 13 of the scariest water park thrills across the U.S. that are sure to make your stomach drop.
Verrückt, Schlitterbahn Kansas City Water Park, Kansas City, KS
The tallest water slide in the world stands nearly 170-feet high, can be found in Kansas City and officially qualifies as an “extreme thrill ride.” The ominous 17 stories of Verrückt (“insane” in German) are higher than Niagara Falls and as long as two football fields. The slide shoots daredevils down massive drops — including a 60-degree free fall right out of the gate — on multi-person rafts that can reach speeds of 65 mph. With new-generation technology, rafters shoot five feet uphill until reaching a point of weightlessness. Runs down the mega-slide are so in-demand, park visitors need to reserve a slot ahead of time.
Wildebeest, Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, IN
Voted the best in America in 2014, Wildebeest, the park’s first HydroMagnetic Rocket coaster owns the water kingdom with its two-and-a-half minute journey. A conveyor belt takes four-person boats to the start of the thrill, which includes a four-story drop, seven hills, two underground tunnels, and a sensory-boggling helix.
Cliffhanger and Screaming Serpents, Schlitterbahn Water Parks, Galveston, TX
Two dueling body slides serve as neighboring highlights at this Texas water park. The Cliffhanger sends sliders down an 81-foot freefall — which produces speeds of up to 40 mph —and the Screaming Serpents (formerly the F5 Twin Twisters) reopened as the park’s first fully immersive ride experience. This psychedelic experience provides special effects like fog, sounds, and rainbow light to assault your senses while you fly through the bellies and 8-foot-high mouths of the Serpents.
Black Anaconda, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells, WI
Water Slide meets roller coaster on this six-humped, uphill ride in Wisconsin. Jet technology sends you slithering up and down a snake-like body, which makes up one of the longest water coasters in the world. The stop-and-go method doesn’t slow riders down too much —you drop straight down at 30 mph —and while the mesh ceilings are there to protect you, their existence also tells you how bumpy the ride can get.
Bomb Bay, Wet ‘n Wild, Orlando, FL
The Bomb Bay in Orlando warns sliders with its name. Named after the bomb bays on military airplanes which actually release bombs, this slide doesn’t spare its human passengers one bit. Riders step into an airtight chamber before the floor actually drops out from beneath them. Once it does, you drop 76 feet down a near-vertical slide.
Scorpion’s Tail, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells, WI
The floor also gives way on Scorpion’s Tail, but this time, riders plunge 10 stories at a whopping 50-feet per second before being catapulted through a menacing, high-speed loop. The ride is entirely enclosed (compared to Bomb Bay’s open-air experience) to create the look of a tail, which gives sliders a unique assault on the senses. By the time you have a handle on what’s happening, you’re making a big splash at the bottom.
Big Thunder, Rapids Water Park, Riviera Beach, FL
During Florida’s Big Thunder, rafters sail through darkness before they reach the moment of truth. The multi-person tubes are dropped into a gargantuan-sized funnel where they helplessly seesaw their way to the bottom. The 45-degree drop accelerates the boats so they can reach heights of 20 mph and even achieve moments of zero gravity.
Zero-G, Action Park Mountain Creek, Vernon, NJ
Cue superhero-like weightlessness and enter Zero-G, the world’s tallest double-looping water slide. The fully enclosed capsule ride starts from a trapdoor entrance that is perched on a hill and 100-feet high. The chute sends body sliders through translucent tubing so quickly that they aren’t entirely sure what has happened by the time they hit the bottom.
King Cobra, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Jackson, NJ
The Six Flags-version of a King Cobra pits racers against each other during a 56-foot high, 256-foot long slide challenge. From red-and-white scaly tubes to its monstrous cobra head finale, this slippery race pulls out all of the thematic stops. Two tracks eventually collide when they shoot riders into a massive cobra hood that is 10 times the size of the human body. Gain bragging rights by garnering enough speed to shoot yourself between the fangs and into the snake’s mouth as your opponent slides aimlessly around the hood.
Yes this ride does allow you to shoot directly between the fangs of the King Cobra’s mouth. (Photo: Six Flags)
AquaDuck, Disney Dream Cruise Line
You’re thinking: it’s Disney, how scary could this ride be? Insanely scary. This slide contains 360-degree glass tubes that are four-decks high and peer out above the ocean. Aboard several Disney Dream cruises and developed by the creative minds at Disney Imagineers, this 765-foot longacrylic tube journey is truly one-of-a-kind. Rafts are propelled up, down, around, and even outside the ship’s parameters to provide a complete panoramic view of the sea. Riders are then dropped into a lazy river to regain their breath.
Mammoth, Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, IN
Covering more than three acres, Mammoth is the longest waterslide in the world. Indiana’s HydroMagnetic coaster uses LIM technology, which is commonly used on roller coasters, to send circular boats of up to six passengers up and down hills and spinning around curves. A conveyor belt escorts rafts to the starting peak. From there, riders have six drops that they will experience from forward, sideways, and backwards vantage points, as well as in the dark during enclosed portions.
Summit Plummet, Blizzard Beach, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Cross your arms, fold your feet, and lay back for one of the tallest and fastest body slides in the world. Summit Plummet shoots sliders down a towering 120-foot, near-vertical slide for a 360-foot run, which includes traveling lightning speeds through a dark tunnel. Riders can reach up to 60 mph during this 12-story high, truly extreme water launcher that is sure to end with a very large splash.
Hold onto your bathing suit on the Summit Plummet. (Photo: Disney)
Coiled Cobra and Twisted Fang, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Valencia, CA
More cobras and scary fangs await at this California Six Flags adventure. Four rides encompass the Blake Snake Summit area of the water park, but it’s the overlapping Coiled Cobra and Twisted Fang that provide the truest thrills. At 75 feet high, they are the tallest enclosed water slides in Southern California. The curvy serpent slides pick up crazy-fast speeds, but riders will have a difficult time clocking their mph without any markers. This ride takes place in utter darkness.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.