In preparation for next year’s 60th “Diamond Jubilee” anniversary, the folks at Silver Dollar City announced Tuesday they were investing $30 million into new park offerings, the largest single-year investment in their history, anchored by the debut of Mystic River Falls, a new water raft ride set to feature the “Tallest Drop in the Western Hemisphere,” which will open next year.

Additional 2020 announcements include a highly-themed area and dining experience, bringing the total investment to more than $27 million.

“This ride will be a very fun experience,” said Silver Dollar City Attractions President Brad Thomas. “You know, coasters are fun and thrilling for those who seek fun and thrill, but some folks don’t do roller coasters. This ride can entertain the grandmother in our family, and also entertain the younger kids, and that my friend, is something that is unique, and kind of a surprise because this is adventure, but it is family adventure.

“I’m also excited about the new barbecue restaurant, and we’ll also be making more announcements over the course of the coming months about our 60th anniversary, as well as a couple other surprises for Rivertown.”

The area where the park now sits was a draw long before Silver Dollar City was ever thought of, thanks to Marvel Cave. In fact, the Herschends started Silver Dollar City so tourists visiting Marvel Cave had something to do while waiting for their tours. The cave was also among the most popular “show caves” in the 1950s and 60s.

According to a release, Mystic River Falls calls upon that history for theming and backstory, intermingling fact and fiction, legend and lore, to arrive at an attraction that celebrates the spirit of adventure that’s part of Ozarks culture. An underground body of water that seems to come from and go nowhere, Mystic River appears on the park’s historical maps as discovered and documented by botanist S. Fred Prince in the late 1800s, and to this day, flows in Marvel Cave. 

For the new ride, guests will be transported back to the 1880s in a storyline that revolves around a historically based fictional character named Pearl Brazen, an intrepid explorer who’s eager to take them on a bold quest to find the headwaters of the Mystic River.

Mystic River Falls on its own represents a $23 million investment, and will see riders splash through “nearly a half-mile scenic journey, navigating hairpin turns, high tides and a hidden mine shaft on more than a five-minute trek.”  

These additions will take themed water experiences to the next level, setting an ever-higher standard for guest expectations. Plus, Silver Dollar City’s new ride will also set several industry-leading special features:

– 82’ Tall Lift Tower: River Adventurers will ascend a more than eight-story lift tower, exposed to the open air as their rafts rotate during the climb! The rotation elevator lift of four platforms is unique to this ride and will be the only one like it in the world to go up so high.   

– More than Six-Story Elevated River Channel, 180’ Long: The rafts will connect to an elevated river channel suspended in the air 66’ high and travel within the channel for 180 linear feet.  

– A Grand Finale Waterfall of 4.5 Stories of Thrilling Adventure: Racing down and through the ride’s queue building, River Adventurers will brave the Mystic River Falls finale.

Mystic River Falls will also feature the “tallest raft ride drop in the Western Hemisphere” at 4.5 stories.

To date, 22 semi loads of rebar, equal to 1 million feet or 1.5 million pounds of rebar, have been laid; 6,950 cubic yards/187,650 cubic feet of concrete has been poured; 222,000 board feet of heavy, rough-sawn timber has been laid; and approximately 6,000 pounds of landscaping rocks have already been placed at the site.

The release also states Mystic River Falls will be the highlight of a new themed area of the park called Rivertown, where 1880s townfolk are caught up in a “high-spirited celebration,” representing Silver Dollar City’s Diamond Jubilee.  The all-new Rivertown Smokehouse, the largest dining investment in the corporation’s history, will serve the park’s popular barbecue, plus new favorites, providing 450 viewing seats along the banks of the Mystic River. 

Mystic River Falls takes the place of the popular Lost River of the Ozarks ride, which was demolished at the end of last season. The Lost River of the Ozarks originally opened in May of 1985 at a cost of $2 million. 

It took the place of Rube Dugan’s Diving Bell, which was an attraction that simulated a journey similar to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Ride at the Walt Disney Parks. It was removed in the early 1980s.

“Silver Dollar City will soon be 60 years old,” Thomas said. “That means some of our rides and attractions are obviously growing older. As we look toward the future, we have to look at those things we can refresh, and those things that are easier to say, they need to go away and be replaced. We have a master plan that maps and outlines those kind of answers for the future, and we’re following that master plan. This is just a part of that plan.”

With Tuesday’s official word that Mystic River Falls will take the Lost River’s place, it looks to be the latest in a long line of rides and attractions which have not only gained near-universal acclaim, but have also been record-setting efforts.

In fact, the 2018 opening of the Time Traveler carried along with it a $26 million price tag, the park’s biggest investment and attraction ever. Time Traveler also set spinning coaster world records as the fastest, a top speed of 50.3 miles per hour; steepest, a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop; tallest, custom-designed for mountainous terrain with its tallest point at100 feet.

In 2015, the park debuted Fireman’s Landing, an $8 million development featuring six rides and four interactive play zones for children and families.

March of 2013 saw the opening of Outlaw Run, a $10 million wood coaster that included  several firsts, as well as records. Outlaw Run features the world’s first and only double barrel roll on a wood coaster, with a 720-degree (double) barrel roll, and is the only wood coaster to twist upside down with a record-breaking three inversions. Outlaw Run is also the world’s steepest wood coaster with a first drop of 162 feet (more than 16 stories) at 81 degrees – nearly vertical; and the second fastest wood coaster in the world, reaching a top speed of 68 miles per hour. 

2010 saw the addition of Tom & Huck’s River Blast, a $7 million water ride dubbed “the wettest, wildest river adventure in the Midwest.” Both riders and spectators can participate in this slow-moving water feud.

The Giant Barn Swing, a $6 million ride, debuted in 2007. Featuring two colossal arms holding back-to-back seat rows, the Giant Barn Swing sends riders soar backward as well as forwards, 75 feet-high in opposite directions and through the barn roof before powering them back toward the ground and past each other at speeds up to 45 miles per hour. The swings then soar 75 feet skyward, high above the trees on the other side, arcing a full 230 degrees so riders are nearly upside down.

Silver Dollar City unveiled the Grand Exposition expansion in 2006 at a cost of $8. In what was the park’s biggest expansion for kids, the Grand Exposition features 10 family rides of all shapes and sizes.

One of the park’s most popular family rides, Powder Keg, opened in 2005. This coaster launches riders from 0 to 53 miles per hour in just 2.8 seconds, up a lift to a 110-foot drop, into spiraling and dragonfly banked turns, through a wave of floater hills with negative G forces. It is also the longest ride in Silver Dollar City.

The $14 million WildFire, the park’s tallest and second-fastest ride, opened in 2001. Standing 120 feet tall and featuring a top speed of 66 miles per hour, WildFire features five inversions, including an Immelmann loop, a vertical loop, a cobra roll and a corkscrew.

In 1999, the park opened the ill-fated BuzzSaw Falls, a $7 million flume ride/rollercoaster prototype from Premier Rides.

This “Liquid Coaster,” as it was known, attempted to marry traditional “flume” and “coaster” rides, Buzzsaw Falls proved to be unsustainable and was closed at the end of 2003 to make way for Powder Keg.

1993 saw Thunderation, Silver Dollar City’s first “large-scale” roller coaster, open to the public. This classic is one of Arrow Dynamics’ largest and fastest mine train coasters, with a 3,000-foot-long course and a top speed of almost 50 miles per hour.

The American Plunge, which replaced Jim Owens Float Trip in 1981, is a boat ride around a man-made river, complete with animatronics, a tumbling outhouse, whirlpools and a dark cave. Like with all great log flume rides, the American Plunge ends in a drop.

Of course, the park’s first coaster, Fire-In-The-Hole, is still up and running. Built in-house by Silver Dollar City and opened in 1972, this 3-story indoor steel coaster and dark ride is a perennial favorite for guests who have grown up coming to Silver Dollar City.

As far as this season goes, the park will begin its Southern Gospel Picnic event Aug. 22 through Sept. 2, followed by Country Music Days Sept. 6-22. This fall, Silver Dollar City will host the “all-new Harvest Festival,” featuring “Craft Days” and “Pumpkin Nights.” As always, An Old Time Christmas begins Nov. 2.

Silver Dollar City’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee will begin in March, 2020 when the park opens. An Anniversary Celebration will launch the weekend of May 1, 2020, followed by Mystic River Falls opening during the summer season. 

Visit silverdollarcity.com.

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