Silver Dollar City’s new coaster breaks records while delivering a smooth, thrilling ride.
Herschend Family Entertainment
BRANSON, Mo. — Call it Mystic River Falls.
Following more than a year of fan rumors and internet speculation, Branson-area theme park Silver Dollar City announced a major expansion Tuesday, reports the Springfield News-Leader, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
The attraction drew on its 1800s history as the site of Marvel Cave and the village of Marmaros as it redeveloped a section of the park once home to the ’80s-era Lost River of the Ozarks water ride.
“Today’s announcements are the biggest announcements ever made at Silver Dollar City,” said park president Brad Thomas. He said the new Rivertown project — which includes the Mystic River Falls ride, a barbecue restaurant seating 450 people and other park improvements — cost more than $30 million.
Since 2010, Thomas said the park has plowed $100 million into new rides like Mystic River Falls and the Time Traveler coaster that it introduced in 2018; along with new festivals like Pumpkin Nights, coming in September and October.
Switzerland-based manufacturer RES is working with Silver Dollar City to create the new Mystic River Falls, billed as “the tallest drop on a raft ride in the Western Hemisphere” in a promotional video. Currently midway through construction, it will open in summer 2020, in time for Silver Dollar City’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
RES project manager Urs Kuenzler visited the park from Zurich for the announcement and said Mystic River Falls is unusual in that it packs a number of high-technology features — with 200,000 gallons of water expected to flow through them every minute — into a compact footprint.
Mystic River Falls: The details
“If you look at the terrain, it’s a small terrain,” he said — just a few acres. And in that space, his company is working with Silver Dollar City to complete the ride by May 2020 with several key aspects, including:
- A 2,100-foot scenic journey with “hairpin turns, high tides and a hidden mine shaft”
- A 180-foot, six-story elevated river channel
- 18 boats that each carry eight riders, with “a lot of spinning, a lot of splashing and just the right amount of wetness,” in the words of Al Fandrey, an expert in river stabilization who worked on both Mystic River Falls and its predecessor, Lost River of the Ozarks
- An 82-foot-tall lift tower with four rotation elevator platforms to bring boats up to the ride’s highest point. “China, Austria and Germany have (attractions with) two platforms,” Silver Dollar City chief publicist Lisa Rau said. “This is the only one with four of them. (The reason) is the wait times, yes, but just as important, we wanted to soar up into the skies for the beautiful views.”
- A 4.5-story waterfall drop finale “that the guests truly do not expect,” said Kuenzler, the Swiss project manager.
Erica Rutledge, Silver Dollar City’s Cincinnati-based creative director, said the park chooses to develop new rides with three criteria in mind: A new ride needs a theme and a storyline that matches the park’s historical appeal; it has to be something that any family member of any age group would be willing to ride; and the park does its best to maintain natural green spaces.
She said the most challenging aspect of ride development is coming up with a backstory that is historically appropriate but also crowd-pleasing and easy for a lot of people to understand as they wait for a five-minute ride.
The park, which welcomed almost 2.2 million visitors in 2018, hosted a gala announcement for fans, journalists and Branson community members that included a nod to park co-founder Mary Herschend, whose family started Silver Dollar City in 1960. The announcement fell on the 119th anniversary of Herschend’s birth, officials said.
“We know that Mary would be proud,” said Silver Dollar City head publicist Lisa Rau. “She’d be proud we’re protecting our Ozarks, she’d be proud we’re telling our stories — and that we’re having fun with it.”
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