Reporter's Notebook: A not-so-lazy river journey at Wild Rivers

September 17, 2011|By Bradley Zint

IRVINE — It only took three laps.

Three laps around the Safari River to witness the full gamut of humanity. Three laps to see at least three instances of rule-breaking, two acts of rudeness, and one act of heroism.

But first, the setup.

Earlier this summer, I spent $700 at a "discount" tire store to get free Wild Rivers tickets, as well as a host of other ticketed goodies.


I was quite excited to use my tickets, especially because Southern California's beloved waterpark is set to close because the Irvine Co. has decided the area hosting slippery slides and sunscreen-filled fun is better for apartments instead.

Memories of my youth at this Orange County destination flooded back to me as I drove toward the Irvine Center Drive exit.

I remembered how water splashed in your face while sliding down The Cobras, and how scary The Edge and The Ledge were (which is why I never went on them). Then there was Chaos — an infamously bad slide that got heavily promoted prior to its opening.

The street that pulls into Wild Rivers is called Lion Country. I surmised it was dutifully named because Lion Country Safari used to be there.

But in an equal act of reverence, will Lion Country be renamed Wild Rivers Road?

Only time will tell.

After waiting in line for tickets and a stroll through the semi-iconic, two-boned archway of an entrance, we were in.

In our first few hours, fun was had on many slides, like the darkness of The Abyss and the bumpy jolts of "being shot out of a cannon" at Bombay Blasters.

But our jokes of how employees here probably don't care anymore, considering the place is closing, seemed all too true — at least when it comes to maintenance.

There were the off-colored signs, enduring years of no touch ups and discoloring sunlight. The closed slides. The dated look.

Eventually we got to the finale of our Wild Rivers day: a relaxing trip down the Safari River.

Little did we know what would become the most chaotic episode of our journey down this not-so-lazy river.

Maybe it was because it was a Saturday. Maybe it was because the park was about to close, so everyone wanted their last hoorah there. Or maybe it was because so many others bought tires and earned free tickets.

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