Specific Type: Wood; Double-Out-&-Back (Figure 8)
The history of the legendary and storied Swamp Fox dates back to the 1960s when the wooden roller coaster rose from the sands of Myrtle Beach. In 1966, William Parker opened up an amusement park along the “Grand Strand” of Myrtle Beach which he appropriately called the Grand Strand Amusement Park. To highlight his new park, Parker enlisted the world-renowned John Allen of Philadelphia Toboggan Company to design a wooden roller coaster to stand proudly above the park. Inspiration for the new coasters name came from local revolutionary war hero Francis Marion, who earned the nickname “Swamp Fox” because of his ability to outwit and outrun British troops by hiding out in swamps in the nearby Pee Dee region.
Officially opening on June 17th, 1966, the Swamp Fox stood 72-feet tall and offered 2800-feet of hills, dips, and turns just a few hundred feet from the shoreline of the South Carolina beach. For over 2 decades the coaster entertained millions of riders until a natural disaster in the late 80s threatened to end its existence. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo made a rare surge northward and struck the Carolina coastline, excessively damaging much of the Grand Strand Amusement Park and its star Swamp Fox.
For 2 years the park and coasters sat unused and untouched until the Ammons family purchased the park to resurrect it. In 1992, the park was rechristened the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and the star attraction was given a full and complete refurbishment according to its original design specifications. Not only did the coaster itself receive preservation, but the rides rebirth helped to keep the memory of another coaster alive. After a strange series of events forced Lakeside Park in Salem, VA to close, its legendary Shooting Star (also designed by John Allen) coaster was sold to Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Point in Greensboro, NC. There the ride sat for several years, never reconstructed, and the coaster was eventually sold as scrap wood. But one of the trains was saved, and it now operates as the only surviving piece of Shooting Star while serving as “the blue train” for Swamp Fox.
The old-school style station of the Swamp Fox is tilted downwards towards the front of the train with long levers sticking out of the floor. These levers were originally used to apply an upward “skid brake” to stop the train by raising wood skid pads against the bottom of the train, while the downward tilt allowed gravity to move the train forward towards the lift. While the levers are now there for decoration, it’s a nice nostalgic touch to leave them in place.
A ride on the Swamp Fox begins with a slow roll down and out of the station into a small U-turn and bend that lines up the train with the lift hill. A slow climb to the top affords riders a great view of the surrounding park and the beach straight ahead once cresting the 75 foot tall hill. After a small dip over the hill the train turns away from the beach and back towards the start of the lift hill before plummeting the riders 65 feet down towards the ground below. At its top speed of 50 mph, the coaster powers over a tall hill then a second hill half the size before lunging back upwards into a tall turnaround to begin the second “out” section. After careening to the right and heading back towards the beach, the trains again drop back to ground-level, picking up speed to hurtle riders over an rare, airtime-filled double-up-double-down element. Another low airtime hill and a final rise brings the coaster to its last, lowest, and fastest turnaround, ending with a rapid roll into the long, curved final brake run.
The ride on Swamp Fox is short but sweet, filled with airtime, beachfront views, and lots of nostalgia!
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