BUENA PARK, CA
150 Trees. Over 3,000 plants, 80% California natives. 65 Tons of boulders, from a local rock quarry. 80 yards of mulch, from recycled green waste. And one big animatronic sasquatch. These are all the addition to Knott's Berry Farm's rapids ride, now called Calico River Rapids, which has gotten a makeover from generic water ride to themed story attraction. But don't worry -- it still soaks you good.
"Theming wise, we wanted to connect it to ghost town more," says Ken Parks, VP of entertainment at Knott's. "It had these water effects that really had no purpose other than to get you wet and now they're built into the story, so there's a reason why you're getting wet."
The story involves John Colter and John Potts, two actual turn of the 19th century adventurers who journeyed with Lewis and Clark. The new theming imagines that they've opened a river rafting company, and you, the rider, are a new explorer looking to find your own plot of land further downstream. Frustrating your plans are an overzealous woodpecker, a wolf who howls when danger approaches, a trigger-happy hermit who wants you nowhere near his house, and eventually Bigfoot himself. The ride was, of course, originally called Bigfoot Rapids, but the name was somewhat ironic. "You had this quest for Bigfoot and the payoff was you never found him, so that sounds fun," says Parks. "We actually righted that wrong. In the last 20 years all of the nerdy fanboys have been put in charge. We sort of moved into an amusement park for a little while in the 2000s, and now those who understand theme and story are back." He cites the original 1973 version of Westworld as inspiration, a place he always wanted to go for real.