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June 21, 2013

STAWAR: Come on in, the water’s great

(Continued)

We found that we actually preferred a smaller water park in the Orlando area called Water Mania. It was less expensive, less crowded and perhaps more suitable for smaller children. When younger, our children always enjoyed riding on the large alligators and snake floats in the kiddie area. 

With a few notable exceptions, water parks were first developed by private sector investors, but with the rapid growth in municipal aquatic parks, the scene has changed. In the late 1970s, a number of small private waterslide attractions opened around the country. Most only had one or two slides. Their popularity seemed to run its course, as the larger water parks with more features eventually drove most of them out of business. 

Besides swimming, basic water park attractions today typically include a variety of slides of various sizes and configurations, a wave pool, a lazy river for tubing, a “splash park” playground for children and some sort of surfing or body boarding. Flume-type rides with multiple passengers, which are also seen in many regular theme parks, are also water park staples, like the large Bubba Tub raft ride in Orlando. 

Of course, humans have been exploiting the leisure aspects of water environments for thousands of years. Naturally occurring lazy rivers in spring-fed creeks and rivers are plentiful throughout the United States. 

We did a lot of natural tubing in Florida in places like Blue Springs, Rock Springs and the Rainbow and Lchetucknee Rivers. Blue Springs fills up with manatees in the winter, but we seldom saw them when we tubed in the warmer summer months. 

The Lchetucknee was where I once encounter a river otter face-to-face. In zoos, the otters always look sweet and playful. In the wild, they tend to express their rodent nature and it’s sort of like having a three foot rat swimming toward you. Florida tubing can have its drawbacks including: gators, otters, and eels (oh, no!). 

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