Camden Park 7/19/08 (Day 8)

Lord Gonchar's avatar
The final day of our latest trip was meant to include a stop at Camden Park and a short drive home. That's exactly how it went.

Camden Park thoughts:

- What's with the parking booth being 30 feet off the road? If more than three cars at a time try to enter the park, there's a back-up onto the highway.

- We scored $5 off coupons and it still felt like a little too much.

- The guys running the coasters were standouts in the staff department. Both were really cool and watching them operate the coasters was entertainment in itself. Well beyond pushing the green button. :)

- By my estimate, 30% of the arcade didn't work or was broken...including the game where you try to push the quarters off the edge and there were no refunds.

- While the park was undoubedly safe, any safety procedures were purely an accident. (come on, that's clever wordplay)

- The Haunted House was cool. The speed through the house was insane. That thing flies through there.

- The Dinostore hidden around the corner of Big Dipper was a hidden surprise. The older lady working the counter there was a gem too.

- The Hot Cat ride is sick. What's the history on that?

- Paratooper! :)

- What was with all the bees at the park? They were everywhere. The men's bathroom had a cloud of Raid lingering when we went in and an employees swatting away at them.

- Speaking of the men's room, the stall doors still have the pay contraptions on them although they're not in use. Some of you guys joke about it, but there was a movement where pay toilets were a thing a while back. Anyone know when Camden used them?

- What's up with the operator controls on Lil' Dipper? Looked to be two vavles and a bunch of pipes like it was running on steam or something. :)

- The back row of Big Dipper was roped off.

- Skydiver! :)

- More camoflauge hats per capita than any other park on Earth.

- Not too often that you'll see more people smoking in line than not. Nah, that's an exaggeration, but it was entirely tolerated as far as I could tell.

- Some of the longest lines of this whole trip were found today at Camden Park.

- The Swan Boats were a $3-a-head upcharge.

- I never once saw the bumper cars operating, but they always had a line. Weird.

- I expected a lot more 'charm' and a lot less searing-hot blacktop swarming with bees surrounding rides that appear minimally maintained.

- For the price conscious, let me note that a large lemonade was $3.99. So was the large Slush. The pop was $2.49.

- I'm 90% sure the food in the machines to feed the fish was cat food.

- Earlier in the week we had done some of the longest, tallest, most intimidating lifts around in the Smokies, yet no one would brave Camden's simple Skyliner.

- I don't know why in hindsight, but I was surprised to see so many Kings Island billboards in the area.

All in all a decent enough stop. Not sure I'd have any reason to make the drive to visit again in the near future, but I enjoyed today's visit (partially for the wrong reasons).

coasterqueenTRN's avatar
^The pay toilets were in use several years ago. I don't know why they still have them up. It still makes me chuckle when I see them.

The bee problem has been on and off for years. Actually it used to be MUCH worse. The log flume area used to be nothing but weeds, poison ivy, and just general brush. People complained of getting stung. They removed all that crap which makes it look better.

The miniature golf area (when the Tbolt was still there and was SBNO) was grown up with weeds, which made it even worse as far as the bees. It's not just Camden Park, though. I live about 30 minutes from the park and the bees are horrible. It must be that time of year. I put out some hummingbird feeders a few weeks ago and I came home the other day to find a SWARM of them sucking those things dry.

It was scary. :)

Glad you got to stop by the park! Did you get to ride the flyers and whip?

The Big Dipper guy is a trip, if it's the same guy we are talking about.


*** Edited 7/20/2008 11:39:38 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

I mentioned on another thread that for the price they charge, Camden should give you a waterpark as well as rides. Most likely the reason they don't have one is because there is no space for a decent one. KW had the same problem so they built one in a different location.

There's also the matter of parking. Camden charges for parking even with the relatively high admission price! Most small parks have free parking unless they are in a busy resort area where parking is at a premium.

As for pay toilets, many parks used to have them years ago. I remember seeing them in KW and other western PA parks back in the 1970s.

Camden is not alone with bee (or is it yellow jacket) problems. Even a better maintained park like Lake Compounce has has its share of problems with the stinging bugs.

. *** Edited 7/20/2008 12:33:22 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

Maybe they were catfish. :)

The Hot Cat is the park's attempt to turn their original Caterpillar (which operated near the gate when I was boy) into I thought it was hilarious and it seems very popular.

I'd forgotten about the pay toilets! They were commonplace back in the day in busy public places- parks, train stations, department stores. I suppose it was a way to offset maintenence costs and keep riffraff away. (Maybe at Camden they finally figured it was a lost cause). They also inspired the original last line of that well known poem- "paid my dime and only farted".

I thought Camden was expensive, especially for such a depressed area. (Huntington is a nice city, and a college town, but you don't need to go far...) I've mentioned in a previous thread that I was in the area for work, on some random Wednesday, and thought I'd stop in for a quick spin or two and a walk down memory lane. Well by the time I was done with parking and admission I was well into the 30 dollar range. The place was very busy, too. (It is the only option for that kind of fun in the tri-state area.) They used to offer general admission, and tickets for rides, but I guess no more.

Bees are our friends. But at the park? Not so much. You know, they might even have restrictions on controlling them, as bee populations are in grave danger of becoming extinct. Which means so will we. You should have been with me a few weeks ago at Cicada Island where northern Cincinnati was experiencing the return of the 17 year locust. Imagine one of those hideous things hitting you in the face at 50 miles an hour! Yech!

It sounds like you had a great trip. I'm jealous. Now, back to work!

john peck's avatar
That Big Dipper seat was roped off on my first visit in 2001 and my recent visit in June.

All in all, I think it's a nice park as well. It has done a complete 180 inbetween my two visits there.

LostKause's avatar
I thought that you never wait in lines, Gonch. It saddens me to see that you had to stoop to my level.

Camden is okay for a few hours. I find myself going there about once a year now. Our area might seems "depressed", but there is a lot of money going around too. We could use a real theme park around here, and if it was larger than Camden but priced about the same, it would make a killing, imo.

matt.'s avatar

Lord Gonchar said:
- I expected a lot more 'charm' and a lot less searing-hot blacktop swarming with bees surrounding rides that appear minimally maintained.

I can see where one might expect that, as many of my fellow charm lovers will champion Camden in the same breath as other more actually-charming parks. Camden is kinda in a different realm, though, more into the "so bad it's good" kind of atmosphere. At least for me, my last visit would have been in 2001 or so.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

LostKause said:
I thought that you never wait in lines, Gonch. It saddens me to see that you had to stoop to my level.

I know. I had to wait three whole trains for the Big Dipper and probably 10 minutes for the Haunted House. Other than that it was the kids waiting to ride, not me.

matt. said:
Camden is kinda in a different realm, though, more into the "so bad it's good" kind of atmosphere. At least for me, my last visit would have been in 2001 or so.

Yeah, Santa's Land on Day 1 of the trip was one of those places. So ridiculous that you had to love it. Camden was just so bad it was bad.

Is it the kinda bad in the way Williams Grove was? :)
coasterqueenTRN's avatar
I would say Williams Grove was more "dumpish" but I liked that park as well. It had it's own quirkiness like Camden. Like what was mentioned above Camden has done a complete 180. Five years ago the place was a real dump......weeds everywhere, the TBolt LITERALLY falling apart (it was the biggest eyesore ever!) and half the rides not operating.

In a time where these small parks are dropping like flies, it's good to see Camden being one of the ones that is actually flourishing. I don't see a waterpark anytime soon, but like I mentioned before I think the Charleston/Huntington area would BENEFIT from a huge indoor waterpark. And they keep wondering why West Virginians go out of state for these things....DUH!

But nobody listens to me. ;)


Santa's Land on Day 1 of the trip was one of those places. So ridiculous that you had to love it. Camden was just so bad it was bad.

It's possible that if you'd seen them in the other order, you'd've drawn different conclusions. At the end of a big trip, one's patience for so-bad-it's-good wears pretty thin.

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Perhaps, Brian. That's always a possibility, I suppose.

I think there was a difference other than the timing though.

Camden was unkempt, small and overpriced with rundown old buildings & facades, lots of blacktop midways and a collection of standard rides with a couple notable exceptions set just off the highway with trees surrounding it where the manual operation of the coasters amused me.

Santa's Land was cheesy, small and overpriced with old buildings & facades, lots of gravel pathways and a collection of standard rides, animals and attractions set just off the highway with trees surrounding it where the stern warnings and posted example of what happens to your hat if you wear it on the coaster amused me.

Subtle but important differences. :)

So, just *had* to get your TR in at 3:47 in the morning, didnja? Fine, I'll just piggyback. ;)

My family has their annual reunion in Point Pleasant every July. Now I hate reunions, but this year I finally broke down and went -- primarily as an excuse to drive the additional 45 minutes to Huntington.

Camden Park's web site has a pretty good combo deal with the local Best Western. $109 for one night and four free passes. Since the passes normally run $21, I figured out that meant the hotel was only $25. Sounded like a good deal to me. (I won't get into the ridiculous checking in problems we experienced and will instead save them for a future episode of I Love Lucy.)

Since it was just my six year old daughter and I, we were able to use two of the tickets for Saturday evening and the other two Sunday afternoon. Both days were insanely hot and muggy; only the first evening was particularly busy, with ride waits of ten to fifteen minutes typical. The next day most attractions were walk on.

The park is in a pretty location, nestled between one of the main east-west thoroughfares and a small, tree-lined tributary of the Ohio River. There were some nice views of the river from picnic shelters behind the rides.

It's obvious an attempt to upgrade the park is being made. The parking lot looks like new asphalt. The new putt putt golf course is nothing exceptional, but it is nicely themed with animatronic hillbillies (and aren't those the best kind?) Big Dipper boasted some new wood on some of the straights and bents, although it woulda been nice if they could have taken a stab at painting the rest of the ride. It looks absolutely decrepit. I saw what appeared to be a new catwalk going all the way around the L'il Dipper.

Everywhere you look, it's a weird juxtaposition of decrepitude and shiny newness. Example: the Flyers look to be practically brand new. The concrete pad underneath looks fairly fresh, yet it is torn up by some impressive cracks overgrown with weeds.

Big Dipper offers a surprisingly intense ride. In the back car there are three really sweet pops of air. It's a standard double figure eight design with a long tunnel enclosing the 'out' half of the second eight. It was quite fun, and we opted to ride it three times on Saturday and a couple more the next day.

L'il Dipper is that rarest of creatures, a kiddie woodie with a steel structure. It's a fairly mild ride, not as jerky as it looks. Worth it if you're a credit ho, and arguably so even if you're not.

I agree with Gonch about the ride ops. The guy running Big Dipper was great! He tried to fire up each train that left the station. As we re-rode a number of times, we got to talk a good bit. He was very proud of 'his' coaster and boasted both its 50 year anniversary and the much older train. When I mentioned they looked like old style PTC Flyers he practically jumped up and down. I asked if the headlights still worked and he said yes, but they weren't allowed to turn them on because they weren't replaceable. As a bonus, he gave us what he called a 'turbocharged' ride. He cranked the lift motor up to what must have been full throttle, giving us a quicker cresting of the lift hill and noticeably faster momentum on the course. Woo! I didn't even know those old chain lifts were equipped with variable speed motors.

The log ride was terrific. The two hills were deceptive in their short height; the first was only about ten feet tall and the second maybe 22, but we got fairly soaked even so. The rest of the course, the entire channel is sunk directly into the ground, so you're riding amid the grass. It was oddly pleasing. I seem to remember riding another log ride that somewhere, but I can't place the park.

It was weird how arbitrarily the height restrictions were enforced. Most of the time, they weren't at all. I saw a kid who couldn't have cleared three feet get on L'il Dipper, which had a 48" min. height posted. At Bullseye, which is basically a Roundup themed like a roulette wheel, the height marker looked to be at least 52 inches, but the ride op decided my 49 1/2" tall daughter was tall enough. I'm not complaining.

On almost every flat we rode, we got fantastic ride times. We received one of the best rides on a Tilt-a-Whirl I've ever gotten. Ditto for the Spider.

I opted out of riding the Skydiver, in part because I didn't want to leave my daughter for that long, but also because I don't like how those slowly inverting rides tear up my shoulders. However, we did take on the Skyliner -- the single scariest skyride I've ever seen. The pulley mechanisms on either side of the support poles rattle back and forth, and the poles themselves sway noticeably. I tried to disguise my terror when the kids in the gondola behind us started bouncing up and down, causing the entire cable to reverberate (and us too).

The Skyliner follows the entire layout of the putt putt golf course overhead, and my vanity was tickled when my hole in one shot was cheered from overhead . . . :)

I've never seen more tobacco chewing/spitting at an amusement park. The train has a sign forbidding specifically eating, drinking, and tobacco. Not smoking, tobacco. People also had the weird propensity of dropping shoes, hats, even water bottles, from rides, like it was some sort of West Virginian sport. (I have W. Virginian DNA, so I'm allowed to question it.)

As Gonch mentioned, the prices on soft drinks were horrendous. We're talking Cedar Fair, Six Flags bad. A ten ounce Coke in a plastic cup at the cafeteria ran me $2.11 after tax. With no refills permitted and requiring an additional cup to wash down my BBQ sandwich, I ended up paying $4.22 for the equivalence of a twenty ounce drink -- the worst price I have ever paid anywhere, I believe.

The Haunted House was truly neat. Not particularly scary, but cool. I'm tempted to count it as a coaster credit. Hmm, let's see: chain lift, one drop, multiple turns, completely gravity propelled. Works for me . . .

So where did the old Screamin' Demon from Kings Island stand? Was that the Tbolt that somebody else mentioned?

One thing: I wish they would either tear down the Ferris Wheel or replace it. It's right along side the road, and it looks terrible. From the look of it, it's been SBNO for some years. I couldn't even spot controls for it.

At one point, I discovered I had lost my cell phone. After retracing our steps past multiple rides and benches, we ended at the Tilt-a-Whirl. The ride op had found it in the car (apparently all those gees from the spins had forced it out of my pocket) and was safekeeping it. He was genuinely excited that he could get it back to its owner. Very cool.

Most of the employees were pleasant, even above and beyond the call of duty. There were a few bad apples, but then again every park this side of Orlando has their share.

All in all, we truly liked the park for what it was. Part run down carnival, part resurgent family park. We would have stayed longer than we did on Sunday, had it not been so frickin' hot. It will be interesting to get back here in 2 or 3 years and see what progress they've made. *** Edited 7/21/2008 6:29:25 PM UTC by Ensign Smith***

My author website:

Lord Gonchar's avatar
If anyone doesn't like my curmudgeonly thoughts, just read Ensign Smith's "through rose colored glasses" report and you'll feel better. ;)

Just kidding, ES. That's a pretty fair assessment of the park. I would've leaned a little more towards "run down carnvial" than "resurgent family park" but still...

LostKause's avatar
I rode the Ferris Wheel the day before opening day this year. It was pretty scary, I might add, and the ride op was stranger than most.

Yes, Screamin' Demon was Thunderbolt Express, and it was located in the same place the new mini golf is now. TE replaced an old mini golf back in the day.

I don't dislike the park. I think it is WAY too expensive for whet is offered. I like it because I have been going there ever since i was a child and it holds some dear memories for me. One of the first time I ever made out was in the Haunted House. I was like 13 or something and didn't know the other person was interested until we started up the

I figured it must have been installed where the current golf course sits. It's about the only place it could go, and it's, well, perfectly Screamin' Demon sized.

It must have been awfully close to the skyride.

Gonch, I prefer to call them 'wine-hued spectacles' . . .

My author website:

Lord Gonchar's avatar
I believe those are commonly known as 'beer goggles' ;)

In West Virginia, maybe even "Bud Goggles".

My author website:

Did you ride The Whip? Best one this side of Rye Playland
Don't know if you're asking Gonch or me, but yes, my daughter and I rode it on Sunday -- one ride only. It was one of the rougher Whips I've been on, especially with the long ride cycle. One ride was enough.

My author website:

You must be logged in to post

POP Forums - ©2022, POP World Media, LLC