Sunday, March 9, 2008

Water Sliding at Buffalo River

When I was a teenager, there was a water slide near Buffalo River that gave me some absolutely fantastic memories. You see, back in the 70's, no one had ever heard of water slides around here. There was no "Wild River Country".

Water sliding was an entirely new concept for us teens.

Sometime during the camping trip, we would bum money from our parents, gather up every teenager in the camping group, gather up every other teenager in the park, load up into the back of one pick-up truck and head towards the place which we had anticipated all year. Once there, we paid for an hour, got a white foam mat, wore ourselves out careening down a winding, narrow concrete chute, landing at the bottom into a catch pool that was way too shallow. We then grabbed our mat and returned to the top by climbing a near-vertical hill.

The surface of this water slide was concrete. Not the polished kind of concrete that water slides are made of today. It was the surface of a concrete block.
It was that rough. You learned quickly to STAY ON YOUR MAT! To let the mat come out from under your body meant, not only that you ruined your swimsuit, but you also lost whatever skin was exposed. The skin was usually freshly sunburned.

Did I mention that the owners did not seem to know how much chlorine was too much? There were no germs or algae growing in that water slide.
It smelled and felt like pure Clorox.

One of the things that made this water slide so great was that there were no rules. Actually there were a few posted, but we never obeyed them and the teenage boy "in charge" never enforced them. In fact, he occasionally grabbed a mat and slid down with us.

We could go down the boring way with our butts on the mat, or take our life in our hands and go down face first. There were even a couple of us (not me!) who attempted to go down standing up!

"Let's make a train!"
By placing all of our mats in a line and hooking our legs around the person in front of us, we could make a train of 7-10 people. The weight of multiple people sent us down the slide at warp speed and often sent us nearly over the top of the curves. By the time we reached the landing pool at the bottom, we were out of control and convinced that death was a certainty.

At the end of the "train" ride, pity the poor person who was in front. They were occasionally trapped underwater, at the bottom of the pile of mats and laughing, screaming bleeding teenagers.
We usually fought to be in front.

After our hour was up, we piled ourselves into the pick-up truck for the 5 minute ride back to camp and spent the rest of the day comparing abrasions, inspecting ruined swimsuits, rubbing our red burning eyes and laughing at ourselves and each other.
Bed time sure felt good on those nights.

Now, when I go camping with my family, and pass the place of this water slide, I will often pull up to that deserted tiny building and look down the hill towards the winding piece of concrete which is now covered with vines, leaves and faded blue paint.
My kids have heard of the fun.
They are jealous.

It's been closed now for years.
I am sure that water slide authorities (whoever they are) would never allow it to be open. It would be "way too dangerous":
The curves too sharp,
the descent too steep,
the landing pool too shallow,
the chemicals too strong,
and of course, the surface too rough.
However, when I think of all the hundred times I have been down other water slides,...the safe ones,... I have never even come close to experiencing the laughing, screaming exhilaration like I did at the Buffalo River slide.

Of course, it was dangerous,.....that's what made it great.

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