Good clean fun is getting easier to come by all around Indiana. And that’s good — because it’s also the coolest fun around for our long, hot summer days.
We’re talking the cool, clean fun of water parks.
Almost everywhere we turn it seems, a community is announcing a ribbon cutting for a new water park or facility. Community pools, YMCAs, and activity centers are adding on to older facilities or building new ones out to make a splash. Water coasters, spiraling slides, wave pools, giant spilling buckets, and lazy meandering floating rivers, both indoor and out, are adding thrills, chills and relaxation for the whole family.
“Communities have definitely found that there’s something special about having a slide or a couple of things that are just a little bit more family friendly,” says Leah Koch-Blumhardt, the fourth-generation owner and director of communications at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus.
Splashin’ Safari is not only the biggest water park in Indiana, it’s also one of the Midwest’s largest. In addition, the park, partly served electrically by Southern Indiana Power, the electric cooperative serving primarily Perry and Spencer counties, is home to three of the four best water park rides in the world, according to the most recent Golden Ticket Awards. The awards are presented to the “Best of the Best” in the amusement industry.
Splashin’ Safari’s Wildebeest was named the Best Water Park Ride for the 11th consecutive year in a row, while Mammoth placed third and Cheetah Chase was fourth. Cheetah Chase, a water coaster, also won Best New Water Park Ride of 2020/2021.
Splashin’ Safari is in the midst of its 30th season, having been added to Holiday World in 1993. “It was supposed to be a two-phase project. The first phase was the lazy river and the kids’ area, and phase two was the wave pool,” Koch-Blumhardt says. “Over time, it became so popular that we added a family slide, and after that, we tried to get a water park attraction every year if we could.”
Holiday World, the amusement park that began as Santa Claus Land, celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. And while its three famed wooden coasters continue drawing crowds and acclaim, the water park was named the #2 Water Park in the World in the same Golden Ticket Awards that noted its three water coasters. The Splashin’ Safari half has become every bit an equal in the Holiday World landscape in both acreage and has even a larger capacity as the original land amusement park.
“Our water coasters have proven to be some of the highest demand attractions we have,” says Koch-Blumhardt. “Our water coasters will maintain hour-and-a-half- to two-hour lines on certain days, so the demand is just steady and consistent all day. It’s just not anything you can experience most other places. And most other parks don’t have three major water coasters like we do.”
Water parks began evolving quickly in the early 1980s, she notes, as waterslide technology improved quickly allowing for more elaborate rides and rushes and bigger splashes. “You really started to see bigger water parks arrive. Once Disney got involved, all of a sudden, the expectation was not only that you have a water park, but it needs to have some theming behind it, a story behind it.”
As that technology becomes a bit more affordable, some of it will trickle — or splash — down and be available at the smaller community water parks, she notes. “I don’t think you’re going to see a full Wildebeest or a full Mammoth or a full Cheetah Chase at your community water park anytime soon. But because those rides exist, it helps pave the way for some other, more thrilling slides for a local area pool. I can see them putting investment in some of those things. But we’ll continue to invest in kind of the shiniest, coolest stuff and we’ll still be a destination water park.”
Swimmin’ holes that make a splash
Here’s a sampling of water parks around the state that are more than just your average local swimming hole.
Big Splash Adventure and Resort
8524 W. State Road 56, French Lick, Indiana
Big Splash Adventure is a 40,000-square-foot indoor water park enclosed in glass and with a retractable roof. It’s located on a wooded hilltop near the famed French Lick Springs Hotel. With a pirate theme, the park is headlined by Buccaneer Bay, a three-story children’s play zone with 10 platforms and nearly 50 interactive play features that keep all hands on deck. It is open year-round. Plus, Big Splash has the convenience of a hotel with room and water park packages.
Deep River Waterpark
9001 E. Lincoln Highway, Crown Point, Indiana
Deep River Waterpark is Northern Indiana’s largest water park. The park features many fun activities and rides for all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. A major attraction is the Kraken, a six-lane mat slide racer ride. The ride propels you twisting and turning through a translucent tube.
Indiana Beach Water Park
5224 E. Indiana Beach Road, Monticello, Indiana
Indiana Beach Amusement and Water Park is located along the shores of Lake Shafer. You will find six of the Midwest’s largest and wildest water slides, a splash fun zone full of fountains, the Big Flush water coaster and action river for relaxation. Parkside cabins and camping are also available.
Pine Lake Waterpark
4640 Indiana Highway 218, Berne, Indiana
From adults to kids, Pine Lake is sure to entertain the whole family! There are four major slides; 10-foot, 20-foot, and 30-foot jumps; a cable ride; log walk; splash pad; and more at this historical family-owned recreational lake.
Prophetstown State Park Aquatic Center
5545 Swisher Road, West Lafayette, Indiana
The aquatic center features a 30-foot tube slide, body flume, lazy river float area, adventure channel, zero-entry pool with play features, and an aquatic activity area where guests can enjoy playing basketball.
452 E. Christmas Blvd, Santa Claus, Indiana
Trip Advisor and USA Today have voted Splashin’ Safari as #1 in the Midwest repeatedly. You will also find the world’s longest water coaster (Mammoth) and the #1 water park ride in the world (Wildebeest) there.
In addition, one admission price also lets you into the land park that continues earning acclaim for its wooden roller coasters. As a bonus, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari continues to provide free parking, free soft drinks and free sunscreen.
1915 Scott St., Lafayette, Indiana
From the spiraling Banana Peel tube slide to the leisurely Cattail Crik, Tropicanoe Cove offers the perfect blend of Hoosier hospitality with the pleasure of a watery paradise of cool summertime fun for the entire family.
YMCA Camp Clay Aqua Park and Splash Pad
9196 Liberty-Union Road, Van Wert, Ohio
This water park isn’t in Indiana (it’s about 10 miles east), but YMCA Camp Clay Aqua Park and Splash Pad in northwestern Ohio is a popular place for folks on both sides of the state line. Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative, which is based in Ohio but serves several thousand consumers in northeastern Indiana, sponsors a special day at the park and is planning next year’s “Member Appreciation Day” at the water park.
The YMCA Camp Clay Aqua Park and Splash pad consists of seven water attractions and three floating splash mats. Boating with canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and peddle boats is also available. Another big attraction is a water zip line.
Kids weigh in on ways to make water parks even more wondrous
Before the school year ended in May, third graders at Brownstown Central Elementary in Brownstown offered Indiana Connection some opinions on what makes water parks special … and what would make them even more special.
“Big Splash (in French Lick) is my favorite water park because I love their big water slide,” says Brantley. “On the big slide you get to go around in circles. I love their yellow water slide because you get to go so fast.” Brantley also likes the slower paced attractions. “I love the lazy river because you can stay there for hours and hours.”
Along with the usual water park attractions, two other students dreamed of some even bigger perks:
“If I created my own water park it would have … a pond with sea creatures living in it and an aquarium with turtles and penguins,” says Bannon
“I would have a sea animal area for the little kids to pet the animals. … And I would have a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel,” notes Ariana. “And its name would be ‘Water World,’ and the hotels would look like they are under water.”
Electricity and water don’t mix
During the summer, many Hoosiers will be enjoying pools and lakes around the state. Indiana Electric Cooperatives reminds swimmers that water and electricity do not mix.
- Avoid electric shock by using only battery-operated radios or similar electronics near the pool when possible. Keep all corded electronics and appliances out of reach and away from water.
- Never touch plugged-in electrical appliances such as a radio or adjust wired patio or yard lights if you are wet or standing in water.
- If someone in the pool feels electricity (almost like a stinging feeling) or appears to have been shocked, do not dive in. You could be shocked, too. Instead, turn off the power and use a non-metal shepherd’s hook to pull him or her out of the water to safety.
- Avoid swimming or going in the water near boats plugged into shore power or docks with electrical services. If you are in the water and feel electricity, stay calm and swim to shore if you can but do not touch a metal ladder or any other metal objects.
Staying safe while near the water is simple but these tips can be easily forgotten.