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They'll be Slidin' Down the Mountain

Mountain Creek Water Park, Vernon, New Jersey

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Mountain Creek New Jersey water park

Mountain Creek water park is nestled in a New Jersey mountainside.

Arthur Levine
Mountain Creek water slide

Many of the slides use the mountain's natural terrain.

Arthur Levine
Mountain Creek water park New Jersey

The Tarzan Swings are among the unique attractions at Mountain Creek.

Jeremy Levine

At most water parks, you have to work for your fun: riding the slides involves climbing a bunch of stairs. Mountain Creek is not like most water parks...but you still have to work for your fun. Built into the side of a mountain, just getting through the park's main gate and over to the lockers involves trudging up a steep path. Most of the rides use the mountain's natural topography and don't rise above the ground or require climbing towers. And what wild rides! Even the park's "family" raft ride appears to be designed for a family of extreme thrill seekers.

 

Phone:

973-864-8444

Operating Schedule:

The park is open early June through early September. Check with Mountain Creek for exact operating days and hours.

 

Location and Directions:

The physical address is 200 Route 94 in Vernon, New Jersey. For GPS, use the address, 200 McAfee Vernon Road, Vernon, NJ.

It is in northern New Jersey, about an hour from New York City.

From NYC, take the Holland Tunnel (14th St.) to NJ-139 W. Exit to US 1-9 N to RT-3 W ramp toward New Jersey Turnpike/ Rt. 495 onto NJ-3 W. Take US-46 W to NJ-23 toward Wayne. Right onto CR-515/Stockholm Vernon Rd., then left onto NJ-94/McAfee Vernon Rd. to park.

Admission Policy:

Reduced price for children (under 48") and seniors (65+). Ages 2 and under are free. Reduced rates for guests arriving 3 hours before closing. Season passes and group rates are available. Special promotions may be available online at the park's Web site. Parking is additional.

 

Hotel Info:

On-property lodging:
Read about Black Creek Sanctuary at Mountain Creek.

Compare rates for Black Creek Sanctuary at TripAdvisor.

Waterpark Features:

All kinds of water slides, including speed slides, enclosed slides, a funnel ride, and one-of-a-kind slides plus a wave pool, lots of activities for small children and an interactive water play area.

High Anxiety funnel ride review.

See the Water Park:

Photo Tour of Mountain Creek

New at Mountain Creek:

For 2009, the park introduced Alpine Pipeline, an enclosed double tube slide.

Water Park Overview
"The Action is Back." So proclaims the advertising copy for Mountain Creek. The catchphrase has something of a double meaning. Many of the park's rides are quite aggressive and provide more than a fair amount of action. But the tagline also refers to the park's origins.

When it opened in 1976, Mountain Creek was known as Action Park. About the same vintage as pioneers River Country at Walt Disney World and Orlando's Wet 'n Wild, Action Park was one of the industry's first water parks. With hundreds of water parks worldwide, the industry has since matured. Most parks now get their rides from a handful of manufacturers and tend to be cookie-cutter imitations. But with no prototype, Action Park's developers had to make it up as they went along.

That led to some tragic missteps when a series of fatalities occurred at the park in the 1980s. It's not surprising that its new owner changed the park's name in 1998 (even if it obliquely conjures its origins through its advertising slogans). The most notorious rides are gone, but echoes of the distinctive water park remain.

Instead of water slide towers that rise off of the ground, most of the parks' rides use the mountain's terrain. That means walking around the park's steep grade requires a bit of huffing and puffing. It also means that none of the slides or other attractions are visible to motorists along Route 94. In fact, with its small signs and low profile, those passing by may not even know the park is there unless they are looking for it.

Look out for the moguls

Once inside the park, it can be a bit disorienting trying to find the rides. Because they use the mountain's topography, many of the slides meander under pathways, twist and turn into each other, and otherwise remain camouflaged by the park's dense trees. One sure way to find the rides: follow the screams.

Mountain Park's unique rides, particularly the older ones, are unusually hard-hitting. For example, the Colorado River, which the park describes rather benignly as a family raft ride, is devilishly rowdy. Family members need to hang on for dear life as the river's steep pitch builds up tremendous speed and moguls built into the trough send the rafts careening. As if it wasn't bewildering enough, at one point the rafts enter a cave-like structure for a nearly lights-out ride. I'm not complaining, mind you. Thrills are the Holy Grail for many park enthusiasts, myself included. But the Colorado River's red diamond rating, the park's second-highest level, combined with its designation as a family ride is misleading. This was nearly as wild as any water slide I've ever tried.

Untamed, almost out-of-control experiences abound at Mountain Creek. Bombs Away's short slide abruptly ends and sends brave souls freefalling about 15 feet into a gulch. The adjacent Canyon Cliffs skips the slide; daredevils simply jump off the edge for a 20-foot dive into the water. Even Cannon Ball Falls, a pair of run-of-the-mill looking enclosed body slides, accelerate quickly (they're located on a particularly steep part of the mountain) and dump riders about seven feet above a pool of water where, cartoon-character style, they momentarily defy gravity before dropping with a thud.

You Might Get High Anxiety

Other attractions include High Anxiety, a fun and visually funnel ride. At 99 feet, the H2-Oh-No speed slide is among the world's tallest and fastest. Located at the highest point along the mountain, the vista adds to the thrills and provides a breathtaking view. Riders on the Tarzan Swings use a trapeze (sorry, no vines) to sway over a pool. Some let go of the trapeze at the height of its arc and gracefully make their plunge. Others panic and let go just above the water for an ungraceful face-first plop.

Besides its status as one of the oldest water parks, Mountain Creek is also among the largest. With about 24 attractions spread among its 36 acres, there's a sense of discovery as guests stumble upon yet another slide partially hidden in the forest-like setting. And while the park is heavy on the thrills, there are plenty of rides for less adventurous fun-seekers. The Hightide Wavepool is enormous and can accommodate a gaggle of swimmers seeking its surf or some between-waves heat relief. Small kids have their own mini lazy river (oddly, Mountain Creek doesn't have a lazy river for big'uns--a staple at nearly all other water parks) and plenty of other diversions.

There are lots of food stands and a decent variety of meals, but the prices are a bit steep. The park doesn't allow guests to bring in food, but does allow them to tote their own bottled water. Take them up on the offer.

Located about an hour from New York City, the northern New Jersey location has an enormous population base from which to draw. Intrawest, the company that owns the park and the entire mountain complex must appreciate the potential. It is investing a lot of capital in the park as well as the adjoining ski mountain. It also has ambitious plans to develop an entire mountain village with vacation homes, lodging, shops, galleries, clubs, and restaurants. That should bring lots of action to the rural New Jersey outpost.

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