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Photo TR: CP


Gordon Bombay
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Yesterday I took a trip by myself to CP. Nope, not Cedar Point. Camden Park, West Virginia's only amusement park. I'm currently going to school in Athens, OH which makes KI and home 2.5 - 3 hours away, and Camden Park 2 hours away. At the advice of a good friend and needing a break from school, I decided to take a day trip to the small, family owned, park outside of Huntington, West Virginia.

I woke up to a cold, rainy morning. Called a friend in Huntington to see how the weather was, he advised that it was supposed to clear up. I decided to take the chance and to just go. After about an hour into the drive the rain stopped and the sun came out, the first of many good things that day. After getting turned around and lost for a little bit, I eventually made it to the park after about 2 hours.

I entered the front gate right as the park opened at 11 A.M. to find a very empty park:

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I took a brief walk around the park to check it out. It's very small, but has three classic roller coasters and a great collection of flat rides. Not to mention, its one of those classic American amusement parks that are fading around the country every year.

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-The parks carousel was 100 years old last season.

The park has a great collection of small rides for children, including this one which is one of the last of its kind:

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And these:

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This is the first amusement ride I can ever remember riding as a kid, expect that was at Fun Spot in Indiana, these are hard to come by.

To be honest, every trip report I had read about this park had been negative, but those seemed to be when the old owners were in place and trash on the midway along with the decaying THunderbolt roller coaster (formerly the Screaming Demon at Kings Island) were a common site. I had somewhat low expectations, even my neighbor, a native resident of Huntington couldn't believe I'd rather drive two hours to Camden when I had a pass to Kings Island. However, I was pleasantly surprised with my first impression of the park. Upon arriving and walking around it was clean, all but one ride was ready to go at opening, and every employee working the gate and on the midway said hi to me.

After making a round and snapping some photos I hopped on the classic Big Dipper, the parks 50 year old wooden roller coaster:

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-The Big Dipper still runs a classic Art Deco NAD train.

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-Big Dipper offers a pretty smooth ride, and while it could use a fresh coat of paint, is definitely an excellent coaster. The back seat is closed off, but the second seat from the back provides three violent pops of airtime (even better than Tornado at Strickers).

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-It is also operated by one employee using hand levers, a rare site these days.

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-Overview of the Dipper from the parks Ferris Wheel.

Great coaster, great first impression, I was off to a good start.

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-While in line for the coaster another guest in line with me pointed out these holes. Apparently they were once used to place your sno-cone in them while you rode.

After about four rides on The Big Dipper, which didn't have a very long line, I decided to get some lunch since I hadn't eaten breakfast before I left. A good friend of mine recommended the Pizza.

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$2.69 seems like a lot for a slice of pizza, but...

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...when the slice of pizza is 1/4 of the entire pizza, thats not a bad price at all. Interesting fact about the park, the woman who runs the pizza and hot dog stand actually makes the sauce for the hot dogs in the park. Although I love Kings Island and big parks, its nice to see something like that. Local flare in a park, rather than the typical chain food.

After lunch it was time for the haunted house. While RCDB doesn't recognize it as a roller coaster, you would think that it is. It has a chain lift then after that it's all gravity.

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Not the most intense ride in the world, and the theming.....well I won't ruin the surprise.....but it is the last of its kind, fun, and unique. Definitely worth checking out. Another thing to note is the brake when you come back into the station:

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Yep, the operator stands in front of the car and helps slow it down. This is allowed and is certified by the state. This was Scott, he was a really nice guy. He told me about how Kings Island is a place for his family to visit and how he can't wait to go to CP this summer.

After that I went down the next midway to try some of the flat rides:

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-The paratrooper (seen at left) provides a similar experience to the Flying Scooters that used to be at KI. One of the best things about Camden Park besides the short lines, is how long the ride cycles last, they go for forever. The Bullsseye (roundup ride) has the longest cycle of any roundup I've ridden. It's far more intense than the one at Stricker's (formerly Americana), the cycle took so long that I started to get sick and had to sit down afterwards.

After that was the parks Eli Bridge ferris wheel, which provides a great view of the park and the West Virginia hills.

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I popped into the gift shop where I got to meet the son of the owner, Jack, and the head of the park's rides department, Sean. Very nice guys, it was really cool getting to meet the folks who make that place run.

Around the back of the Big Dipper is some more flat rides. Such as the Scrambler:

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-This scrambler provides about a 10 minute cycle, this ride operator was hillarious. When younger kids would ride he would make noises every time they flew by him and he had them laughing the whole time.

The park also has a set of flying scooters built by Larson. While they don't snap like the old KI flyers, no matter how hard you try, they are at least a decent ride:

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The park's spider, a smaller, more intense model than KI's monster. The manual operation provides for a different ride experience nearly every time.

Up next was The Whip, aka Swiper's Sweepers for adults:

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My friend and I weren't sure, but does anyone remember if KI ever had one of these besides the small one?

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The Whip is a little rough, right before you go through the turns, when your vehicle engages the cog wheel, there is a bump, but with how fun the ride is its worth it.

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Interesting Fact: The artwork for the ride, and lots of the other artwork around the park were done by the owner's son, Jack.

Up next was the Bumper Cars. While the cars themselves are only 11 years old, the building and other parts are quite historic.

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The sides even still have the spring loaded walls and the long, 10 minute cycle really gives you a chance to have fun on this ride. My car had steering problems and I kept getting beat up by these little kids and their dad.

When I initially planned my trip to Camden Park, I posted a thread about getting advice for going there. Interpreter, as well as other posters and many other sites on the internet all recommended the home made corn dogs. So I tried one. Very good, really wish they served corn dogs at Kings Island. While I absolutely hate it, I know others do like it, they serve hand made Cotton Candy. They also make their own funnel cakes, unlike many of the big parks today.

I then headed towards the back of the park where I rode the Little Dipper. Also a NAD coaster with Art Deco NAD trains, this wood coaster has steel supports and is pretty intense for a kids ride.

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I went for a ride on the train and the skyliner (their sky ride):

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-In the middle you can see the mini-golf under construction, which is now in the area where Thunderbolt Express (formerly Screaming Demon at Kings Island) once stood. The mini golf looks brand new and I'm sure once all the landscaping is done it will look really nice. While the front midways are kind of crowded with rides and the power lines that go above the park, the back section is really calm, serene, and has a lot of green areas. It's a nice combination and really reminds me of Americana/Lesourdsville Lake.

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-Looking from the train at The Skyliner (which provides excellent views of the mini golf and a close call with the lamp posts) and The Skydiver.

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The Skydiver, similar to the Rock-o-plane at Coney Island Cincinnati was the only ride not open that day.

When Kings Island removed the Screaming Demon, it was purchased and moved to Camden Park. It seems something else Kings Island removed has made its way to Camden ;) :

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While I loved the classic midways and rides, the Swan Lake area of Camden was by far my favorite:

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-Notice a Tilt-A-Whirl that is not red, and a very colorful Kite Flyer. Ryan "Boddah1994" once said to me: "that ride had all tilta, but no whirl." The same could be said for the tilt-a-whirl at camden, the tubs hardly swung around at all.

The highlight of this area of the park though, is definitely the Log Flume. Built by Barr Engineering (just like Americana's/Lesourdsville Lake), this flume surprisingly soaks you, and it doesn't need an elephant to do it.

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-After the drop you get a small splash, then advance about 5 feet to where you get soaked.

Due to the low crowds many ride operators sat at their ride with nothing to do. I experienced a similar situation at Holiday World last year, except it seemed that the kids were hiding so as to make the ride appear closed in some cases. At Camden on Sunday, every time I passed a ride sitting idle, the ride operator would ask me or other guests around if they wanted to ride. A lot of the employees asked me about my camera or where I was from. Really friendly people there. This guy in particular was at the Log Flume all day and every time I came by we would get into a conversation:

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-While every person from foods to games to rides who I met was nice, this guy was definitely one of the nicest ride ops I have ever met in a park.

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-I don't think I ever saw anyone go out on the Swan Boats, and I opted not to as well.

Instead, I took part in another up charge attraction. One that you used to be able to find at the now defunct Americana/Lesourdsville Lake and Rides Side of Geauge Lake.

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-Feeding huge fish.

I spent the rest of the day doing quite a few more rounds on The Big Dipper and some of the other flat rides. I only did the Log Flume once as I hate getting wet in regular clothes. As I left I bought a shot glass for my collection and had an ice cream sundae. I was pleasantly surprised with Camden Park. Despite all the negative things people had said, it really is a great, little park. An example of parks from a bygone era, like how Americana was, parks you can't find any more and that are slowly dissapearing. I will always love the big parks such as Kings Island and Cedar Point, but its places like Camden that I will always enjoy too, its what I grew up going to and what I hope still exist for a long time. I'm really glad I made the trip sunday.

I spent the next two hours driving along scenic OH-7 by the Ohio River:

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Can't wait for school to be done and to get back to visiting Kings Island and Cincinnati. Hope you all enjoyed this trip report. Take Care.

-Gordon

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I always look forward to your photo trip reports. Your photography manages to capture the feeling of the subject. Excellent work. Camden park looks like a nice little park that has escaped the building up craze other parks experience. I've considered heading there but I didn't know what lies in store. This certainly helps. A+ Ronny.

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Ronny – have gotten to know you through the years and following your photography and likes of defunct/nostalgic points of interest including amusement parks your trip to Camden Park really in my opinion lent itself to your talents. Your pictures where great and your description of your day of the food, rides, employees and owners was spot on, I really liked how you went in to more detail about those subjects and I found myself wanting to read further in anticipation of what was next.

In Short; your trip report was awesome!!

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Thanks guys, I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Ever since I really got into photography it's made me look at places I visit in a whole new way and pay more attention to details and to spend more time as well as to go back to places I have been before I was into photography.

Now, if I can only get to a few more parks this summer.

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Great trip report Ronny! It's good to see people visiting a park rather close to me. I think it's about time that I make a trip down there myself, because I haven't in 14 or 15 years.

Oh, and if you're ever in the area again doing urban exploring, please let me in. I've always wanted to try and unearth some of the abandoned gems of our region.

Thanks for the wonderful pictures!

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Wonderful trip report!! Camden Park is in my back pocket and I have the greatest memories of the place. We drove up there an evening ago to find where it was again as we had not been there since we were little. We are going in a couple weeks. I did not realize there was that much back in there. I am really excited to go again and it looks like there is enough there to warrant a few trips.

I have a friend that works there and he says that everyone is so nice and that the new owners are the best. :)

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Excellent trip report, Ronny! I am so glad that someeone has finally gone there and can shed some light on what there is to do at CP. Too often, CP is overlooked for the amusement giants. While I love KI and Cedar Point, I grew up taking class trips to Camden at the end of the year. It was something that I always looked forward to. Of course, back in those days, it was $6.50 for an all day hand stamp or you had the option of paying .50 cents to get in and buy tickets to ride. And, even though the price has gone up and you have to pay for parking now, I feel it is worth it considering the amount of work the owners have put in to Camden. The Paratroopers, the Haunted House, and the Bullseye have all been recently painted. I myself, will be going with the wife and we are excited to try out the new miniature golf course. Except this time, I'll have to ride Big Dipper alone since my wife can no longer ride. Hopefully I can catch a ride on the Skydiver as I have never been on one of those.

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Looks like a nice park. I know how much you like tilt-o-whirls. Especially after your trip to Holiday World and being so broken up that the Turkey Whirl wasn't running. "We just love turkeys and love tilt-o-whirls, and when the two come together..."

Its a shame you missed out on the swan boats. I loved riding the swans that used to be at the other CP. I remember going through the fountain and filling the boat with water; talk about good times. Too bad they replaced them with some new launching coaster... Maverick or something...

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No, Kings Island never had an adult version of the Whip. I do not know why that ride was not relocated from Coney, but it wasn`t.

And the Skydiver ride is a ride that once resided at Coney in the 60s as well. And on the subject of red Tilt-A-Whrils, Coney`s Tilt-A-Whirl is green and purple. No red whatsoever on it.

Great trip report.

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^Speaking of Waldameer, Nemo and I are thinking about checking it out this summer especially with the Ravine Flyer II.

Thanks everyone for the kind words, I'm glad you enjoyed the trip report!

Great trip report Ronny! It's good to see people visiting a park rather close to me. I think it's about time that I make a trip down there myself, because I haven't in 14 or 15 years.

Oh, and if you're ever in the area again doing urban exploring, please let me in. I've always wanted to try and unearth some of the abandoned gems of our region.

Thanks for the wonderful pictures!

Thanks Tuba man, I'll let you know if I'm ever in that area to explore. One of the people I always explore with has a girlfriend who lives in Huntington, but we probably won't be back there until next Fall when I go back to Athens, unless a trip to Camden is in order this summer.

FanofBeast, have you been to Camden recently? How does it compare to your childhood?

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haven't been there in 30 years.

i remember the coasters and the haunted house.

there was one time i was in a ride(don't recall the name) and my seat belt came loose.

i took one heck of a ride before it stopped. no injuries though.

is the kids train ride still by the entrance?

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If you mean the handcars that the children crank to propel, yes, it's still there! There's an adult version at Idlewild! :)

yes it was the handcars.

we used to go there there on school and church trips.

i remember meeting Barbara Mandrel there.

for those not so advanced in age, she was a very big C&W star.

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You must be confused. Idlewild will reopen...it's owned by Kennywood Entertainment, and is very profitable...it's a neat kids park in Ligonier, PA.

EDITED: Perhaps you were thinking of Conneaut?

Yes, exactly, but according to the website it says that they may be able to open some parts of the park this year.

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Given the debt Conneaut faces, that seems rather unlikely. Conneaut was one of my favorite parks. People, if you think some day you may go to the Camden Parks of the world, please consider doing it now. I can give you a long list of small parks I have visited that are no longer there, from Americana to Whalom to Erie View, to Bushkill to Libertyland to Williams Grove to Miracle Strip and on and on and on. The small parks offer charm, ambience, funky rides and unique experiences. Visit them now, if you at all can.

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If you mean the handcars that the children crank to propel, yes, it's still there! There's an adult version at Idlewild! :)

Are you kidding me? An adult version of the handcars? That was always my favorite ride at Camden. Which side of Pennsylvania is Idlewild on?

Gordon, I just now noticed that you said three coasters. I agree that the Haunted House should count as a coaster. It has the chain lift and operates on gravity. Kinda reminds me of a wild mouse in a box.

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If you mean the handcars that the children crank to propel, yes, it's still there! There's an adult version at Idlewild! :)

Are you kidding me? An adult version of the handcars? That was always my favorite ride at Camden. Which side of Pennsylvania is Idlewild on?

Gordon, I just now noticed that you said three coasters. I agree that the Haunted House should count as a coaster. It has the chain lift and operates on gravity. Kinda reminds me of a wild mouse in a box.

Idlewild is in Ligonier, which is in southwestern Pennsylvania. It has quite the mouse, and a dandy little wood coaster, a Caterpillar with operating cover and is quite the place for parents with little ones (hint hint)! :) It's owned by the Kennywood folk, so it's gotta be good, and it IS! :)

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