Every summer, I feel a little nostalgic for Geauga Lake. My family would usually go about once a year, and visiting the amusement park was one of the best experiences of my young childhood. When I was a kid, I had dreamed of some day living near the park, and going every day of my adult life. It was going to be fucking sweet. But I eventually grew up, and realized this wasn’t feasible, in fact I never even made it back for the final year, when it closed in 2007.
The amusement park portion itself opened in 1969, and ran under the name “Geauga Lake” until it was re-branded in 2000 as “Six Flags Ohio”. Without knowing it, this would be the beginning of the end. Through mismanagement, greed, and branding, re-branding and un-branding, the park would eventually close, and many of the rides were either shipped away, or demolished on site and sold for scrap. Say what you will for Cedar Point, but my family didn’t go there when I was a kid; it was too far away, and cost too much money. Every summer, it was Geauga Lake that I was looking forward to visiting.
In today’s artice, we will re-visit some my favorite Geauga Lake rides and attractions of the past, back in it’s glory days, and near the bottom is a fun promotional video of the park, circa 1982. The park may be gone, but in my mind it’s not forgotten. Fuck you again Cedar Fair, for killing my childhood dreams, I hope it was worth it you filthy bastards. Enjoy.
“The Big Dipper” (1925-2007)
It’s only fitting that we begin with the Big Dipper, as it was the oldest running wooden coaster in Ohio, up until the park closed. Built in 1925, and re-named “The Big Dipper” in 1969, this beast was always an enjoyable time. I used to really like this ride, as there is just an old-school feel of a wooden coaster, almost as if it is exponentially more dangerous. Plus the steel coasters were usually more of a draw, so the lines for this ride were always decently short, and you could get on and off and back on quite successfully. For being the oldest coaster, this is one of the few attractions that is still standing (for now), however it is non-operational. A classic wooden coaster for the ages.
The “Gold Rush” Log Flume (1972-2007)
You may not remember this ride as well as I do, but it was one of my favorites. You got into a heavy plastic boat resembling a log with two or three other people, and you were pulled up a big hill while you heard “click click click click” until you reach the summit, and then up at the top you paused ever-so briefly, before descending down the hill at high speed, splashing yourself and anyone else near. Don’t get me wrong, this ride wasn’t the most exciting of the park, and you can even argue “Grizzly Run” was a much better “wet-ride” with more excitement, but there was just something special about the Gold Rush. The ride was eventually renamed “Pepsi Plunge”, because who doesn’t love corporate branding.
The Double Loop (1977-2007)
One of the earlier popular steel coasters, the Double Loop was opened in 1977, a couple years before “The Corkscrew”. It was nothing fancy, but still pretty awesome, and ran as stated on Wikipedia:
"After exiting the station, the train makes a 180-degree left-hand turnaround inside a tunnel. The train is pulled up the lift hill and goes down the 45° degree first drop. The train coasts up an incline, then negotiates another 180-degree left-hand turnaround before dropping into two consecutive vertical loops. Another ascent follows, going into a 360-degree left-hand downward helix and returning to the station."
Over the years, the ride would be painted several different colors, but I mostly remember it having the black and yellow tracks, with yellow and red cars. As new steel coasters would be unveiled in late 90’s and after the Six Flags takeover, this ride became less popular, but it was always a favorite of mine, and it’s excitement resided in it’s simplistic nature. In 2008 it was bought for $25,000 by Cleveland Scrap, and was unfortunately demolished.
The Wave (1984-1999)
The Wave opened in 1984, and is perhaps the most fondest memory of the park I had as a small child. I remember being both excited and fearful of it, as the attraction was literately a pool that became deeper as you swam out further, and every few minutes a tone would sound, and the ride would release a giant wave. When I was a kid, one of the waves actually knocked me back against the concrete, and knocked the wind out of me, and from what I was told I was unconscious for a couple of minutes. But do you think that stopped me from going back in? I was back in ten minutes later, without, because it was that fucking awesome. The Wave eventually closed in 1999, when the park changed over to Six Flags ownership, and the new management attempted to renovate the park. Losing The Wave alone is a tragedy in my book.
The Merry Oldies Cars (1972-2007)
Again not the most exciting thrill Geauga Lake had to offer, but I still really loved the Merry Oldies Cars. I mean I was a young kid, where else would someone have the misguided trust to let me drive a car? The only kicker to this ride was that all of the cars were secured to a track, so really all you were able to control was the speed (that went up to about 5 miles per hour or so) and a steering wheel that would let you turn about 5 degress left or right. But fuck it, I still thought they were cool. Many fender benders (and threats of being kicked out of the park) abounded.
The Raging Wolf Bobs (1988-2007)
Tucked away back in the deep corner of the park near the lake and Seaworld, you would find the wooden coaster The Raging Wolf Bobs. The ride was based on a similar wooden coaster in Chicago titled “The Bobs“, made in 1924 and demolished about 21 years before The Raging Wolf Bobs was created itself. My cousin and I would repeatedly ride this ride, sometimes three of four times in a row, until we chucked our Hot Pockets all over the side-walk. The ride itself sold for a measly $2,500 for scrap wood, and the demolition began in 2011.
The Rotor (1981-2000)
I’m not sure if anyone else really remembers this ride, as it was a very basic concept. In the Rotor, you stand in an upright steel barrel that starts spinning leaving you stuck to the wall of the drum, and the floor drops out and essentially you are floating in mid-air. I ride this quite a few times, and actually observed the legend of “The Rotor Man”. He was a fella that visited the park just about every day, and you would typically find him riding this ride, or throwing up out front in the bushes. Not much is known about him, but there is a Facebook page devoted to him, and he can be seen here. This ride was also removed in 2000, much like The Wave, after the changeover to Six Flags Ohio.
Muzik Express (1978-2002)
This ride was also very basic in concept, however it managed to become someone iconic in the park. The ride was a “Spinning Himalaya-type”, meaning basically it spins in one giant circle, and in the process, whomever was sitting on the outside of the cart was typically smushed, all the while crazy music is playing, and the lights are blinking, and everyone is just generally having a good time. This ride was removed from the park during the Six Flags Ohio years, to make an expansion for several new attractions, but I’m sure many people who visited the park in the eighties and nineties will remember going on this ride at least once or twice.
Turtle Beach (1989-2000)
Opened in 1989 (when I was about seven years old), Turtle Beach was deemed the “ultimate children’s water playground”. There was pools, crayon fountains, water cannons, floating alligators that you could walk on, and slides galore. It was a late addition to Geauga Lake, around the same time they were celebrating the Centennial. Turtle beach stopped being fun around the same time I started growing hair in my armpits, but even so I still had a lot of fun there as a kid.
The Black Squid (1970 – 2007)
Simple premise, but lots of fun, and a staple of the park for almost 40 years. This spider-like ride (although named The Black Squid) lifted long arms up into the sky, while independently operating carts would spin. I didn’t ride this one every time I went to the park, but when I did I enjoyed it, and the line wasn’t usually too long.
Texas Twister (1993-2007)
The Texas Twister was one of the first “top-spin” rides introduced in America, and was added to the park when I was about ten years old. In the background of the ride, laid strewn houses, in shambles from a passing tornado, and the scenery was quite effective. The ride itself was pretty intense, especially the portion near the end, where you would be locked into your seat, and the ride would dangle you hundreds of feet above the concrete, in almost a slow-motion free-fall. This was one of the few rides that survived the closing of the park, and it can be currently found in the theme park California’s Great America, under the new generic name of “Firefall“.
The old saying goes “You can never go home”, and I guess that doesn’t specifically mean that you can’t go to your parent’s house, I occasionally go there to do laundry and my folks don’t seem to mind, it means that certain elements from your youth and childhood will never return. In this case, Geauga Lake is gone forever, but it doesn’t mean it’s completely forgotten. Plus I’m sure the Rotor man is still out there, doing his thing.
What were some of your favorite memories of Geauga Lake, and what were some of your favorite rides and attractions? Let me know in the comments!