Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter YouTube Email Newsletter

2012 Best Attraction Tournament: Best Rapids Ride?

Written by
Published: January 20, 2012 at 8:47 AM

Earlier, we voted Disney's Splash Mountain as Best Flume Ride in the 2012 Theme Park Insider Tournament. Today. we're looking at another popular form of water ride, voting on Best Rapids Ride.

In another fortunate coincidence, today also happens to be the day that one of our contestants, Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure at Universal Studios Singapore, reopens after a lengthy refurbishment.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the candidates, take a look at their profile pages - linked below - for descriptions, photos and reader reviews. Or check out the campaigning in the comments. As always, we're looking not just for a fun ride, but an immersive themed experience as well. And if there's any chance of exiting a particular ride without being soaked to the bone, I think that's a big minus in this category, too. :^)

Grizzly River Run - at Disney California Adventure

Grizzly River Run

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure - at Universal Studios Singapore

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure

Kali River Rapids - at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Kali River Rapids

Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges - at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

Smoky Mountain River Rampage - at Dollywood

Smoky Mountain River Rampage


On Monday: We start in on the live shows, voting for the Best Animal Show.

Readers' Opinions

From Rob P on January 20, 2012 at 8:55 AM
This is a tough call but , for me, Grizzly gets it ahead of Popeye's Barges just because of that fantastic drop and it's pace.
Kali getting no votes so far does surprise me. The theming is very good on this one.
From Mike Gallagher on January 20, 2012 at 9:04 AM
You know, it's odd. I can't specifically remember riding a raft ride at Dolly's place on my sole visit in 2008. So I'll vote for Popeye/Bluto, as I KNOW I haven't been on the others. But I'll touch on something Robert alluded to: The be-all and end-all for me on a rapids ride (and I like them a lot) is maximum drenching capability (MDC.) And no rapids ride I've been on anywhere has a higher MDC factor than Dorney Park's Thunder Canyon. I'd find it hard to believe there could be another ride with that kind of MDC.
From Jack Curley on January 20, 2012 at 9:11 AM
I voted for Kali River Rapids, just because it's the one attraction in DAK that my sister makes sure her family rides every time they go to WDW.
From Andrew Carrieri on January 20, 2012 at 9:14 AM
I went with Popeye and Bluto-it was between this and Grizzly River Run at DCA because of their supposed thrill factor. The IOA ride won out because the theming seems to be slightly better, though I'm inferring on Grizzly having never been to DCA, and the Florida climate seems more conducive to a year round raft ride than does California's. Even with humidity factored in, I'm more likely to want to cool off in the Florida heat than in Southern California.

If Kali was longer (and wetter-I've heard people say they've come off this dry) it would win because its theming is the best of the bunch. Jurassic Park seems cool but I've read the drop is too short.

From 167.8.16.4 on January 20, 2012 at 9:24 AM
While I like Kali River Rapids, I would pick White Water Canyon at King's Island over it!
From Rob Pastor on January 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM
Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges (gotta love that name) gives you a super soaking in a fantastic themed atmosphere. The ride looks just like any other typical water rapids ride at your first outside glance. But once you get on there's just so much more. Bluto, Olive, Pappy, Wimpy, Popeye and the rest of the cast greet you with lots of surprizes. First there's the Octopus Grotto, next kids shooting at you from Me Ship Olive and then the best single area in all of "Water-ride dom", Bluto's fully operated boat wash building, an area where your raft is like a car going through a car wash. After getting off, you just want to go back on to cool off the Florida heat & humidity. And the Universal Big Three water rides(Dudley, Popeye & Bluto, and Jurrasic Park River Rapids) are in close proximity to one another for repeat rides on all three. Doesn't get much better.
From James Rao on January 20, 2012 at 11:19 AM
I would lean toward GRR for that signature drop, but if the standard is "getting soaked", nobody beats Popeye.

On a side note, the Tasmanian River raft ride at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, GA, has an excellent whirlpool element that should be duplicated in more rides of this type...

From Dominick D on January 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM
No water rapids ride can beat Popeye's! That ride got me soaked when I was little!
From 76.176.37.57 on January 20, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Loved Popeye's ride at Islands of adventure. Has always stuck out in my mind as one of the best raft rides ever.
From Robert Niles on January 20, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Take some of the mothballed Country Bear animatronics from Disneyland and stick 'em on GRR, and we've got a dominant winner.
From Fred Koury on January 20, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Going with Popeye. Great theming, super soakability, and it's pretty long. Roberts right about GRR. If it had the animatronics it would be tough to beat.
From Mike Gallagher on January 20, 2012 at 1:27 PM
James, you're right. The raft ride at WA is not very aesthetically pleasing, but the whirlpool was a pretty neat effect.
From Justin M on January 20, 2012 at 1:56 PM
Grizzily River Run is a truly great raft ride and my favorite of the bunch. Popeye would be my second choice, Kali river rapids is just too short and the last time I went on the Fire effect wasnt even working. Congo River Rapids at BGT is also not too bad.
From Anon Mouse on January 20, 2012 at 2:01 PM
In Southern California, two parks, Knott's and Six Flags, had rapids rides that long predated DCA's GRR. Why are they not on the list?

GRR is nice, but there's nothing to see. It has a good theme, but largely devoid of any character.

From Robert Niles on January 20, 2012 at 4:44 PM
Top five highest-rated rapids rides with a minimum number of votes got into the tournament. The SFMM, KBF and SWSD rapids rides didn't crack top five when I put together the bracket.

FWIW, I agree with that assessment. GRR is the best of class in SoCal, IMHO, though I'd vote Popeye above GRR. I really wish I'd been able to get on Jurassic Park, though. That looked like a potential winner to me, too.

From Stuart Henny on January 20, 2012 at 5:41 PM
It's Popeye for me. Although I preferred it back in 2005 when it was possible to go all the way round and remain fairly dry with the person opposite getting repeatedly soaked. Now with the "shower" going up the lift ramp near the end it guarantees everyone comes off soaked.
From Bob Liebe on January 20, 2012 at 7:23 PM
It's a no brainer, it's POPEYE & BLUTO! Hands down one of the funnest rides at IOA. The themeing is well done and I've never been able to leave the ride without being at least 80% soaked! and that's when I tried to stay dry! (So much for that! lol) My parents wear water ponchos when they ride and they still get plenty wet! I love when it gets close to closing time because then I can just stay on and ride it a half dozen times and then take the wet walk back to the car. (You gotta love rental cars! :-P) This is one of my top 5 favorite rides of all time and I hope that if they get rid of Toon Lagoon that they could find a worthy replacement!
From Tom Rigg on January 20, 2012 at 8:28 PM
I'm guessing that The raft ride at Dollywood is on here due to the same reason the Dollywood Christmas event won in the past: vote drives/ voting blocks. Not that I have a problem with this, ultimately these are popularity contest. But, honestly, the ride is forgettable at best and you most definitely don't get wet on it. I mean they have a waterfall that crosses the "river" and it turns off right before you go under it, what a gip!
From 98.21.195.236 on January 20, 2012 at 8:37 PM
For once, I agree with who the leader is..... I think Kali River Rapids is one of the biggest fails in Disney Imagineering..... it has no rapids!! The whole ride depends on the trip over that waterfall section. AND it's short. It is so dissappointing for a Disney ride..... when you raise the bar with your reputation.... you have a higher expectation to meet. Universal did a great job. I will say that I think Grizzle River Rapids probably is superior to Kali. Dollywood's Rapids are just okay.... but I don't know that they are so great to really justify them being in the top 4 or 5 so as to be the one that goes up against giants like Universal's rapids. I think the Singapore rapids are awesome..... especially with the theme.... but I appreciate the Bluto has a lot of actual rapids. It's beautiful.
From 98.21.195.236 on January 20, 2012 at 8:46 PM
There is an awesome rapids ride at Phantasia Land with a whirlpool effect unlike anything I have ever seen in the states. I'd like to see someone in the states do a ride with some similarities to that one, but still have some rapids. It seems like the rapids rides now are split into two catagories..... onces that have drops / hills and interesting unusual effects or something...... and ones that actually still focus on the fact that is is suppose to be a rapid ride and thus have some rapids to traverse. I'd like to see a park blend the two better than I think it has been done yet.
From Robert Niles on January 20, 2012 at 9:08 PM
I will say that the drop between numbers four and five on this list was substantial (and we're seeing that in the voting, as well.) I considered making this one a four-entry field because of that, but I anticipated so many people complaining that their favorite rapids at insert-on-the-blank regional park wasn't included in that empty slot that I went ahead and put in Dollywood's, which barely beat out several others for that fifth position.
From 75.179.190.89 on January 20, 2012 at 9:33 PM
I have to agree with others. If Grizzly had more theming, it would win. Popeye is the best. Kali is the worst. I think it's the worst ride in DAK. (Yes, even worse than Dino-Rama)
From Sylvain Comeau on January 21, 2012 at 3:20 AM
I chose Jurassic (the Hollywood and Orlando versions) cuz I'm a sucker for dinosaurs. But Popeye and Bluto is a fun ride. Unless you don't want to get SOAKED to the skin. A poncho is a must on that one.
From Mike Gallagher on January 21, 2012 at 11:41 AM
PONCHO??!! PONCHO??!!

We don't need no stinkin' ponchos!!!

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Previous article: Legoland California announces pirate shoot-the-chutes ride for 2012



Planning a trip to Orlando?

Walt Disney World

Insider's Pick: Get all the best advice from ThemeParkInsider.com in one convenient book! Theme Park Insider Orlando 2014 offers you the insight, background, and how-to skills that will help you enjoy Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando like, well, a theme park insider. Save yourself time and money by learning how to visit the Orlando-area theme parks the insiders' way.

Get it! In paperback | For Kindle | For iBooks