I remember reading somewhere that during the first Golden Age of Roller Coasters the most dangerous roller coasters were the most popular. When a roller coaster got a reputation of sending riders to the hospital the queues overflowed. Guests would line up for a hours to brave the ride. I witnessed a modern day microcosm of this when I noticed Swamp Fox’s longer than usual wait for the back seats. Now Swamp Fox doesn’t have a reputation of injuring riders. Far from it, the ride’s impressively well-maintained and smooth for its age. But, the locals who waited twice as long for the train’s last few seats were fearless thrill seekers in their own right.
Swamp Fox is the largest ride at the seaside Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, SC. It’s an attractive looking classic woodie that dominates the small park. I observed the coaster’s unassuming figure eight layout as we did the kiddie rides with my daughter. It didn’t look too special from afar. To ride guests can either pay for 5 ride tickets or use their all day wrist band which costs $23.50. As I entered the queue I noticed a sign that read: “8th Best Roller Coaster in the U.S.”. I’m assuming it’s referring to the Golden Ticket Awards from years ago, but I’m not sure.
Right away, I recognized the old-school station indicative of classic wooden roller coasters. The whole station platform was slanted slightly towards the front where trains exit. There were those large 4 foot tall levers, although the ride ops weren’t using them to stop and dispatch trains. It reminded me of the Dragon Coaster and the Coney Island Cyclone‘s station as riders were unloaded towards the back of the station and then loaded towards the front.
I boarded toward the front of the coaster’s sole train. I sat in the front seat of the second car. The cars have single position lap bars that stop well above your lap (about chest high) as well as one long seat belt for the entire bench. The train crept out of the station with no fanfare and immediately around a turn. Just like Great White at Morey’s Piers and the Cyclone, the long, slow, climb gave an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean only a few football fields away. After the view, the train took a u-turn and plummeted down the opening 65′ drop. As Swamp Fox reached top speed, it hit the perfect balance of offering an out-of-control feel while never approaching a rough or punishing ride. For a 44 year old roller coaster that’s saying something.
Nothing But Air
Next, the train ascended the second largest hill while producing a good pop of floater air as I was lifted (only a bit) out of my seat. The next smaller hill, which was more like a hump, produced another pop and then it was time for another turnaround. The train dropped back to the ground only to fly through a series of small airtime packed humps and small hills. There are four or five and each one of them sends riders butts skyward. With a good amount of momentum still in the tank, the train finishes (all too soon) with a turn and the station brakes. Swamp Fox’s 2,400 foot figure eight layout left me wanting more, which is a good thing. Luckily, it’s so action-packed that it feels a bit longer than it is.
Houston, We Have Lift Off!
In Swamp Fox’s packed station I noticed that the last car seemed a little more popular than usual. There’s nothing special about a longer wait for the last few seats of a roller coaster. But, Swamp Fox’s wait for the last car was even longer than the front car. I knew that I’d only get one more ride as my family was waiting for me. So, I thought I’d ride in the back to see what the buzz was about. I couldn’t pass up the slightly shorter wait for the last seat in the car in front of the last car, so I boarded there.
Swamp Fox’s back seats might be the best kept secret in all of coasterdom. Those moments of floater air I had felt in the front of the train were transformed into insane ejector air rivaling the most extreme airtime I’ve experienced. I was completely leaving the seat on every drop. After a while, I actually held on because I was being lifted up so high that my legs were lifting the lap bar (that was chest high when I was seated) with my legs as I was shot out of my seat. I’m all about airtime, but this was a bit beyond my threshold.
Swamp Fox is well-maintained and thrilling classic woodie in a cool beach city setting. It’s a bit on the short side, but you will definitely get your money’s worth. I recommend that you ride in the front or middle of the train for a fun and exciting ride. And in the back if you want an extreme airtime challenge. Rides like Swamp Fox are why I don’t skip the smaller amusement parks with only a few roller coasters. Huge modern theme parks aren’t the only place that you’ll find roller coaster gems. Final Rating – 7.0 (Good)
The Coney Island Cyclone is rated ‘TR’ for Traditional. It’s a 2 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale.
What’s Your Take
Have you ridden Swamp Fox at Family Kingdom Amusement Park? Leave a comment below. Image 2 courtesy of CoasterImage.