News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
NV89 Discover Music

an member station

Desert Companion

Wet and WOOOHOOO!!!: Water park showdown

Editor's note: Cowabunga Bay has postponed its opening date until summer 2014.


That’s the sound this total splash maniac makes at water parks. Which of the two slated to open this summer are worth getting lathered over? Here’s a wet ’n’ wacky head-to-head



  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasPre-construction site
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasAttractions overview
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasDesert Racers in progress
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasHoover Half Pipe and Royal Flush Extreme
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasRattler and Constrictor
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasSplash Island under construction
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasSplash Island
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasWave Pool
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasZip Zap Zoom under construction
  • Wet 'n' Wild Las VegasZip Zap Zoom
Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas1 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas2 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas3 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas4 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas5 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas6 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas7 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas8 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas9 Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas10

Support comes from

That dude, over there? The one with the scalp stubble and Twilight vampire-pale skin? Wearing out-of-season swim shorts that actually fit him? Crawling out of an inner tube that just crash-landed into a chlorinated pool filled with that most precious natural resource of which we desert rats are purportedly depleting ourselves?

That will totally be me this summer, when not one, but two water parks open in the valley: Wet ’N’ Wild, the first-ever source of fun in Summerlin, and Cowabunga Bay, Henderson’s newest babysitter.

Now I don’t just visit water parks, I conquer them like a bloodthirsty Spartan charging the Persian army — in other words, half-naked, oiled up, sandaled and yelling in the face of near-death. I shame heroin junkies in my fiending for spills and thrills. And those screams of ecstasy you hear from my dropping, slipping, careening body? That’s me letting Sir Isaac Newton have his way with me.

I may be twice as old as the lifeguard who will inevitably rescue me from man-made rip curls, but that won’t stop this insatiable thrillseeker from braving 115-degree temperatures and unforgiving teenagers to play real-life Chutes and Ladders at our two new wet spots. Here are all the rides and features I’m breathlessly looking forward to.

Wet ’N’ Wild

Hoover Half-Pipe: For every skateboarder who has lusted after the wall of the Hoover Dam: After coasting casually in your inner tube through a tunnel, this parabola of pleasure will drop you 57 feet, where you’ll then race back up a nearly vertical wall, experience a couple seconds of esophagus-flooding airtime, and freefall back to earth. Whatever righteous dude gave Tony Hawk the engineering degree has my eternal thanks.

The Rattler: Touted as the first of its kind in North America, this 360-foot open slide will shake the endorphins out of you and your raftmates with its two mega-tunnels, where you’ll swing up and down their walls and oscillate like a fickle politician. Don’t read the name and confuse it with that mystery medicine bottle you shook up, swigged from and passed around at college parties — though it’ll feel just as awesome.

Desert Racers: I can’t wait for the chance to race five suburban fatties down this three-hump, 20-feet-per-second, aquafied version of the traditional carnival slide, sledding face-first to the finish line, where I, victor, will raise my body mat above my freshly hurtled body — and subsequently shake my kidneys out of my ribcage.

Royal Flush Extreme: There’s no other way to put it: This centrifugal marvel squeezes you out like last night’s enchilada into a giant bowl, your flailing body spinning under the rim until you’re flushed out. I’m all for reliving my swirlie days from middle school — as long as it’s physics administering them.

The Constrictor: Another supposedly record-breaking slide — the “tightest banking turns,” it says, but the exact same serpentine slide has been open at the sister park in Phoenix since 2011 — that won’t stop until gravity crushes you and your innards into human paella. You’ll churn through obscenely banked corkscrews at around 18 miles an hour, effectively surpassing the average Summerlin speed limit.

Canyon Cliffs: Remember Der Stuka at the old Wet ’N’ Wild? That adolescent rite of passage, where we shakily ascended a 76-foot spiral staircase to our certain deaths, took orders from some UNLV dropout to lie down and cross our legs before he pushed us off a fiberglass cliff, resulting in all of Las Vegas flashing before our eyes and a day-long struggle to chisel out our swimsuit from in between our glutes? This is that slide redux, albeit three stories shorter.

Splash Island: This nine-slide family playground complex also features an enormous bucket that dumps 300 gallons of water onto anyone wanting to know what Carrie felt like at the prom.

[HEAR MORE: What’s the future of Lake Mead? Hear a discussion on "KNPR’s State of Nevada."]

Cowabunga Bay



  • Cowabunga UtahLazy River
  • Cowabunga UtahCowabunga Bay's Utah Park
  • Cowabunga Las VegasSurfin' USA
  • Cowabunga UtahHang-10
  • Cowabunga UtahKids Slide
  • Cowabunga UtahWorld's biggest splash
  • Cowabunga UtahCowabunga Bay promises to deliver wet thrills this summer
Cowabunga Utah1 Cowabunga Utah2 Cowabunga Las Vegas3 Cowabunga Utah4 Cowabunga Utah5 Cowabunga Utah6 Cowabunga Utah7

Zuma Zooma: Reminiscent of the Bomb Bay at the old Wet ’N’ Wild, where we summoned our inner Slim Pickens and entered a warhead-shaped chamber, only to have the floor drop out from beneath us, sending us freefalling down a slide the length of California. However, this version is enclosed in a tube and ends in a horizontal 360-degree loop. A perfect perilous plunge, right? Almost. Other incarnations of this newer water-park favorite tilt the loop 60 degrees so you whiz through almost upside down. Now THAT would double my chest hair! But alas, this is Henderson, where you can only have so much fun.

Good Vibrations: Also touted as a North American first, it’s — surprise! — the same exact concept as Wet ’N’ Wild’s Rattler. Which is to say each Vegas water park is pretending the other doesn’t exist, like neighboring casinos with the same food courts. But, just like the orange chicken I keep ordering, I’ll still queue up for it. Also in the copycat category: The adjacent Rock-a-Hoola — ostensibly a nod to the former SoCal water park of the same name that once sat off the I-15 in the Mojave Desert — mirrors the Royal Flush Extreme. It’s a dead heat in this game of Simon Says.

Surf-a-Rama Wave Pool: The Southern Californian in me has always wanted to ride four-foot waves, but without the used prophylactics floating by and needles underfoot. This 32,000 square-foot faux ocean ought to grant me that longtime wish. Bonus: Inner tubes are free at Cowabunga Bay, so we don’t have to share one. Unless you’re hot.

Surfin U.S.A.: This 55-foot, six-person bump-n-dip trumps the Desert Racers at Wet ’N’ Wild in that its final drop goes under both the ground and a bridge, coming back up for the finish. Forget coming in first — after I eagerly let this slide wriggle my spine like a centipede, I should finally be able to nail Reclining Hero Pose in yoga class.

Cowabunga River: The obligatory lazy-river attraction. Which it means it’s slow, and ain’t nobody writing this article got time for that!

Beach Blanket Bonzai: Or, the in-betweener, where your daughter can graduate from the kiddie area to a grown-up slide that won’t leave her shrieking like Yoko Ono in a Dora the Explorer one-piece. Groups of up to four in rafts wind down a 600-foot slide, and wouldn’t it be so much more fun if the individuals in that group rolled off the raft halfway down and slid down on their own, occasionally banging into one another and landing atop one another in the splashdown pool? I saw this happen on YouTube. And I would totally do it myself.

Who’s in? 


Wet ’N’ Wild

Scheduled to open May 25 Tickets and season passes from $39.99-$74.99


Cowabunga Bay

Scheduled to open May 25 Season passes from $74.95-$99.95

More from

More Stories

KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada
Bermuda Grass
Desert Bloom