At most water parks, you have to work for your fun: Riding the slides involves climbing a bunch of stairs. Action Park is not like most water parks...but you still have to work for your fun. Built into the side of a mountain, just getting through the park's main gate and over to the lockers involves trudging up a steep path. Most of the rides use the mountain's natural topography and don't rise above the ground or require climbing towers. And what wild rides! Even the park's "family" raft ride appears to be designed for a family of extreme thrill seekers.
Location and Directions:
The physical address is 200 Route 94 in Vernon, New Jersey. For GPS, use the address, 200 McAfee Vernon Road, Vernon, NJ. It is in northern New Jersey, about an hour from New York City.
From NYC, take the Holland Tunnel (14th St.) to NJ-139 W. Exit to US 1-9 N to RT-3 W ramp toward New Jersey Turnpike/ Rt. 495 onto NJ-3 W. Take US-46 W to NJ-23 toward Wayne. Right onto CR-515/Stockholm Vernon Rd., then left onto NJ-94/McAfee Vernon Rd. to park.
Compare rates for Black Creek Sanctuary at TripAdvisor.
See the Water Park:
High Anxiety funnel ride review.
New at the Park:
For 2009, the park introduced Alpine Pipeline, an enclosed double tube slide.
Water Park Overview
"The Action is Back." So proclaims the advertising copy for Action Park. The catchphrase has something of a double meaning. Many of the park's rides are quite aggressive and provide more than a fair amount of action. But the tagline also refers to the park's origins.
When it opened in 1976, the then-new concept was known as Action Park. About the same vintage as pioneers River Country at Walt Disney World and Orlando's Wet 'n Wild, Action Park was one of the industry's first water parks. With hundreds of water parks worldwide, the industry has since matured. Most parks now get their rides from a handful of manufacturers and tend to be cookie-cutter imitations. But with no prototype, Action Park's developers had to make it up as they went along.
That led to some tragic missteps when a series of injuries occurred at the park in the 1980s. It's not surprising, then, that its new owner changed the park's name in 1998 to Mountain Creek. But the legend lived on, and despite the past calamities, owners brought back the Action Park name in 2014.
The most notorious rides are long gone, but echoes of the distinctive water park remain. Instead of water slide towers that rise off of the ground, most of the rides use the mountain's terrain. That means walking around the park's steep grade requires a bit of huffing and puffing. It also means that none of the slides or other attractions are visible to motorists along Route 94. In fact, with its small signs and low profile, those passing by may not even know the park is there unless they are looking for it.
Look out for the moguls
Once inside the park, it can be a bit disorienting trying to find the rides. Because they use the mountain's topography, many of the slides meander under pathways, twist and turn into each other, and otherwise remain camouflaged by the park's dense trees. One sure way to find the rides: follow the screams.
Action Park's unique rides, particularly the older ones, are unusually hard-hitting. For example, the Colorado River, which the park describes rather benignly as a family raft ride, is devilishly rowdy. Family members need to hang on for dear life as the river's steep pitch builds up tremendous speed and moguls built into the trough send the rafts careening. As if it wasn't bewildering enough, at one point the rafts enter a cave-like structure for a nearly lights-out ride. I'm not complaining, mind you.
Thrills are the Holy Grail for many park enthusiasts, myself included. But the Colorado River's red diamond rating, the park's second-highest level, combined with its designation as a family ride is misleading. This was nearly as wild as any water slide I've ever tried.
Untamed, almost out-of-control experiences abound at Action Park. Bombs Away's short slide abruptly ends and sends brave souls freefalling about 15 feet into a gulch. The adjacent Canyon Cliffs skips the slide; daredevils simply jump off the edge for a 20-foot dive into the water. Even Cannon Ball Falls, a pair of run-of-the-mill looking enclosed body slides, accelerate quickly (they're located on a particularly steep part of the mountain) and dump riders about seven feet above a pool of water where, cartoon-character style, they momentarily defy gravity before dropping with a thud.
You Might Get High Anxiety
Other attractions include High Anxiety, a fun and visually wild funnel ride. At 99 feet, H2-Oh-No is among the world's tallest and fastest water slides. Located at the highest point along the mountain, the vista adds to the thrills and provides a breathtaking view. Riders on the Tarzan Swings use a trapeze (sorry, no vines) to sway over a pool. Some let go of the trapeze at the height of its arc and gracefully make their plunge. Others panic and let go just above the water for an ungraceful face-first plop.
Besides its status as one of the oldest water parks, Action Park is also among the largest. With about 24 attractions spread among its 36 acres, there's a sense of discovery as guests stumble upon yet another slide partially hidden in the forest-like setting. And while the park is heavy on the thrills, there are plenty of rides for less adventurous fun-seekers. The Hightide Wavepool is enormous and can accommodate a gaggle of swimmers seeking its surf or some between-waves heat relief. Small kids have their own mini lazy river (oddly, Action Park doesn't have a lazy river for big'uns--a staple at nearly all other water parks) and plenty of other diversions.
There are lots of food stands and a decent variety of meals, but the prices are a bit steep. The park doesn't allow guests to bring in food, but does allow them to tote their own bottled water. Take them up on the offer.