Local recalls everything that made Ogle’s so special in Pigeon Forge
Ogle’s Waterpark in Pigeon Forge was once the largest waterpark in the area with six giant water sides, a wave pool, a kid’s play area and snack stations throughout the park. For three decades, it served as a beacon summoning tourists and locals to frolic in the East Tennessee summer sun. While the mountains offer a great escape and many natural wonders, a beach-like swimming experience is not one of them. So as the tourist boom of the 50s and 60s gave way into the 70s, a waterpark in the heart of Pigeon Forge seemed like a no-brainer.
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What happened to Ogle’s Waterpark?
I think Ogle’s had poor timing as an attraction. It may have been too soon, or too late. Had it come earlier, Ogle’s would have had the charm and style of previous decades. Had it come later, it would have had the advantages of modern design, things like green areas and shade. Instead, the park looked like it was constructed out of the same batch of asphalt as the parking lot. A chain-link fence was all that separated Ogle’s from the outside world. As a result, there was little to the imagination left of the poor souls stuck in traffic on the Parkway and the bathers often feeling like exhibits in a zoo.
Everything that made Ogle’s Waterpark so great in its era
Slides like the RipTide Waterslide, the Twin Twister and the Hydro-Chute – a fully enclosed tunnel slide introduced in the early 1990s – were revolutionary for their time. Ogle’s Waterpark was summer personified, Grand Central Station for the electricity of youth.
It was also the birthplace of thousands of summer romances and more than a few heartbreaks. It was an oasis, not just of highly treated chemical water, but of freedom where young men and women learned the various rules and boundaries of games of infatuation they’d play in one form or another for the rest of their lives. Ogle’s was the place to be just a little too young to understand all of that.
Ogle’s was sunbathing with the smell of Coppertone – in those ignorant, cancerous days. It was testing the limits of how much heat you could take before dipping into the cooling, chemical waters. It was forgetting to reapply your sunscreen and paying the price the next day. Ogle’s was perfect. Then times changed. It is among some of the great attractions that inevitably shuttered including Magic World, Porpoise Island and Tommy Bartlett’s Water Circus. It wasn’t the only attraction that didn’t get the timing quite right.
When did Ogle’s Waterpark close?
Ogle’s closed in 2002 for good, and it was demolished to make way for Waldens Landing in 2003. Its closure, I bet, was likely due to sky-rocketing land values. The simple math was the worth of the land became far more than the park would produce. But it was more than that. We’d moved past the heady days of the Beach Boys when everybody across the USA wanted an ocean and a surfboard.
Today, better-designed waterparks have come to the Smokies, like Dollywood’s Splash Country and Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville. These parks offer something Ogle’s couldn’t. They offer improved family experiences and lots more to do. There were better rides and water slides and lazy rivers.
What attraction took its place?
Ogle’s is gone now, lost to the march of time. Where once the summer passions of thousands of teenagers were lit, now sits Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud, located within Lumberjack Square in Pigeon Forge. The times certainly have changed indeed.
Do you remember going to Ogle’s Waterpark? Let me know in the comments!