The history of Pigeon Forge is littered with the remnants of attractions that came and went.
Some were simply lost to the ravaging real estate prices. Others ran their course.
Some were clearly the work of the clinically insane who, rather than seek treatment, developed high dollar concept attractions like an entire Polynesian world, shipping in dolphins and actual Polynesians to profit off a Tiki craze that peaked a decade earlier.
The quest to find a unique attraction that might draw tourists’ spending money or to jump into an established business model and compete with a dozen others drew a lot of low-rent P.T. Barnum types.
There was no science to it. No real market research. It was the 70s and 80s, and if you could talk some sucker into financing it, you could make that dream a reality.
“We’re gonna fly in dolphins from Mississippi and dancers from Hawaii.”
“That’s gold! Here’s $1.7 million.”
Not every attraction had to be high concept. Sometimes all you needed was a hill, some water and enough affordable building material to create a slide and let gravity do its work.
Welcome to the Water Boggan in Pigeon Forge
Welcome, my friends, to Water Boggan in Pigeon Forge, a twin-flume giant water slide totaling more than 1,000 feet slippery concrete based on the alpine toboggan flumes of Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia or Liechtenstein.
The brochure was vague on the inspiration. Let’s just assume central Europe.
Mountain water slides? The idea is money, baby. You could have relatively low overhead, maybe a little high on the insurance, but this was the 80s. Insurance may have been a 50/50 proposition.
So what happened to the Water Boggan?
Well, I like to think it was an inconsistent capitalization in their marketing materials. Was it Water Boggan, water boggan or WaterBoggan?
The world may never know.
No, what likely took Water Boggan down was the fact that 70s and 80s business people thought concrete was a perfectly acceptable surface for nearly nude people to go a-sliding on.
“Even with the water, it’s a little rough, Joey. The last kid looked like he scraped up his legs pretty good.”
“Ok. We’ll give them foam rubber mats. It will be fine. Put some Bactine on the boy and send him back up the hill.
“Hey, you know what would be perfect? A few picnic tables with umbrellas right down front where the spectators can get a really good view.”
“That kid just went down on his belly, Joey. I think he lost a nipple.”
Entry into the slides – which were obviously engineered by well-trained professionals and not a drunkard with an Etch A Sketch – did at least come with a super useful foam rubber mat.
But woe was coming for any slider who lost track of their mat in one of the seven “breath-taking turns” or the 360-degree loop (horizontal, not vertical).
Losing the mat early meant the slider would be in for a long ride.
You’ve heard of death by a thousand paper cuts? You’d reach the bottom, bruised and battered, floating in a three-foot deep, climate controlled pool filled with water.
Don’t worry about any blood though; that water was so chlorinated you were two steps away from bathing in bleach.
When did the Water Boggan close?
There’s not a lot of information left on Water Boggan. How it was born and how it died have not made it to the Internet. The exact year it closed is unclear.
There are a few old brochures, but even they are bare bones. It turns out there’s only so much you can say about a pair of concrete water slides.
After the two slides, the chief enticements the marketing geniuses could come up with were changing rooms, a bathhouse and free parking.
Where is the Water Boggan in Pigeon Forge today?
Billed as being just five minutes from Gatlinburg at the Pigeon Forge city limits, Water Boggan is long gone. In its place sets a series of rental cabins for camping.
Though it isn’t immediately evident what caused water boggan’s demise, we can safely assume Ogle’s Water Park, with its fancy wave pool and smooth, fiberglass slides, cut significantly into Water Boggan’s market share.
We would like to thank OldGatlinburg.net for permission to use these photos of the Water Boggan. For even more photos, be sure to visit them online.
Do you remember the Water Boggan? Let us know in the comments