Lake Winnepesaukah was a park that always intrigued me. When looking at the park’s setting and ride lineup, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Canobie. Both parks have beautiful lakes as backdrops, some classic one-of-a-kind attractions, loads of spinning rides, dark rides, and classic out-and-back woodies (both with Cannonball in the name no less).
Since it was a Saturday and I had limited time before I was to meet up with a friend in Birmingham, I developed a plan of attack. I would knock out the low capacity Boat Chute and Wacky Factory, marathon the Cannon Ball, and then finish up with the remaining flats and credits. Anyone who plans knows nothing always goes as planned, but it was worth trying anyway. I was first in line when the gates opened at 10. And that was certainly a good thing since there was a company outing with a few thousand people.
I was the first rider of the day on the Boat Chute and the operators noted how lucky I was not having to wait. That definitely reaffirmed my plan of attack, as did the full queue I saw no less than a half hour after opening. For those unfamiliar, the Boat Chute consists of a 2 minute long, slow, pitch black tunnel and a drop into the lake.
Being the only rider on the entire attraction was pretty creepy. The inside was dead silent. There were no screaming kids. There were no obnoxious teenagers. There was nothing. Just the sounds of the ride. The boats traveled so slowly that you couldn’t hear more than a faint trickle of the water. But then this would be juxtaposed with a loud pang of metal as the boat ricocheted off the side of the trough. After what seems like eternity, you re-enter the light and are greeted by the pitter patter of the lift.
Off-ride, the final plunge doesn’t look like much. The slope is so gradual that it could probably be classified as ADA compliant. On-ride, it was plenty freaky considering the sheer age of the attraction and the fact that it spits you out into the lake. The splashdown into the lake was very reminiscent of those European boat chutes, especially since the boat bobs up and down once hitting the water. Lake Winnie may have better attractions, but this is definitely the park’s crown jewel and most unique. 8 out of 10
Next I walked right onto the Wacky Factory. And it was appropriately wacky! The beginning has some psychedelic effects straight out of an acid trip. Later, the track itself becomes wacky as it randomly bobs up and down. Then the finale is a gradual, yet speedy, downward slope that actually dishes out some laterals. Outside of one very screwed up jump scare, it’s not particularly scary. It’s just a complete mind bender that succeeds in making you feel uneasy for the duration of the ride. 8 out of 10
As I approached the Cannon Ball, something seemed off. It seemed quiet, too quiet. An employee stationed by the entrance confirmed my fears that the Cannon Ball wasn’t quite ready, but that it would open shortly. Noticing that the front of the park was rapidly filling up, I backtracked to hit Wild Lightnin’.
Wild is an understatement. The first half offers some great views of Lake Winnie and seems like your normal mouse. But then the second half happens and the ride genuinely tries to kill you. Whereas most wild mice have trim brakes, Wild Lightnin’ has no such things. The result are some of the most extreme laterals of any coaster out there.
Since I was riding alone, I was able to brace myself against the opposite side of the vehicle. Others probably weren’t as fortunate. It wasn’t uncommon to hear screams of pain emanating from this coaster. With the added speed, I was shocked there wasn’t any air in the second half. I’m torn about Wild Lightnin’. On one hand, I’d hate to penalize a ride for being intense. But in some ways, this may be a bit too much since you really need to brace yourself against its wrath. 5 out of 10
Cannon Ball still wasn’t quite ready, so I proceeded to Oh-Zone, the park’s Larson drop tower. I figured the ride would give some excellent views of the park and I was spot on there. But as an added bonus, I was treated to a nice view of the Smoky Mountains in the distance. It was so easy to get lost in the splendor of the area and then it faded away in a flash.
No matter how many times I ride these Larson towers, the drop always gets me. It’s a truly terrifying drop with sustained airtime the whole way down. There are larger towers out there, but none can top a Larson in raw power. A supervisor was training a new operator, so I did my part and rode this a few times in a row so they could cycle through the whole process. 10 out of 10
How have I not heard about Conestoga? This flying carpet was insane! I’ve gotten some modest air on other versions of this ride, but nothing reaching the levels of Conestoga. I wasn’t expecting much when I saw that I had a foot of space between myself and the lap bar, but it was out-of-control. On the full rotations, I was catapulted from my seat and suspended in midair and then forcefully slammed forwards. It was glorious.
The only problem was that the ride only offered three full-speed rotations. The airtime was so good that I wanted more. So I rode it three consecutive times until the ride closed. Unfortunately someone couldn’t handle the intense airtime and decorated the gondola with half-digested Denny’s pancakes. I saw them cleaning the ride, but it never reopened. This ride was perfect other than the short length. 9.5 out of 10
I noticed two employees walking the final bunny hill of Cannon Ball, so I was optimistic the wooden coaster was about to open. They sent around a test train and the employee admitted me into line. When the train returned, there was a problem. Only the front car’s lap bars would raise. Maintenance was called and it was apparent it wouldn’t be a quick fix, so they cleared out the line.
I wasn’t going to be denied a coaster ride, so I shamefully walked right onto the Wacky Worm. Even by wacky worm standards, it seemed to be on the slow side. 2 out of 10
I hopped aboard the Alpine Way sky ride and could really appreciate the park’s beauty. The sky ride travels over the entirely of the lake and offers some great shots of the Boat Chute in particular. Lake Winnie really is a photogenic park. I do wish the sky ride had a second station on the opposite side of the lake, but other than that, it was a really good sky ride. 8 out of 10
I grabbed a few extra rides on Oh-Zone and then discovered some sad news. The rare Fly-O-Plane was gone. For 2018, the park reintroduced the Genie round-up, but it was at the expense of the Fly-O-Plane. What a bummer since a trinity of Oh-Zone, Conestoga, and Fly-O-Plane would rank among collections of flat rides out there. They also had some funky looking top scan towards the front of the park, but Twister was down for the day.
Genie was a larger round-up and had a cool, multi-colored paint scheme. It wasn’t run as fast as others and only reached a max angle of ~ 60 degrees, but round-ups are still one of the stronger flats out there. 6 out of 10
Orbiter is next door and that’s the ride spinning ride junkies need to check out. This may be the fastest operated Orbiter I’ve ridden and the whip was pretty impressive. Like Conestoga, it did have a short cycle but I’m guessing that’s for a reason since quite a few riders looked green in the face. 8 out of 10
But then there was life over by Cannon Ball. It appeared they had successfully raised all but two lap bars, so they were preparing to send out a test train. A golf cart had been parked in front of the main entrance, but I stationed myself directly behind it, anticipating the coaster would soon open. After 2-3 successful test runs, maintenance moved the cart and the operators beckoned us towards the station.
The reason I wanted to be first in line is because seating is on a first-come basis and I really wanted to secure at least one front row ride. The Yankee Cannonball has the exact same loading procedure and even though I’ve ridden that coaster hundreds of times, I probably haven’t been in the front row more than 10 times. As the operator checked my buzz bar, he noticed my Yankee Cannonball shirt and was shocked. “I didn’t know there was another Cannon Ball out there. I thought this was the only one.”
The first bunny hill had some excellent and bouncy airtime. I was excited that it would be a non-stop, airtime filled experience. The next few hills were relative duds, but I was treated to a little pop on the far turnaround. The return leg was a bit better as there were two bunny hills with solid pops of air and a very strong burst of air entering the brake run.
The line had already reached a half hour in length, but I happily waited in the hopes of a backseat ride. That wasn’t possible since the back row wasn’t cooperating, but I was fortunate enough to receive the second to back. Outside of some nice air on the first drop, I thought the front provided superior airtime.
The operator excitedly asked if his Cannon Ball was better than Canobie’s. I had to say yes to him, but honestly I’d take Canobie’s ever so slightly. Both are incredibly well-maintained classics, but I think the Yankee Cannonball’s airtime moments are stronger. I also may be a bit biased
I certainly am glad the Cannon Ball opened since it’s a solid wooden coaster that is perfect for an old-time park like Lake Winnie. 7 out of 10
I wish I had more time at Lake Winnie to rack up additional rides on Cannon Ball, Boat Chute, Wacky Factory, and the flat rides, but my visit was capped at three hours. Lake Winnie is everything that a classic park should be. It has a great atmosphere, a beautiful setting, a fun wooden coaster, and a strong supporting cast with two of the best flat rides out there.