Splash Down!

Splash Down!

Silver Dollar City’s new ride rooted in history



Pearl Brazen may be a fictional character, but her boot-clad feet are firmly planted in reality. The heroine of Silver Dollar City’s Mystic River Falls water adventure ride — which will open in the summer of 2020 — has her roots in the early days of Marvel Cave, the landmark that launched Silver Dollar City into tourist popularity.

It was in 1894 that Canadian mining expert William Henry Lynch read about a hole in the ground in the Missouri Ozarks. Discovered by the Osage Indians in 1500, described by geologists in the 1860s and explored in the 1880s by adventurers who lowered themselves on ropes 200 feet into the main chamber, it had been called Marble Cave — because its limestone walls gleamed like marble. But it wasn’t until Lynch purchased the cave sight unseen and moved there with daughters Miriam and Genevieve that it started to shine as a vacation destination.

It was 1946 when Chicagoans Hugo and Mary Herschend took a trip to the Ozarks, fell in love with the cave and leased it from the Lynch sisters. Silver Dollar City grew up around it in the late 1950s and opened in 1960.

Which brings us back to Mystic River Falls. Announced Aug. 13 at a gathering of more than 50 local, regional and national journalists, the new addition to Silver Dollar City will be part of the biggest investment in a one-year timeframe in the history of the theme park. It’s also part of the celebration of the park’s 60th anniversary Diamond Jubilee in 2020.

“A lot of times we come up with these really rich storylines [surrounding the attractions in the park], but this time we thought, why not celebrate our own history,” says Erica Rutledge from Herschend Family Entertainment. “It’s not 100 percent true factually, but all of the backstory comes from our history.”

As the tale goes, Pearl is a friend of the Lynch sisters and together they grew up exploring the Ozark wilderness. Armed with a map created by a real-life explorer and botanist, S. Fred Prince, they’ve spent many hours looking for the mouth of the Mystic River that flows in Marvel Cave.

Prince really did explore Marvel Cave and really did draw a map, which really does say “Mystic River” on it, says Rutledge. An original copy of Prince’s 100-year-old journal is in the Silver Dollar City archives and was the starting place for Rutledge’s creative adventures with Mystic River Falls.

“We looked at multiple storylines,” she admits, “but Pearl has been with this one all the way. Fred Prince was friends with the Lynch sisters, so Pearl became one of their friends, and it worked well to have the three of them looking for the Mystic River.”

As 1.5 million pounds of rebar has been unloaded, 187,650 cubic feet of concrete has been poured and 6,000 tons of landscaping rocks have been placed — the groundwork of an investment of $27 million — Rutledge has been busy creating Pearl and the graphics that will accompany Mystic River Falls.

Rutledge’s work was intertwined from the beginning with the concepts for the water raft ride, which will include the tallest drop in the Western Hemisphere. On the five minute journey, taken in round rafts with eight passengers each, riders are lifted 82 feet — that’s more than eight stories — in a spiral, travel along a 180-foot waterway that’s six stories in the air and then drop 4.5 stories in the grand finale waterfall.

Brad Thomas, president of Silver Dollar City Attractions, said after the press conference that while the announcement was fun and important, it’s also important to him to look back on 60 years of making memories for families and to help create new memories for more families in the future.



By The Numbers

Mystic River Falls

• Investment: $23 million

• Ride length: 1/2 mile

• Ride duration: 5 minutes

• Lift tower: 82 feet

• Elevated river channel: 66 feet in the air and 180 feet long

• Grand finale waterfall: 4.5 stories


• Includes Rivertown Smokehouse

• Investment: $4 million

Pumpkin Nights

• A fall festival new in 2019

• Investment: $2 million

An Old Time Christmas

• Adding 8-story special effects tree in 2019

• Investment: $1.5 million

Total investment in the past decade: $100 million

Categories: Family Friendly