It's a wonder my whole generation doesn't have skin cancer. Eight hours in the sun with minimal sun protection was the perfect day when I was a kid. And there was no nicer place to be outside than at STYX, RIVER, WATER WORLD. I'm shouting it out just like they use to in the TV ads.
For most kids in the 80's, Styx was the name of a band that ruled the charts with that cheezy song, "Mr. Roboto." But for kids growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Styx was the place to be on a summer's day. The short drive from Mobile made it a favorite destination of families, churches and day cares throughout the area.
Approaching the park, a series of statues greeted you, including a cowboy, an Indian (um Native American), and a dairy cow. Looking more like over-sized miniature golf fixtures than water park attractions, for my generation, they signaled the beginning of an awesome adventure.
Cow Statue at Styx River
From Leigh Harrell's Collection
The ambassadors of the park were none other than "Puddles" the pelican and "Croakus" the frog. They were often the first sight you'd see inside the park. Occasionally the aquatic duo would trek to Mobile for parades and charity events.
Puddles and Croakus make an appearance at University of Alabama Medical Center
Mobile Press Register, May 1989
The park itself featured every conceivable water attraction available at the time. There were water slides, mat slides, inner tube rides, zip lines (called trolly slides), a floating bounce castle, motor boats, paddle boats, floating hamster wheels. For those seeking air-conditioning, there was an arcade and animated bear show. In later years, the park's main attraction became the behemoth ride known as "The Rampage!"
The Rampage was a rite of passage for all boys growing up in the area. You were not a man until you climbed up the stairs that stretched a mile into the sky and raced down a slide on a toboggan the size of a cafeteria tray.
Styx River Water World Park Map
via Dean-O-Matic Blog
Every summer, Kindercare would take us to the park for a day. There were no clocks in the entire park so we relied on the position of the sun to know when to return to the pavilion for lunch. Besides the 30 minute pit-stop for PB&J's and juice, we stayed out all day. And being the 80's, the day was spent pretty much without any adult supervision.
It wasn't all fun in the sun though. I had my closest brush with death on the inner tube ride. Coming down the final shoot, my tube flipped over, putting me upside down in the exit pool, my legs tangled in rubber. Before I could completely fill with water, a park technician jumped into save me-overalls, boots, key chain, and all.
But nothing was more dangerous than the beating rays of the sun itself. I once scored a burn so bad on my nose,
I looked like "Rudolph" for a year. But it was a small price to pay for a day of thrills.
Two Murphy students race on trolly slides
The Mohian Yearbook (1993), Murphy High School
In addition to the water park, there was a campground. Way back in 1984, it only cost a dollar a day to camp. My Dad took me one time to stay in a friend's camper. Armed with a pack of Rolos and my Huffy bike, I was in kid heaven.
Sadly, the park closed in the 90's, a victim of taxes and government bureaucrats. While the park is remembered fondly by Mobilians, the landmark is all but erased.
Souvenir t-shirts and patches featured Puddles the pelican perched on twin W's.
About the Author