The History of Boulder Dash: The Coaster That Saved Lake Compounce

Coaster Round Up

Boulder Dash Train Entering Brake Run Lake Compounce

Lake Compounce is the oldest continuously operating amusement park in America, but in the 1990s that reign came very close to ending forever, but eventually a new ride would turn it from a forgotten relic into a must-see destination for thrill-seekers worldwide. That ride was the wooden roller coaster Boulder Dash.

The company that owned Lake Compounce declared bankruptcy in 1991, sending the park searching for a new buyer, and staying closed for the 1992 and 1993 seasons. The park would open for a single weekend each year to keep its status as the oldest continuously operating park in the country, but the park was in a poor state without an owner with the resources to properly run the park.

While it would receive a new management team in Funtime Parks in time for the 1994 season, this would be short-lived and the park would be on the market again just two years later in 1996.

This time, it would be purchased by Kennywood Entertainment, the company behind Kennywood. They would begin a new period of investment in the park which included multiple new attractions including notably Zoomerang, the only steel coaster at the park.

But all of these additions led up to a massive addition that would put the park on the map for the first time, Boulder Dash.

Boulder Dash Queue Line Lake Compounce

Being built in 1999, the ride would open during the 2000 season, and would be an instant success at the park. Being partially based on the much smaller Rollo Coaster, it was built on the side of a mountain, using the terrain to make you feel like you are constantly about to hit either the mountainside below or the trees above, making for a claustrophobic high-speed journey on a hillside. A freak accident early on with the coaster would cause a death in its second year due to the track not being cleared of workers before being sent through the ride. This was a tragedy in the early days of the coaster.

Featuring a high speed of 60mph and a first drop of over 100 feet it would increase in popularity each year until earning the Golden Ticket for best wooden roller coaster for the first time in 2004. It would earn the same title four additional times in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and it continues to rank in the top five through to today. Except for its first year of operation, it has never placed lower than fifth.

The ride has seen a few changes over the years. It would be retracked for the first time in 2007 and 2008. It would also receive reutilized trains from Wildcat at Hersheypark in 2008 following the retracking.

In 2017 it would be retracked yet again, but this retracking would actually change the layout slightly, with the final triple up becoming a double up.

But in 2017, the ride would face its second major crisis. During park hours in late August, the two trains of the coaster would collide in the station. An error occurred while the second train was being added to the track, which was likely caused by operator error. Some minor track damage occurred, as well as damage to both trains. The ride would eventually reopen, but with only one train. It has yet to receive a second train since the incident.

Man Walking on the Track of Boulder Dash Roller Coaster Lake Compounce

This ride is one of the best wooden roller coasters and best terrain roller coasters in the world. While it no longer reigns superior, it continues to hold its own against more modern coasters, and helped pull its park out from the brink of destruction to a more sustained period of success. It remains the longest wooden roller coaster on the east coast, and a must-ride coaster for any dedicated thrill-seeker.