Congo River Rapids
Take your seats on the Congo River Rapids and ready yourself for a rather wet trip down this majestic river. Just try not to get too distracted from the raging torrents by the neighbouring Runaway Mine Train, else you might be brought back to reality with a splash.
On its journey, your raft will dip and dive through canyons and tunnels, under bridges and past cascading waterfalls (though at times the waterfalls have been known to completely dry up).
The Congo River Rapids were one of the first rides to receive a full makeover after Tussauds took over and set about transforming Alton Towers into the theme park we know today. In 1992, John Wardley and his team took the modestly themed Grand Canyon Rapids and built Katanga Canyon on the island in the centre of the ride. The new land came with modest alterations for the rapids, including a relocated tunnel, which was shared with its new neighbour, The Runaway Mine Train.
As the rest of the park has expanded in the intervening the years, the area around the Congo River Rapids has remained largely true to its original design, other than the arrival and departure of various elements of queue-line theming. But the passing of time has seemingly only improved the antiquated colonial theme though, and on hot days it is not unheard of to see queues of over an hour for this old stalwart.
In recent years, many of the ride's more exciting water features have been turned off, after an incident at nearby Drayton Manor in 2017. As a result, features such as the Waterfalls and wave machines were switched off pending review. Following new HSE guidance and the return of similar features on other rides in the UK, there is hope that these features will also return to Alton Towers in the near future.
Grand Canyon Rapids
The Congo River Rapids as we now know them were originally opened in 1986 as the Grand Canyon Rapids - carrying a very plain theme and with minimal guest interaction. In fact, most of the ride was hidden from guests until you were rafting down the canyons.
The ride was constructed over 12 acres that had previously been the coach park and channel required one of the park's largest excavation projects to complete. Rocks blasted from the channel were used to enhance the canyon theming around the ride, whilst the soil excavated was used to create the embankment that separates the ride from the car park.
The rapids remained modestly themed until the intervention of John Wardley in 1992 when they were rethemed to the ride we see today.