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What distinguishes Grizzly River Run from other theme park raft rides is Disney’s trademark attention to visual detail. Where many raft rides essentially plunge down a concrete ditch, Grizzly River Run winds around and through Grizzly Peak, the park’s foremost visual icon, with the great rock bear at the summit. Featuring a 50-foot climb and two drops—including a 22-footer where the raft spins as it descends—the ride flows into dark caverns and along the mountain’s precipitous side before looping over itself just before the final plunge. Period-appropriate props support the mid-century national parks theme.
When Disney opened the Kali River Rapids raft ride at the Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World, it was roundly criticized (and rightly so) for being a wimpy ride. Well, we’re here to tell you that Disney learned its lesson. Grizzly River Run is a heart thumper, one of the best of its genre anywhere. And at 5½ minutes from load to unload, it’s also one of the longest. The visuals are outstanding, and the ride is about as good as it gets on a man-made river. While it’s true that theme park raft rides have been around a long time, Grizzly River Run has set a new standard, one we don’t expect to be equaled for some time.
A Shaker Heights, Ohio, family who adopted our garbage-bag attire, however, discovered that staying dry on a similar attraction at Walt Disney World is not without social consequences:
I must tell you that the Disney cast members and the other people in our raft looked at us like we had just beamed down from Mars. Plus, we didn't cut arm holes in our trash bags because we thought we'd stay drier. Only problem was once we sat down we couldn't fasten our seat belts. The Disney person was quite put out and asked sarcastically whether we needed wet suits and snorkels. After a lot of wiggling and adjusting and helping each other we finally got belted in and off we went looking like sacks of fertilizer with little heads perched on top. It was very embarrassing, but I must admit that we stayed nice and dry.
If you forget your plastic bag, ponchos are available at the adjacent Rushin' River Outfitters.
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Here's roughly how many minutes you'll wait for Grizzly River Run at each California Adventure Crowd Level.
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