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Hands down our favorite whitewater-raft ride on the East Coast, Bilge-Rat Barges is only bested in its genre by Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure. Bilge-Rat Barges seats 10 riders at a time on a circular raft down a man-made canyon of gushing rapids, waterfalls, twists, turns and dips. Some of the scenery is visually interesting, like the 18-foot octopus crammed into a cave two sizes too small, but the minimally moving props along the side of the don't quite make for an immersive storyline.
What you are immersed in is water — everywhere. Engineered to ensure that everyone gets drenched, the ride sprays you from overhead "leaky" pipes; from the side by what looks like air vents; and from every angle by the simple bobbing of the raft in the rapids. The attraction even provides water cannons (free on Me Ship, The Olive; quarter-fed on the bridge to Sweethaven) for nonparticipants ashore to fire at those aboard. The rapids are rougher and more interesting, and the ride longer, than Animal Kingdom’s similar Kali River Rapids. And unlike Disney's rapids, which occasionally let lucky riders off with just a misting, it's impossible to experience the Bilge-Rat Barges without getting soaked.
If you didn’t drown on Dudley Do-Right, here’s a second chance. You’ll get a lot wetter from the knees down on this ride, so use your poncho or garbage bag and ride barefoot with your britches rolled up. Each raft has a covered center console into which you can place backpacks, socks, and shoes; lockers or ziplock bags are strongly suggested for anything electronic.
This ride usually opens an hour later than the rest of the park, typically 10 am. Experience the barges in the morning after the Marvel Super Hero attractions and Dudley Do-Right. Some people ride the Bilge-Rat Barges and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls consecutively, right before leaving the park, to avoid sloshing around in wet clothes most of the day.
Some children may be frightened more by the way the rapids look, and by the screams coming from the ride as it passes through Toon Lagoon, than by the roughness of the ride itself. These are screams of laughter. If your child is apprehensive about riding, take them to any of the platforms overlooking the ride to see how much fun everyone is having.
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Here's roughly how many minutes you'll wait for Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at each Islands of Adventure Crowd Level.
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