Unique Haunted Mine thrill ride coming to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park owner Steve Beckley, left, and General Manager Nancy Heard at the site of the new Haunted Mine Drop ride set to open summer of 2017.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A peek at life, and death, in a late 19th century Colorado mine will be among the attractions for visitors to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park starting this summer.

The Caverns has been busy digging the final few feet of a 120-foot shaft in an area of the park below the main visitor center, restaurant and theater building that will become the new Haunted Mine Drop thrill ride.

The ride will be similar to Disney’s Tower of Terror and other amusement park drop rides. The Mine Drop is different in that it will have a relevant historical theme and will actually be underground just like a real mine shaft, explained Caverns Adventure Park owner Steve Beckley.

“This is our first ever try at theming a ride at the Caverns,” Beckley said. “It’s a real exciting thing to take a ride like this and put a whole story and theme around it.”

To do that meant pulling some actual mine history together and building a ghost story around it, he said.

“It’s not a true story, but it is based on some stories that we’ve found about the mines up in Leadville and some of the mining accidents that happened around the turn of the century,” Beckley said.

The ride is being designed and built by renowned thrill ride enthusiast Stan Checketts of Utah. Checketts also built the giant swing and zip line ride at the Caverns, as well as notable attractions like the Stratosphere Tower Big Shot in Las Vegas.

The Haunted Mine Drop will welcome visitors as if they are coming to work at the mine for the first time, but the orientation is given by a couple of ghosts.

“It’s your first day of work, and the ghosts will tell stories about what happened there and why the mine had to be closed because of ghostly activity,” Beckley explained. “Then, boom, the floor drops out and it’s a free fall to the bottom.”

Inside will be more ghoulish images, skeletons and such to round out the thrill.

The park is working with St. Louis-based Creative Visions for the hologram imaging that will be featured with the mine ride. Company mastermind Mark McDonough has developed characters for theme parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, haunted attractions and amusement centers around the world. The company’s client list includes Universal Studios Theme Parks, SeaWorld, Knott’s Berry Farm, MGM Grand Adventure, Six Flags and David Copperfield.

The new Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park ride is part of a larger investment of some $2.5 million into park improvements for the coming year that will include a new pathway loop connecting the Mine Drop ride to the lower cave tour area and back up to the top of the park.

“The cool thing about the ride is that it’s opening up a whole new area of the park,” Beckley said. The mine shaft building will also have additional restrooms and other amenities.

The new ride is expected to be delivered by May and should be open by mid-summer, he said.

In the meantime, the park is also busy this winter making some major improvements to the main building and plaza area, said General Manager Nancy Heard.

The idea is to “create some sense of arrival,” she said.

The canvas tent that people walked into as they exited the tram that takes visitors up to the park on Iron Mountain is being replaced with a new covered entryway, and the building facade is being redone into a Western theme.

The plaza will have a new paved, ornate surface and a water feature where kids can run and splash, Heard said.

“One of the things we have been hearing for years from guests is that we need more shade and more seating,” she said.

The water feature will be surrounded by bench areas, and flower beds and other landscaped areas will have seating areas.

In front of the main stage area where musical acts and other performances take place will be an etched map of the cave system that underlies the park, Heard also explained.

New concrete picnic tables with umbrellas are also being added to the area in front of the stages, she said.

In addition, the tent that used to serve as the entryway is being moved to the area where the former “Fort Where Am I” maze was located and will now serve as a covered seating area for private picnics and parties. The tower structures will remain, and the area will still be called “The Fort.”

Finally, the Caverns has purchased three new 35-passenger open-air adventure vehicles that will run concurrently with the tram to give visitors and optional way up the mountain, and to use when the tram must be shut down for lightning or high wind.

“The buses we’ve had were always secondary for whenever we had to close the tram,” Heard said. “The new vehicles will run as an option and will provide their own little adventure.”

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park saw a record 205,000 visitors during the 2016 season, further establishing itself as one of the main attractions in Glenwood Springs.