Cheetah Chase launches park forward

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Holiday World & Splashin' Safari employees ride the new Cheetah Chase water coaster at the park in Santa Claus on Thursday. Cheetah Chase is the world's first launched water coaster and reaches a top speed of 30 feet per second.


SANTA CLAUS — Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari’s newest marquee attraction is the first of its kind — a jet-powered, launched water roller coaster that blasts riders through two contorting lanes of ups and downs.

Named Cheetah Chase, the exhilarating and spray-filled racer is set to open to the public with the rest of the water park on Saturday.

“This summer, more than ever, I think people need a break,” said Leah Koch, a fourth-generation owner and director of communications at the park. “And people need a reason to smile and laugh. And this definitely will give you a reason to smile and laugh.”

Construction of the unique ride began in September 2019. Koch explained that Splashin’ Safari is already known for its water coasters. The site’s Wildebeest and Mammoth water coasters are decorated and hold various accolades and records, and leadership decided another coaster was needed.

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari employees Ethan Morgan, left, and Makayla McKim ride the new Cheetah Chase water coaster at the park in Santa Claus on Thursday.

“It felt fitting to add something,” Koch said, “and really to solidify our spot as the water coaster capital of the world.”

Cheetah Chase trades a suspenseful incline for a raucous introduction. The ride begins with a quick dip into a flat channel that launches and whips the toboggan-style rafts upward and through saucers and tunnels. Max speeds reach 30 feet per second, and the ride itself lasts just under a minute.

Since two rafts leave the station at the same time, the more than 1,700 feet of track also fosters a friendly, competitive feel. Its two lanes cross each other and riders can see their counterparts throughout the experience.

If you’re wondering — the difference between a water slide and a water roller coaster is that slides only run downhill, while coasters both rise and fall.

In the case of the Cheetah Chase, the propelled streams that gush from the sides of the lane are captured in rubber pockets on the side of the two-person rafts, propelling guests forward.

A grid of images taken with a GoPro during the Cheetah Chase ride at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus on Thursday.

“Water coasters are so much fun,” Koch said. “And this year especially, it’s just such a good time to be able to get out. It’s time to be able to have with your family that isn’t sitting at home or something like that.”

Matt Eckert, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari’s president and CEO, stressed to readers that staff at the site are doing everything they can to make experiences as safe as possible at the regional amusement park. He echoed Koch, saying that making smiles and great memories is still important.

“It’s fast,” he said of Cheetah Chase. “You will get very, very wet.”

He later continued: “You will get drenched. From the get-go, when we’re shoving you out of the station with that water, you’re going to get soaked.”

Hours and ticket information can be found at

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari employees Makayla Mckim, left, Ethan Morgan, Kelsey Odom and Jarrett Daming prepare to ride the new Cheetah Chase water coaster at the park in Santa Claus on Thursday.

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