Dutch Springs: Not Your Run-Of-The-Mill Water Park
The Aqua Park and Sky Challenge ropes course are for those who prefer action to long lines.
Call it comedy in motion.
Patrons of the Dutch Springs Aqua Park in Lower Nazareth Township would take a daring leap from the Aqua Tower. If they landed just right on the giant inflatable “Blob” below, they could launch the person at the other end six feet in the air. With arms and legs flailing in true slapstick fashion, the launchee would splash down into the cool water before bobbing up with a look of astonished joy.
It’s as if Wile E. Coyote created a water ride.
Unfortunately, the aging Aqua Tower and Blob launched their last swimmer about a week ago but the park has replaced it with a large inflatable water slide, according to Dutch Springs owner Stu Schooley.
The park is also adding a new water adventure course, which will join the trampolines, giant inflatable “icebergs,” the “Water Totter” and other apparatus you can climb up and jump from.
Dutch Springs has been known for years to scuba enthusiasts as a prime diving spot. The 50-acre lake was once a limestone quarry for the former National Portland Cement plant.
Schooley and his wife, Jane Wells Schooley, bought the lake and the 50 acres around it in 1980 and turned it into a fresh-water scuba diving lake, which is fed from an underground aquifer. The limestone acts as a filter, providing great visibility in the water, which is about 100 feet deep in parts. In 2004, Schooley opened the Aqua Park on one section of the water.
Earlier this month, Tonie Chicchi of Forks Township brought her daughter Devon, 10, and friend Michelle Adams and her daughter, Mikaela, 12, of Dallas, Texas.
“It’s clean, it’s beautiful,” Chicchi said of the water park. “I like that they have the littler [floats] for the kids who can’t get up the big ones. It’s a nice alternative to a pool.”
Mary Ann Ortman of Upper Macungie Township said she brings her kids -- Josh, 15, Kayla, 14, Zach, 11, and Jacob, 8 -- to the Aqua Park a few times each summer. Climbing up some of the inflatables takes a decent amount of upper body strength but the mom of four was up to the task.
“You have to or the kids will make fun of you,” she said. “The best part is it tires the heck out of ‘em.”
Ortman's son Zach loved the Blob, which was still in operation during their visit. “People launch you off and you go flying,” he said.
Schooley said he was disappointed when the Aqua Tower and Blob had to be taken down; however, the manufacturer discontinued making the apparatus two years ago and parts to fix it were no longer available.
If you never had the chance to take on the "Blob," no worries. Schooley plans to attach a smaller “Blob” to a trampoline; it just won’t launch swimmers quite as high.
At Dutch Springs, swimmers are all required to wear life jackets provided by the park, which is nice for parents because it eliminates arguments with children who think they swim better than they do. Guests can also rent kayaks and paddle boats by the hour or half hour.
In 2006, Dutch Springs added the “Sky Challenge,” which is a three-story ropes course on land. Challengers are fitted with a harness that’s attached to a metal rail at the top of each level. If they fall, they don’t go far thanks to the harness. The course, which is included in the Aqua Park price, also features a rock-climbing wall.
The entrance fee to the Aqua Park ranges -- depending on the day of the week -- from $10 to $15 for children ages 5 to 9 and $19 to $24 for those 10 and older. Coupons for a few dollars off can often be found on the Internet and in the Nazareth Key.
Dutch Springs is still best known for its diving. Scuba divers can explore a submerged Cessa plane, school bus, helicopter, firetruck, boats and other sunken treasures, all while watching perch, bass and koi swim by.
“This is Disneyland for divers,” said Bea Myers, during a visit earlier this month. Myers said she has traveled the three-and-a-half hours from her home in Old Saybrook, Conn., to Dutch Springs many times for the diving.
“This is probably as close to blue water as you can get unless you’re in the Caribbean,” Myers said, adding that Dutch Springs is a good place to learn to dive because there are underwater platforms and ropes for divers who need a break, she said.
Sadly, Dutch Springs was the scene of a tragic accident in May. A Royersford teen, who was diving with his father and a group, had to be taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, where he died. The Lehigh County coroner’s office is still investigating the death.
Some divers choose to camp at the park, where there are changing rooms, hot showers, a snack bar and a picnic area. Admission for scuba divers is $36 a day and camping is $10 per person per night.
The snack bar serves hoagies, pizza, chicken wings, salads, soups, cheese steaks and wraps, as well as ice cream. The park also allows guests to bring their own food, and provides picnic tables with canopies for rainy days.
During the "off-season," Dutch Springs has added a year-round business called North Star Team Development, which provides training for businesses through experiential team learning. There is also the North Star Adventure, which provides experiential team learning for youth.
If You Go:
Where: 4733 Hanoverville Road, Lower Nazareth Township, but the park has a mailing address of Bethlehem, PA 18020.
Phone: (610) 759-2270