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New Bern, North Carolina

Green Springs

This multi-story wooden waterpark offers homemade thrills. 

There are two very brief statements you hear down South that sum up the region’s mentality in that storied and bloodied narrative of dealing with the federal government.

Those statements are “This is my damn property.” and “Don’t tell me how to raise children.” Perhaps never has the scofflaw spirit of such words been better illustrated than when one Coastal Plains resident, Korean War vet, Boy Scout leader, and great american, George Wetherington built a perilous timber-frame water park on his property overlooking the Neuse River and invited children of all ages to come jump off of it.

Wetherington built this wild, splintery delight in the 1970’s, a time before bicycle helmets, rubber-coated playground equipment, and Nerf guns took much of the danger out of childhood. In this current milieu, talk of water parks, diving boards, rope swings, and zip lines tend to get answered with words like insurance company, stitches, and lawsuit. Mr. Wetherington’s pressure-treated palace harkens back to an age when there was nothing but giddy cries for more “Spank the Baby!” “Jackknife!” “Double Gainer!” and “Hey, what happens when Nate rides a pogo stick off of this thing?”

Like most good things to jump off, Green Springs has several graded tiers reaching up to four stories high, which no doubt, generations of teenagers have accorded their own safety rating system, with lower heights getting nicknames like “Gee, Golly” and “Goodness Gracious!” and more advanced levels named stuff like, “Oh, Jesus” and “Gimme another beer if I even survive this mammerjammer!”

Of course, the danger is very real and Green Springs has seen its fair share of accidents. In the summer of 2015 a 21-year-old man drowned, as did another teenager in 2010. In 2014 a teenager got airlifted out after doing an alley oop. The government is also attempting to spoil the fun. Last year, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a swimming advisory warning about a bacteria that gives you diarrhea within 200 feet of Green Springs. This may be nothing more than an attempt to discourage use of Green Springs.

At 83-years-old, Mr. Wetherington has gotten a lot of heat to take down his structure, but he probably won’t, because as a Korean War veteran, Boy Scout leader, and kid who grew up during a time before “safety first,” danger comes in way scarier forms than a massive gainer to be cowabungaed.