- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

There’s nothing quite like the sounds of happy children. The hoots and hollers can be heard from the parking lot of Reston’s Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole; a loud testimonial, apparently, to children having the time of their lives.

The 1-acre Water Mine, part of the Fairfax County Park Authority, is one of a baker’s dozen or so water parks in the metropolitan area. Some, such as Alexandria’s Great Waves at Cameron Run Regional Park and Chantilly’s Planet Splash & Play, can accommodate an older, more daring clientele.

But the Water Mine, named in memory of an 1849 Lake Fairfax prospector named Pete, is designed for the 12-and-younger crowd, says Todd Johnson, manager of Lake Fairfax Park, which plays host to the water facility.

“Everything’s on a smaller scale,” he says. “The deepest part is only 4 feet. We have our own little niche and that’s why people like it. There’s no teenagers around and the little ones really have the place to themselves.”

And they’ve taken over. Herds of them roam the grounds excitedly looking for friends, shouting to parents. They laugh their way around Rattlesnake River on single and double rafts, shrieking as they’re blasted with jets of water or sliding through tunnels and caves. Some dog paddle by, caught in the 2-mph current, bobbing and weaving and looking for all the world like lemmings on their way out to sea.

Squealing, they hurtle down the handful of slides. They test their skill by pulling themselves across the water via ropes strung overhead. They hop up and down over the little jets of water that frame the “beach” down into the lazy river, they yell beneath the streams of the water mushroom and they wrangle the animal-shaped buoys that dot the activity pool.

“It’s fun and it’s cold,” says Jake Ray, 13, of Fairfax Station, who’s there with his mom and four siblings. “There’s a wide variety of stuff to do. I like hanging out with my brothers in the lazy river.”

“And I like the fact that the 13-year-old all the way down to the 3-year-old can play safely,” adds his mother, Karen Ray.

The water park also is a favorite with parents because they enjoy the park setting, Mr. Johnson says. The Water Mine overlooks the lake and is surrounded by grassy areas shaded by “funbrellas,” enormous umbrellas that cast cooling shadows over handfuls of white lawn chairs. A large shaded picnic area offers rows of tables for alfresco dining.

“It’s surrounded by trees, so you get a nice, peaceful setting,” Mr. Johnson says.

There’s no peace for the 15 or so lifeguards watching the pools at any given time, though. Head lifeguard Maurice McCombs, 18, says the Water Mine is a really fun place, but “it needs to be constantly watched. It’s our responsibility to keep every patron safe.”

Guards call a 20-minute break every two hours to give patrons a rest. “The little kids won’t stop until they’re all tired out,” he says.

Isn’t that the point?


Location: The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole is in Lake Fairfax Park at 1400 Lake Fairfax Drive, Reston.

Directions: From the District, take Route 66 west to the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) to the Hunter Mill Road exit. Turn left at the bottom of the exit. Continue on Hunter Mill Road over the one-lane bridge. Turn left at the stoplight onto Baron Cameron Avenue (Route 606). Make the next left onto Lake Fairfax Drive. Follow to the park entrance.

Hours: The water park is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Aug. 3. On Wednesdays in July, the park is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and after 5 p.m. to season-pass holders only. From Aug. 4 through 24, and Aug. 30 and 31, hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. From Aug. 25 through 29 and Sept. 1, the hours are 3 to 7 p.m.

Admission and parking: Prices are $11.50 for visitors taller than 48 inches and $9.50 for visitors under 48 inches tall. Children 2 and younger are admitted free. The charge for admittance after 5 p.m. is $6. The chaperone fee is $6. Season passes are available. Admission includes unlimited rides on the pontoon boat, which takes a lap around the lake, as well as the carousel just outside the Water Mine. Parking is plentiful and free.

Information: 703/471-5415. The Web site is www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/watermine.

Tips and rules:

• The Water Mine is at its peak capacity on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The best times to arrive are at 10 a.m. or between the hours of 2 and 3 p.m. People who arrive at other times may experience a wait of up to 45 minutes, which does not include periods of time during which the Water Mine has reached its patron capacity.

• Patrons are permitted to bring their own food and snacks, which must be eaten in designated areas. There’s also food for sale: pizza and other munchies and ice cream.

• Life jackets are available in three sizes on a first-come, first-served basis. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own if a life jacket is desired. Personal rafts are not permitted.

• The Water Mine is required to clear specific areas of the facility for a minimum of 30 minutes after thunder is heard or lightning is spotted.

Other area water parks —

Northern Virginia:

mGreat Waves at Cameron Run Regional Park, Alexandria, 703/960-0767.

• Planet Splash & Play, Chantilly, 703/378-6600.

• Splash Down, Manassas, 703/361-4451.

mWaterworks, Dale City, 703/680-7137.

mBull Run Regional Park Water Park, Centreville, 703/631-0552.

• Downpour at Algonkian Regional Park, Sterling, 703/430-7683.


• Allentown Fitness & Splash Park, Fort Washington, 301/449-5567.

• Bohrer Park Water Park, Gaithersburg, 301/258-6445.

• Lane Manor Splash Park, Hyattsville, 301/422-7284.

• Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool, Chillum, 301/853-9115.

• Glenn Dale Splash Park, Glenn Dale, 301/352-8980.

• Six Flags America’s Paradise Island, Largo, 301/249-1500.

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