West Virginia's largest, longest-lasting, and now only amusement park has all the thrills one could hope for, including three roller coasters, bumper cars, and a haunted house. The Camden Interstate Railway Company inaugurated the twenty-seven-acre park and named it for the major investor, Senator Johnson N. Camden of Parkersburg. Typical of amenities that turn-of-the-twentieth-century streetcar companies throughout the country provided to boost ridership, it began as a picnic grove but soon evolved into an amusement park. A prehistoric Adena mound (largest in the area and third largest in the state) provided a convenient base for the first bandstand. The first rides, installed in 1907, obtained power from the streetcar cable. The original carousel, with hand-carved wooden ponies and chariots, is a special attraction, but the most popular ride, the Big Dipper, is a wonderfully noisy frame roller coaster that dates from 1957. Camden Park survives as a fond, slightly faded, reminder of a gentler era: the family-oriented amusement park that predated the mammoth theme parks of today.
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