Farewell to the king
Named for the history which permeates the property, the Butch Cassidy King World Waterpark has been a mainstay of summer activity for local families for the past 15 years. But the park won’t be opening this season.
“It’s really sad, it was an awful decision to have to make,” owner Diane Norman said.
Norman and her husband, Bob, purchased the property for all its character and history. It has springs and a stock pond; it has petroglyphs and more modern rock art; it has fossil records including a petrified deer print. It was also once home to the King of the World.
“I don’t know if he was king of the America or king of the whole world‒I think only he knew,” Norman said of Aharron Andeew, an outgoing character who lived in a rock shelter on the property in the early 20th century. Andeew left a bas-relief sculpture of a man’s face in profile next to a horse’s head carved into the rock.
Diane Norman’s original idea for the property was to create a small roadside attraction highlighting Andeew’s sculpture and the hike to the rock. From the ridge where the sculpture sits, there’s a good view into the small alcove Butch Cassidy used to stash cattle.
However, Norman’s idea for a small gift shop and historic tour was overridden by her son Robert’s youthful passion. “Robert, from the time he was little, if there was a water park, he had to go,” Norman recalls.
So when Robert Norman got the opportunity to purchase some waterslides from a park that was going out of business, the family saw the potential. Their property has hills and water, which provided a perfect spot for a water park.
Norman said the park has enjoyed tremendous support from Moab and outlying areas. “We know it was kind of expensive for locals, so we did everything we could, with local passes and such, to make it easier for people.”
However, the business model always assumed Moab’s population is too small to support the park on its own, and that tourists would also need to visit.” It was built for 500 people a day, but we could never get that many,” Norman said.
The family still managed to keep the park going for years, but recent cost increases have made it unfeasible. Norman lists increases in insurance, payroll and pumping costs as all eating into the park’s slim margins.
Its future remains uncertain, as the Normans plan to sell the facility. A buyer could choose to reinvest and bring the park back, but the Normans won’t be opening it this season.
ByBy Ron Georg, contributing writer