The wet look still rules here

Aquatic park is a fast, slippery slide into a pool of noisy fun

Only a wet blanket could stay dry at the North Clackamas Aquatic Park.

Open since 1994, the indoor park is located in a mammoth aqua-colored building in Milwaukie. A 200,000-gallon wave pool and three slick water slides are the main attractions during the rollicking open swim sessions.

Children and adults lean back, fold their arms over their chests and fly down a twisting magenta slide. They line up for a flight down an enclosed yellow tube, careening through the darkness, their giddy screams resonating from either end.

Everyone's graceless as they come to the end of their ride, arms flailing and faces contorted as they crash into a wading pool. But ungainliness has its privileges here: The messier your splash, the more applause you get from the tykes in the nearby kiddie pool.

Anyone wary of communing with hundreds of half-dressed strangers is in for some pleasant surprises. For starters, the pools and dressing rooms are spotless, assuaging any fears about athlete's foot. The scent of chlorine is noticeable, but not overpowering.

But this isn't an oppressively sterile place: There are no bossy lifeguards to contend with. The pool attendants, mostly teenagers, maintain a calm and quiet watch, keeping the lines moving at the diving boards and the slides without resorting to shrill whistle-blowing.

Some sharks in the pools could use some discipline, however. Two boys bob on a raft in the wave pool, reaching overboard to push a swimmer who passes by. 'Move it!' says one raft boy to the swimmer, who has no place to go in the crowded pool. The rude little pirates sail on to their next victim.

During the open swim, a line bottlenecks on the stairwell leading to the water slides. A boy jitters with excitement as he awaits his turn. He peers over the railing, looking down at a couple getting friendly in the adults-only whirlpool on the first floor. 'I know why they don't allow kids in there,' he says. 'They kiss in there.'

In addition to the open swim sessions, the park offers quirky events throughout the year. 'At the end of the summer, we have 'The Dog Days of Summer,' ' aquatic supervisor Jason Kemmerich says. 'We turn the pools over to dogs.'

Come Easter, swimmers snap on their snorkel masks for an underwater egg hunt. The third Friday of every month during the school year, the radio station Z100 FM sponsors a dance and swim fest for teens.

Extended exposure to the park could result in a headache. Save for the serious swimmers in the Olympic-size pool and a water aerobics class in another pool, everyone else is here to cut loose. Overweight men plunge off the springy diving boards, causing booming reverberations that make fillings buzz. Most of the children yell at the top of their lungs, as if everyone else has waterlogged ears.

For as long as you can stand the hubbub, the park provides more bang for your buck than any mall or movie theater. It's wet, wild and addictive. Before you know it, you'll be paddling back for seconds.

Contact Stephen Blair at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..