Everybody loves a good trip through a lazy river. These curvaceous loops of gently moving water are already wildly popular in water parks across the country and are becoming more commonplace at hotel resorts and other prime vacation spots. Lazy rivers are so relaxing that a rising number of homeowners are opting to install their own personal oasis right in their backyard.
But what is a lazy river, where do they come from, and how do they work? Today, American Aqua Designs, the leading manufacturer of fiberglass lazy rivers, is here with the complete guide to how lazy rivers work. Read this, and you’ll know what to expect if you want to install one on your property.
There are many theories about the origins of the lazy river. Some claim it started in the 1960s when a nightclub owner named David Breault let people borrow inner tubes and beer to float down the Apple River. When they reached the bottom, a truck advertising his nightclub offered to drive them back up to the top to do it all again.
Other stories tell of an actual princess of Thailand who enjoyed floating in her inner tube around the palace and would invite others to join her. Regardless, the very first use of the phrase “lazy river” was in the 1970s when the term was coined by George Millay, a prominent businessman and founder of SeaWorld.
As water parks became more popular throughout the country, the lazy river served a valuable purpose. Many water parks focused on high-energy rides like fast water slides and powerful wave pools, so the lazy river was seen as a more relaxing ride that many people could enjoy at once without needing to wait in long lines.
From the earliest lazy rivers in waterparks countrywide to the most modern river put into a backyard for a calming afternoon, the overall mechanics of a lazy river remain consistent. At their core, lazy rivers operate almost identically to pools, spas, fountains, and other similar water features.
Lazy rivers have a base, typically made of fiberglass or other material, and use a system of pumps and water jets to circulate the water. The most significant difference is that lazy rivers typically have far more of them and require much more careful placements and strength to operate efficiently.
The pumps in the lazy river help keep the water moving. The goal is to use a smaller amount of overall horsepower to move the large quantities of water that fill up the river. The strength and speed may vary depending on the size, shape, and depth of the lazy river. However, a consistently steady pace is necessary for the pumps to keep the water moving at around one or two miles per hour.
Pool pumps typically operate in a way that keeps your water from growing stagnant. The water goes into the pump and goes through processes such as filtration, treatment, and general steps to keep the water in motion. Lazy rivers operate on a very similar principle but rely on jets in specific places, strengths, and angles to keep things moving.
Part of the complete guide to how lazy rivers work is understanding the importance of angles when creating the force of your water. The inlet pipes in your lazy river shoot out water from the pump and work to keep your river in motion. However, a misaligned jet may halt your fixture in ways you may not anticipate.
Many lazy river jets stick out of the walls rather than on the floors so that they don’t create any potential tripping hazards. Rather than shooting straight out of the side, they typically aim in the direction you want the current to flow.
One of the practical elements of the river is to aim the inlets up or down at a slight angle, which is where proper measurements are essential. If the jet shoots too far down, all the pressure pushes into the floor before spreading out and doesn’t create much momentum in the water. If the jets shoot too high up, you may get some nice bubbles on the surface of your lazy river, but again, not much force to keep things moving.
Using jets, pumps, and other devices to keep your water flowing is fundamental when constructing your lazy river. However, one of the most renowned obstacles is how to deal with corners, bends, and curves. Floating along a gentle curve in a lazy river is one of the most relaxing experiences on a warm afternoon. But getting the exact water pressure to make that a smooth experience can be a daunting task.
If your pumps are pushing the water too hard around corners, it may push up against the sides, splashing out of the river and forcing tubers against the wall. However, if the jets don’t push it enough, you may not have the power to get floating passengers around the corner at all. This would cause them to drift in place and bring their voyage to an awkward halt.
Typically, the width of the turn needs to be large enough to account for the width of the river itself, and it helps to have jets in the corners to keep the momentum moving. When you have a solid grasp on how to keep your bends moving, the rest of your river should flow much more naturally.
One of the best things about a lazy river is that the natural inertia of the water eventually starts to do some of the work for you. Once the jets work to get the water in motion, the natural flow can continue for quite some time, even after the system is shut off. Creating the peak momentum of the water may take some time after starting up the system. It helps to have some natural movement in your river, but it also means you may need to take that excess inertia into account. Ensure that the water coupled with your jets doesn’t cause too much turbulence throughout the course.
If you want to learn more about installing a lazy river on your property, American Aqua Designs is the peak lazy river manufacturer in the country. We have several helpful guides for maintaining lazy rivers, pools, and waterslides, and valuable services to get you started. If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to a member of our team, and we’d be happy to get things moving for you.