The Fountain Hills Fountain

Fountain Park Lake is a 100-million-gallon oasis in the center of Fountain Park, located at the end of the fountain-packed Avenue of the Fountains in the community of Fountain Hills. And in the middle of the lake you'll find? That's right! Ducks. Playing around a fountain.

Of course, we're not talking just any fountain. This is one of the highest-spraying fountains in the world, once recognized by Guinness as the very highest. It was built in 1970 as an attention magnet when the town was first in development, a clever ploy by Robert McCulloch and C.V. Wood Jr., the same men who were responsible for Lake Havasu City and its imported London Bridge.

The fountain percolates briefly at the top of the hour, spewing to a height reaching 560 feet. At 7,000 gallons of water every minute, it's an impressive feat of aqueous engineering. The nozzle that produces the towering stream weighs almost a ton and is fed by three 600-horsepower pumps that together propel the water at 68.5 feet per second. The ensuing column of water consists of more than 8 tons of H20.

First-timers to the park tend to sit and eye the fountainhead fixedly and in deep anticipation, waiting for that climactic moment when the huge jet finally pops. The release is short, but satisfying. It lasts only about 10-15 minutes, depending on the season, but it makes up for the terse spurt in showmanship. Almost half a ton of effluent comes showering down each second in a mesmerizing cascade. When the conditions are right, it produces a captivating curtain of water perfect for casting a rainbow. It's pleasantly calming, at least until you realize how terrifyingly smothering it would be to be under it. Amazingly, it makes little sound.

The surprise, however, is that most people don't get to enjoy the fountain's full potential. Except on special occasions, only two of its three pumps are activated, producing a stream a little over half its possible height. Even so, at 33 stories, it's a remarkable display. Still makes you want to place a giant, spinning clown hat on top of it. (Fans of the Wham-O Fun Fountain, unite!)

Unfortunately for Fountain Hills, the enormous bidet is no longer the world's tallest, even at maximum altitude. It's been beat out by at least two others: the Gateway Geyser across from the St. Louis Arch, which reaches about 600 feet, and the Jeddah Fountain in Saudi Arabia, which tops 850 feet. That may be the reason Fountain Hills added the Avenue of the Fountains with its dozen or so assorted water fountains. If you can't go for height, go for numbers.

Odds are, though, Saudi Arabia doesn't dye theirs bright green every St. Patrick's Day like Fountain Hills. Makes you wonder what that does to the ducks, actually.

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