JACKSON, N.J. -- After more than three decades at Six Flags Great Adventure, the historic white wooden roller coaster Rolling Thunder will be dismantled this autumn to make way for the world's tallest drop-tower ride.
Six Flags officials made the announcement Thursday morning, just hours before the first riders of the day lined up to try Rolling Thunder's almost eight-story drop and 10 hills.
"This is one of the better (wooden-roller coasters)," Bob Bowman, 48, of Gloucester Township said after riding Thursday morning. "It's smooth. It hasn't fallen apart yet. ... I was actually surprised it's in as good of shape as it still is."
Great Adventure's newest attraction, "Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom," will replace the 35-year-old coaster, which has delivered 42 million rides.
Zumanjaro's three towers, each 41 stories tall, will be nestled inside the green loop of roller coaster Kingda Ka, the tallest coaster in the world. Each Zumanjaro tower will hold a gondola of eight riders, who will watch Kingda Ka's trains rocket toward them at 128 mph.
From the top, riders will see Philadelphia on clear days, though the city is 52 miles away, said Kristin Siebeneicher, spokeswoman for Jackson's two Six Flags parks: Great Adventure and Hurricane Harbor.
At 415 feet high, Zumanjaro will replace 400-foot "Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom" at Six Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles as the world's tallest drop-tower ride.
"You're going to have folks dropping 90 mph," said John Fitzgerald, the park's president. "You're going to have the Kingda Ka cars racing around them at the same time. It's really going to be fantastic. Fantastic views, but also terribly exciting."
The attraction will be taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The attraction is named to incorporate into the African theme prominent throughout the park's debut 2013 attraction, Safari Off Road Adventure, which replaced Six Flags' drive-through Wild Safari. The drive-through safari closed in 2012.
An area adjacent to Zumanjaro will include a habitat for African Anubis baboons. The enclosure will replace what was Safari Discoveries, an area that held an aviary and enclosures for Great Adventure's animal nursery. Most of the animals within Safari Discoveries - excluding the otters, which have their own theater - will move to the camp section of Safari Off Road Adventure.
Not everyone was thrilled by Six Flags' announcement.
"This was the first roller coaster I ever went on," said Liz Hart, 50, of Brielle, who rode the Rolling Thunder coaster Thursday with her son George and his friend Aidan Tolnai. "I'll be sad, because right now it's the only roller coaster I can go on when I bring my children."
"The other ones are too loopy, and I'm older now, so they make me sick," she added. "I'm very sad to hear that they're going to retire it."
Aidan, 12, said Rolling Thunder is his favorite ride at the park, and he was unhappy to learn it would be dismantled.
"I think that (Zumanjaro) is going to be too high for me," he said.
Park officials said a waning interest in Rolling Thunder was part of the decision for its closure.
Siebeneicher and Fitzgerald said Six Flags will attempt to sell Rolling Thunder but is not sure that the coaster will go on to live again at a different theme park.
American Coaster Enthusiasts have already approached park officials about preserving pieces of the coaster - including trains, signs and memorabilia - for a museum yet to open, Siebeneicher said.
"Roller coaster enthusiasts are certainly very passionate about our coasters," she said. "I know they'll miss it, so I'm sure they're going to get their last rides in."
Rolling Thunder is set to close Sept. 8.