Williams Whitewater

Whitewater backglass
whitewater playfield

I just loooove this machine. It's the first pinball machine I bought, and many years later I still enjoy playing it very much.

There are two words to describe playing this game: speed and accuracy. OK maybe a third word too: ramps.

The open playfield and fast ramps makes this game sometimes a drain monster. You won't play for a long time if you only want to try to flip the pinball around a bit on the playfield.. You really have to aim for ramps and keep control of the ball at all times. If you miss a ramp, balls which just bounce around out of control, will drain before you can do anything against it. (I have to add the game changed since I cleaned and waxed it.. before that it was more gentle to play..)

So why do I love it ? Just because it can be so cruel and it's very fast. You have to play it often. If I spend too much time on other machines which don't require to be very accurate or which play slower, coming back to Whitewater is like learning how to play pinball again.. the game is fast !

boulders whitewater

The rafting theme may be a bit boring or unattractive for some, but I find it's ok. It's a neutral theme. Whitewater is about rafting, but all about pinball. And if you don't think it has any fun elements in it, take a look at the pictures of Bigfoot during bigfoot bluff / camera craze :-) (if you have time to take a look at the dmd that is, you'll need all your attention on the playfield !)

Whitewater has very good rules. The game may look simple at first, but you'll find out there are several goals to aim for.
First are rafts. Advance them by shooting lit hazards. Try to reach raft 20 to start Wet Willies. This is a mode in which you have to shoot all hazards again, this time for many points :-)
Next are modes. On the upper playfield, first shoot the insanity falls (when the yellow light is on), then the red light goes on and you can shoot for the whirlpool. This will start a whirlpool award.
Apart from these main targets, there are a lot of other things to do. Hit targets and inlanes to spot river letters, try to get a gold rush or bigfoot bluff, or try to maximize other counters (number of drops and insanity falls).
Last but not least, there's the great vacation jackpot to go for. If you want detailed information about the possibilities of WW, check the rulesheet at www.pinball.org. All these goals which you can pursue at the same time, make Whitewater a game which won't become boring soon. It's almost impossible to play 2 games in which you do everything in exact the same order, something which can't be said about a lot of other games..

ball view whitewater

The playfield isn't complicated.. the bottom half is open, with ramps and targets on the sides. On the right side there are 3 bumpers, hidden under plastic mountains, and the shot through them loops around the playfield and comes back to you on the left side of the game (not only Pat Lawlor creates a shot through bumpers). On top of the playfield are ramp entries.. Two of them will bring the ball to the upper playfield, one of these is through an upkicker which also can lock balls to start a multiball. On the upper playfield you've got a third flipper so you can try to get the ball to the 2 ramps. The only toy on this game is Bigfoot. He turns his head, and controls a divertor. You have to start bigfoot bluff to distract him so you can sneak into his cage and steal prices..
The other special part on this game is the whirlpool, in which balls disappear. They come back up again from the Lost Mine (in which you can also try to shoot the ball). That's it then. Except for the secret passage, but I can't tell you more about that as it's a secret :-)

This game has an excellent 'flow'. Gameplay is fast, the ball keeps on moving around. This makes this game so good. There's always action, almost every shot will return the ball to the flippers so be prepared for the next shot.

The game was considered a 'sleeper' by many in the past, but nowadays it gets the credit it deserves and the game suddenly became very popular. Luckily there are a lot of machines produced so prices didn't increase too much.

So.. are you able to show your skills on this game ? Start with trying to get a skill shot (without draining the ball).. be careful when you try to hit the extra ball target. And say hello if you meet the spirit of the river..

My game

Whitewater was the first pinball machine I bought.. and I'll never sell it !
I recently shopped my game (again). Flamepolished the ramps (took me 2 hours to do them all) and the difference is unbelievable ! I also installed the correct green lite/lock targets and put some blue bulb condoms over visible lamps. I like the look of the blue lamps although on some parts like the upper playfield it became too dark now..

upper playfield whitewater

Things to look for when buying this game

green targets whitewater wear under ramp bigfoot

  • Plastics. All mountains are made from a plastic that easily breaks. The mountains above the bumpers are often damaged from airballs (because of worn green targets).
  • Ramps. Make sure they're not (too) damaged, esp. at the entrances behind the lock/lite targets. Luckily repro ramps are available now, but they're expensive..
  • Targets: the translucent green lite/lock targets usually are replaced with generic targets
  • Most playfields have some wear spots. One is above the left slingshot, in front of the lost mine kickout
  • Less people know there's another spot which often wears on this game: it's at the start of the the left orbit, where the ball drops off the ramp, near the insert.
  • The upper playfield wears where ball falls out the wireframe ramp when it's shot from below the playfield. This isn't visible but can create a divot in which a ball gets stuck. The lane right of Bigfoot also wears sometimes as the ball goes very fast through there.
  • Topper: there should be a topper on the game with lights to simulate flowing water.

That's about it.. mechanically there aren't specific parts to look for, except for the motor of the bigfoot head. You can have opto problems but a good cleaning of the ramps probably takes care of that.

right side whitewater


There are a few adjustments you can make to the game, to make it play better and to make it look better.

A lot of people switch the red flasher domes into blue colored domes, to fit the blue theme of the playfield. Also put blue bulb condoms over the ring of lamps at the whirlpool exit, makes it look much nicer and fits the rest of the blue color (or install blue leds).

The Lost Mine kickout is designed to kick out the ball onto the right flipper. Raise the right flipper to nicely catch it, leave the flipper down and the ball should bounce over towards the left flipper.
On many Whitewater machines, the kickout is misaligned and kicks out the pinball too much to the right. The pinball hits the metal inlane guide, bounces off and flies over the left slingshot to drain into the left outlane.
There are two changes to solve this behavior (after making sure your machine is levelled correctly).
1/ Lose the screws of the kickout assembly and adjust its position. Often this will not solve it.
2/ Replace the coil in the Lost Mine kickout assembly with a weaker one, AE-26-1200 or AE-27-1200 will work fine.

For a game on home use: install the latest home-roms version ! This is LH-6. The most important changes are an added ballsave and a great lightshow in attract mode.
Note there is also the LH-5 home-rom version, do not install this as some people have game resets with it. LH-6 is stable and safe to use.
One place to buy eproms from is That Pinball Place.


The light bulbs on top of the backbox which illuminate the topper are 12v, type #194. Not regular 6 volt #555 lamps as used on the playfield !

Whitewater is one of the few pinball machines that came with two different flipper coils installed (and the manual is incorrect and shows two 11629 coils). The game was shipped with the strongest FL-11629 coil on the lower right flipper and a weaker FL-15411 coil on the left flipper. The strong coil is needed to make the ramp shot, the left can be less strong so it saves the green lite/lock targets a bit..
Creature from the Black Lagoon is also a game with these different coils.

It's normal that the pinball hits the playfield with a hard shot on the left ramp (Insanity Falls).

Promo plastics: there are 2 speaker cutouts for this game. One with a compass and the other has the Whitewater logo on it.

Click here to see the IPDB entry of this game.

Now launch the pinball and play this game !