Monday, March 19, 2018

A Few From Nature's Wonderland, October 1961

The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland has been gone for just over 40 years now (having closed in January of 1977), and it seems as if its reputation as one of the great Disney attractions has continued to grow - perhaps because it is the type of ride that will likely never be done again - vast in scope (both in sheer size, and in the variety of different scenes), somewhat slow-paced (a good thing, in this case), imaginative, and sometimes beautiful. I have three scenes from that ride for you today.

Not long after our little train left Rainbow Ridge, we traveled through Beaver Valley, and then made a turn that brought us alongside the Rivers of America. Just ahead of us is a natural arch (part of Cascade Peak); when we pass through it, we will be behind a roaring waterfall. That's something that you don't see every day!

After scooting around Cascade Peak, we emerge into Bear Country, passing over a rickety trestle bridge. Beneath us we see lots of bear activity. Some are scratchin', some are fishing, some are investigating a beehive, while one or two are taking a siesta. 

Did you know that a group of bears is called a sleuth or a sloth?

Here's a pretty view of the Rainbow Desert, with the mysterious geological formations practically glowing under the last rays of the setting sun. Everything in shadow has touches of blue-violet. Note the geyser spouting as we look through that stone arch.

Man, do I miss that ride!


Nanook said...


I suspect your initial commentary about Nature's Wonderland stated it as well as anyone, and why [at least among those who were lucky-enough to have experienced its beauty], the memories never seem to fade. I think the images can speak for themselves.

Thanks, Major.

Scott Lane said...

Ditto what Nanook said, and I'm pretty sure that first picture was taken from the last car looking backward. Our travelers having already passed under that waterfall and been introduced to the rare beauty that is the backside of water.

Chuck said...

Agree with Scott Lane - that first shot was taken from the tail gunner's position.

It's too bad they tore down the Guardian of Forever - I'd happily step through to 1961 and the geyser beyond.

MRaymond said...

There was nothing like watching the fireworks from the living desert. The explosions didn’t bother the critters at all.

Stefano said...

Disneyland has some of the best maintained flower beds anywhere, but the "wild" look in the first photo is equally pretty. Remember those flower-strewn meadows behind the Living Desert and Fantasyland, and the SF and DRR Train narrator saying something like "Walt Disney once said Disneyland would never be completed, and as you can see there are still wide open spaces left for imagination to conquer". The meadows WERE an attraction, the nature boy in me hoped they would stay that way. Moving the railroad tracks for It's a Small World and creating meadows was Progress!

Jonathan said...

I remember this ride fondly. I now live about 100 miles from Yellowstone Park, and every time I visit Geyser Basin I think of the geysers and Paint Pots in Natures Wonderland. Walt created a little world within Disneyland that even my Grandma loved. Thank you Major for the memories.

Tom said...

My favorite old ride, plus a bonus unusual angle looking back toward the waterfall! Awesome!

Patrick Devlin said...

Very nice shots that I hadn't seen before. For what it's worth that stone arch is labeled as "Natural Window" on the drawings I have of the area. Nice composition for having been shot while on the move.

Did you know that a group of gorillas is called a shrewdnessof gorillas?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I only wish I had experienced it more times!

Scott Lane, interesting, I kept thinking that I had scanned the slide backwards; it didn’t occur to me that the photographer was looking behind him. Thanks!

Chuck, the addition of machine guns to the Mine Trains was one of Walt’s worst ideas.

MRaymond, until I read about being able to watch the fireworks from the desert (on “Yesterland”), it had never occurred to me. Now that’s what I want to do. Give me my time machine!

Stafano, I agree, much of Frontierland is beautiful for its “wild” look as opposed to the carefully manicured appearance in the rest of the park. I wonder when the train spiel had the bit about “open spaces left for imagination to conquer”? Sounds like they already had plans up their sleeves.

Jonathan, it’s funny, I know several people who have mentioned that their grandparents specifically loved the Mine Train ride. They probably appreciated that it wasn’t a coaster, and it didn’t spin!

Tom, NWRR is a lost classic, no doubt about it.

Patrick Devlin, I have heard others refer to it as “Natural Window”, but only in the comments on this blog! And I did NOT know that a group of gorillas was called a shrewdness!! How could I have never heard that before?

K. Martinez said...

Late again! Loved what everyone had to say about this wonderful attraction. I miss Nature's Wonderland too and it must've made a huge impression on me because I still remember this ride vividly like it was yesterday. Thanks, Major.


That tunnel and waterfall in the first shot was a feature Imagineering really wanted to keep - but after the plumbing system fir the waterfalls and Cascade Peak began to rot that was the end. When Splash Mounrain was being developed there were proposals to relocate the Canoe Landing to this spot. Guests would enter the cave across from Big Thunder and pass breneath the waterfall to a new canoe landing - so guests could still enjoy this detail of the park .

Anonymous said...

Those of lucky enough to work the Mine Train miss it too. And, yes, when I got older I found that it's hard to handle those fast paced rides of today. I'll confirm that as mentioned by the others that first shot was taken from the rear car. That's a rare shot. KS

WaltsMusic said...

Sure miss that ride. Great views in the slides. Thanks for sharing. While getting ready for a talk about Lloyd Beebe and his Disney animal film work, I was in Lloyd's basement office in Sequim, WA and his grandson and I were looking at some storyboard work for the 1961 film "Nikki" that Lloyd worked on. One scene in the storyboard shows Nikki tied up by a tree near "Big Thunder Falls". The script book was full of hand drawn pictures for Lloyd to set up filming. I looked at the initials on the drawings..SM...Sam McKim! I learned he was also involved in the design for Natures Wonderland! Also if you remember the Bobcat on top of the cactus, I am pretty sure Lloyd Beebe took the original picture that this designed from during his work on True Life Adventures.

Melissa said...

That arch kind of looks like the one from that episode of Star Trek where Bones, Jim, and Spock all go back to the Great Depression and meet Joan Collins. Having a set of train tracks run right through it would have been more convenient, but I think the Shatner liked his action shots. I mean, I guess he could have gotten run over by the train, but that would have been hard to fix with 1930s supplies available. I mean, I guess he could have gotten run over by the train, but that would have been hard to fix with 1930s supplies available.

That is the most beautiful, bucolic bevy of blithe, blissful, bushy-backed b’arfolk as ever brightened a bogus, balmy backwoods. If there’s no Hamm’s beer in their picnic, I'm sure those ursine gents and ladies will have no trouble fishing some from that nearby stream