Attractions Backstories Disney World

It’s the Wildest History Ride in the Wilderness: Big Thunder Mountain

It's the Wildest History Ride in the Wilderness: Big Thunder Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Buckle up, partners!  We are headed out to the Wildest Rid in the Wilderness as we make our way through the history of this attraction!  In honor of the upcoming 40th anniversary for Big Thunder Mountain at Walt Disney World on November 15th I wanted to provide you with plenty of fun facts, so let’s dig right in!

Big Thunder Mountain has an extensive backstory that is actually very creative!  According to the Disney Parks Blog, the story goes as such; “Once a working mine during America’s Gold Rush, there was gold found deep within Big Thunder Mountain in Red Rock Canyon. Almost overnight, the town of Tumbleweed became a thriving mining town.  Barnabas T. Bullion established the Big Thunder Mining Company to go after the gold. Barnabas was born into a powerful East Coast family, so naturally, he thought it was his very right to claim the gold inside the mountain. Well, the mountain had other ideas!”





The story continues, “Big Thunder Mountain was said to be protective of its gold and would curse any who dare try to take it.  While in operation, miners would hear ghostly sounds and believed supernatural powers inhabited the mine. Strange events would occur, including cave-ins and equipment failing. On a very stormy night, a flash flood completely wiped out the town, destroying the mining company. Rumors have it Professor Cumulus Isobar, a rainmaker, brought the flood to Tumbleweed. If you look carefully, you might just spot a mysterious machine with Cumulus’ name on it while experiencing Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!  Nowadays, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad travels through an empty ghost mine and rushes riders through the canyons, caverns, abandoned mine shaft and the ghost town of Tumbleweed! Barnabas, however, is still trying to dig and find gold inside Big Thunder Mountain, despite the warnings and curses from the mountain. The legend is, the mountain and mine are both still haunted.”

Big Thunder Mountain first opened in Disneyland on September 2, 1979, after the closing of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland and was inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona.  From 1956 to 1959, the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction was a train tour through the Old West and later became Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland from 1960 to 1977.  Sadly, Walt did not have a hand in the high-speed attraction we know of today, his love for the American Southwest is what helped Disney Imagineers create the pioneering vision towards Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. To pay homage to Walt’s original Old West vision, some of the set pieces from the original western mining town of Rainbow Ridge were retained for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!  Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom opened on November 15, 1980.





Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was imagined by Imagineer and Disney Legend Tony Baxter, who was inspired by the scenery at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The unique shapes of the rocks were key to the landscape vision that expressed the feeling of the American national park. The “hoodoos,” or the famous spires in the attraction, create the scenery that brings guests back to the time of the wild frontier of the 1880s.  The mountain was completely manufactured using cement and paint to create realistic-looking rocks.

Throughout the ride, there is a lot for riders to take in!  In the making of the new attraction, Disney Imagineers used the trains from the mine chase sequence in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”.  Today the attraction reaches top speeds of 36 miles per hour and has a 40-inch height requirement with 3 lifts on the roller coaster.





In 2012 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad went through an extensive refurbishment.  During this refurbishment, Imagineers added an interactive queue to include the backstory of Barnabas T. Bullion, founder and President of Big Thunder Mining Company.  Throughout the queue, guests can take a look inside the Mining Office, the Explosives Magazine and partake in miners’ activities.  Plus, the old track was recycled and replaced.

Once on the attraction, riders can see a miner in his pajamas can be seen relaxing in a bathtub while you’re riding the mine train!  Plus, fun fact, during the evening if your ride Big Thunder Mountain is actually throwing the “Wildest Party in the West” on the second floor of the Gold Dust Saloon!  Fun fact!  There used to be a burning cabin that could be seen across the Rivers of America in Disneyland. The story was the cabin had been burning for 31 years because it was made of firewood! In 2002, the fire was extinguished due to rules and regulations, wah-wah!

Today, many guests enjoy this mountain over at the Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World or at Disneyland Parks.  Is this one of your favorite rides?

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Jessica Jones

Writer at Disney Addicts
Jessica was born in Texas but moved to New Hampshire when she was 9. Due to her increasing hatred towards the cold, she has been secretly turning her husband into a Disney lover in hopes to move to Florida. Hopefully her cover wasn't just compromised! Oh, she also loves painting, crafting, and all that stuff.
Jessica Jones


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