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The Fort Wilderness Book

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If you were to ask me, “Which Disney resort is your favorite?” I would immediately answer, “Fort Wilderness Campground.”

We have stayed at many of the other resorts, including Port Orleans French Quarter, All Star Music, POP Century, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, The Polynesian Resort and the Disneyland Hotel. Carol has made a few trips without me, and stayed at All Star Movies, All Star Sports, Port Orleans Riverside, The Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Hotel, The Golf Resort, The Boardwalk, Old Key West and The Caribbean Beach Resort. While lots of other Disney fans may disagree, for me Fort Wilderness stands head and shoulders above any of those other resorts.

Carol says that her “dream trip” would involve either The Disneyland Hotel or The Polynesian Resort but Fort Wilderness is not far behind!

It will probably come as no surprise to you that Carol, a compulsive collector, has saved some keepsakes, mementos and souvenirs from a resort which ranks high on her list of favorites. They were scattered throughout our home, some in her pin collection, some in the Tickle Trunk, some in scrapbooks and others in book cases or file folders.

About two years ago she decided to put them all together in her new Fort Wilderness Book. Once she had it all assembled in a large 3-ring binder, we were both pleasantly surprised by some of the treasures she had picked up over the years.

Here is a look at a few of the highlights from the Fort Wilderness Book.

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_1

This 1981 Fort Wilderness brochure, sponsored by RV manufacturer, Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., gives us a nostalgic look at the campground in its earliest days. Notice the advertisement for Fleetwood, who billed themselves as “The Official Recreational Vehicles of Fort Wilderness”. Those are some classic old motor homes and travel trailers!

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_2

On the pages of the brochure are a few sights you won’t see around Walt Disney World today. You will not find Musket Mickey! In today’s politically correct world the coonskin-capped Mickey carries a walking stick rather than a firearm.

Do you see that sailboat in front of Cinderella Castle? There used to be sailboats, pedal boats and even those tricycle boats with the giant flotation tires available for rent at Fort Wilderness. They have been gone for years, but you can still rent SeaRaycers and pontoon boats.

The other sight from yesteryear that you no longer see is people swimming in Bay Lake or the Seven Seas Lagoon. In the early years the beaches at each of the Magic Kingdom area resorts were busy, but since swimming was banned many years ago the beaches have become lonely tracts of clean white sand. Why was swimming banned? There were some safety concerns centered around alligators, copperhead snakes and a rather nasty little amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, more commonly called the "brain-eating amoeba". Take my advice . . . stay out of the water!

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_3

Trail rides, fishing and cycling are still very popular at “The Fort” and if you are there on the right day you might still see that blacksmith at work on his forge, beside the horse barns, at Tri-Circle D Ranch.

Two neighbouring destinations, Discovery Island and River Country are included in the brochure. Alas, they’re both long gone now! Carol has some great mementos from each of them; I may write about both closed attractions in a future blog.

The 1981 Fort Wilderness brochure ends with “Food ‘N Fun”. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue has been running continuously since 1974 and is often referred to as “one of the longest continuously running musicals in American theatre history”. It may even be the longest!

1982_Hoop_Dee_Doo_Showbill

This handbill from the grand old Hoop-Dee-Doo show at Pioneer Hall dates back to about 1982. Today’s version is almost exactly the same . . . the menu has changed slightly; seasonal vegetables have now replaced that "corn-right-on-the-cob". But you’ll be pleased to hear that the corny old jokes have not changed a bit! It’s still a toe-tappin’, foot-stompin’ good time!

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Postcard
A postcard from 1982

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Check-In_Brochure_front

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Check-in_Brochure_reverse

Those two images above are the front and back of a brochure guests received at check-in in 1982. All the rules and regulations, together with some suggestions are there, if you can read the fine print!

1986_Pioneer_Hall_Breakfast_Show

In March 1986 Carol received this letter announcing an exciting new meal at Pioneer Hall, the “Rise and Shine, Get Up and Go Breakfast Show” featuring Melvin the Moose, Chip and Dale and other characters. The breakfast show ran for about five years, until 1991 . . . don’t worry about Melvin the Moose, he returned to his regular gig in Frontierland, at Country Bear Jamboree!

1988_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_1

1988_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_2

A 1988 brochure, pictured in the two images above, referred to “trailer homes” from Fleetwood. They were sometimes called “Wilderness Homes” and in 1997 they were all replaced by the cabins we know today!

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Resort_Map

Let’s look at a few more recent items, starting with this resort map from 2010. From the Outpost (the check-in area at the bottom right of the map) to Pioneer Hall (near the marina and dock at the top left) is a distance of just over a mile. The roads marked with yellow, orange and purple lines denote the three routes run by the campground’s internal bus system. When Fort Wilderness opened in November 1971 trams, similar to the parking lot trams used at the theme parks, transported guests around the campground. In the early 1990’s the trams were replaced by buses.

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Gazette_pg_1_2

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Gazette_pg_3_4

For many years a four page Gazette newsletter was included in check-in packages. The copy above, from 2010, provides a wealth of information about the campground and the many services and recreation facilities available. The Gazette has now been replaced by a smaller booklet which contains the same information in a more modern format.

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Halloween_Schedule

Campers take great delight in decorating their sites for the holidays and Management at “The Fort” take an active role in organizing many fun-filled holiday activities. Here is a sample, a flyer from Halloween 2010.

2010_Tri_Circle_D_Brochure_front

2010_Tri_Circle_D_Brochure_inside

When you get to the campground, be sure to visit the horses at Tri-Circle-D Ranch. This 2010 brochure says it all about “The Happiest Horses on Earth”. All of those horses you see working in the Magic Kingdom live at the ranch in Fort Wilderness. Stop by the barns and meet them sometime!

Bumper_Sticker_Soap_Decal_Shoulder_Patch

Here are a few other little odds and ends, a Fort Wilderness decal, an embroidered shoulder patch, a bumper sticker and bar of Fort Wilderness soap.

What’s that? You were wondering about pins? Yes, of course Carol has pins; Fort Wilderness pins and River Country pins.

Pin_Frame_1

Pin_Frame_2

Pin_Frame_3

Did you know that the campground once had a railroad? There was a 3.5 mile track which looped through the campground from the Outpost to the Settlement. The cars were built to 4/5 scale and ran on a 30” track. There were four steam-powered engines and each pulled five passenger cars. Each of the four trains had could transport 90 passengers and they operated on a regular schedule from 1973 to 1977. They ran sporadically for a few years after that and in early 1980’s the trains stopped altogether and the tracks were removed. Carol bought this pin commemorating the Fort Wilderness Railroad at the 2011 EPCOT Trade Celebration.

2011_Fort_Wilderness_Railroad

When Carol began pulling all of her collection together, were both surprised at the volume of stuff she had assembled . . . there are lots of good memories there! That magical binder keeps Fort Wilderness alive for us even when we're at home!

And it’s still a work in progress; she’s always on the lookout for new items to add to one of her prized possessions, her Fort Wilderness Book.

The previous post in this blog was Disney Buttons.

The next post in this blog is Jim's Attic: The History Behind the Saratoga Springs DVC Resort .

Comments (12)

Jeff Morris:

Hi Gary,

Just wanted to let you know how much my fiancé and I enjoy your blogs. You do such a good job of putting them together and making them always an interesting read. I've been collecting Disney items for a few years now and my fiancé has just gotten into it. We can't wait for your next blog! Keep up the great writing!

Michael Morse:

Thanks for sharing.... Miss so much about early Fort Wilderness.... Spent a lot of time there as a child. One thing I miss more than anything is going to Pioneer Hall for make your own pizzas, sing along with the piano and pitchers of sasparilla .... So much good family fun!

Shannon Richey:

We absolutely love staying at the camp grounds... So glad to hear you enjoy it too. My husband and I found a few websites with info about the camp grounds, but we are curious to know if we could purchase a copy of your book or if it was just a copy that you've made for your selves?

Thank you,
Shannon Richey

[Gary writes: Sorry Shannon, the book is not for sale. It is simply a three-ring binder full of our precious old Fort Wilderness memories.]

Jane Boeck:

Another great article Gary. The Fort is "home" for us and I love being able to see the history. I noticed in the 1982 check-in brochure that pets were not allowed in the campground. Do you know when that policy was changed? We are so thankful we are able to have our dogs with us at the Fort. Thanks Disney.

[Gary writes: Sorry Jane, I don't know when they started allowing pets. We first camped there with our dogs in 2006. I tried an Internet search and could not locate a date; maybe another reader knows when the change was made?]

Brooke:

What a neat place!!

I'd love to see a write up on River Country! Went there as a teen. So busy having teen fun that I'm sure I didn't truly appreciate all it was! Lots of fond memories!

[Gary writes: Stay tuned Brooke, I will definitely talk about River Country in a future blog.]

Jeff Blank:

Hi Gary -

Great read! I'm looking forward to the River Country blog; I was there once, in March 1978. I seem to remember taking a bus from the parking lot to over by the Ranch to begin the trek to River Country.

I was also lucky enough to experience Discovery Island once, too, in August 1994. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon; Disney's least crowded theme park. I remember being greeted by the capybara on the beach and the Aviary was wonderful, you really didn't feel you were in an enclosed (netted) area. Will there be a Discovery Island blog down the road also?

Looking forward to the next blog, whatever the topic

- Jeff

[Gary writes: Good to hear from you Jeff. I plan to do blogs covering both River Country and Discovery Island later this year. Stay tuned!]

Tim:

Great article, I love "the Fort". I remember riding my bike for hours throughout the campground on days off from the parks. Didn't they have a version of the gazette in the late 80's early 90's that had campground info but also like a fake classifieds section in it? I don't know why but I remember being excited trying to find the fake ads in it.

[Gary writes: Thanks Tim.

I'm not sure about ads in the Gazette, I don't remember seeing them. There were ads in the Walt Disney News, a monthly newsletter given to all Disney resort guests in the 80's and early 90's.

There will be a few blogs about these old newsletters appearing here within the next month. I hope some of the ads look familiar!]

Joni:

Loved Crockets Tavern back in the day.

They had the best and hottest chicken wings and the Biggest celery sticks I have ever seen. And I believe they had an awesome buffalo burger.

Was a nice place to relax and have a good sit down meal. I believe they may have had some entertainment at some time. Miss it.

[Gary writes: Crockett's Tavern is still there and they serve chicken wings, natchos and pizza. Y'all come on back Joni!]

Sarah:

Thank you for the great read Gary!

I discovered your blogs and started reading them two years ago while planning our first ever trip to The Fort. We are DVC members so we don't normally stay anywhere else, but my husband and I drive from Chicago and camp along the way anyway, so we decided to get in a few days ahead of the rest of the family and spend them there.

Our camping style is in a tent with very few ammenities so we were not really expecting to love it.....but we did! We have plans to move to St Petersburg, FL within a few years and we expect to spend a lot more nights camping at The Fort!

Thanks,
Sarah

[Gary writes: Hi Sarah, I'm glad to hear about your good experience! Maybe we'll meet at "The Fort" one of these days!]

gena yates:

I stayed at the campground 6 or 7 yrs ago in a cabin !! I loved it but my sister wasn't to fond of it . She found the pool dated and she didn't like the bus system . I loved the fact that I had a 2 yr old and could spend the day away from the parks doing things like a small petting farm and a pony ride !!! I LOVED Hoop Dee Doo and Mickeys BBQ !!! I am an animal lover (my sis not so much ....yes we kinda are opposites ) and would have loved Discovery Island ! What are they using that island for now ? I always thought the reason why you couldn't swim in the lake or lagoon was because of pollution from boats ! It looks like Disney could find a way to get rid of the pesky amoeba and pollution . As far as alligators and copperheads , I would think it could be managed and "swim at your own risk "....was there several incidences of people incountering these reptiles ? I Don't like a beach you can't even get your feet wet.....but I sure don't want anything to do with Brain eating amoebas !!!! Your article was wonderful and I thank you for it !! I envy your wife's organizational skills since all my Disney trinkets are in 2 boxes upstairs all jumbled up !!! One of my best Disney memories is when we were walking from the boat dock one night and we saw a big owl perched pretty low in a tree and he was hooting away , my kids ( and I ) went crazy over this !

[Gary writes: Thanks for your comments Gena.

Let your sister know that the main pool, at The Meadows, was refurbished several years ago. It now features a great water-slide and a splash pad for the kiddies!

I'm not an amoeba expert, but I understand that nasty little bug to be rampant in lakes all over Florida.

Discovery Island is now vacant and serves as a bird sanctuary.]

Carol Hawkins:

My husband and I have taken our 4 girls there many times through the years. Those girls range from 26 to 36 now, but have such fond memories of their time at "The Fort." We loved going to River Country and eating at the Buffeteria. They used to have a singer there nightly. We remember all the decorations and music at Christmas. They loved the free cookies for the holidays and the donuts you could carry out. It has always been such a relaxing time amid all the noise and crowds that can be at Disney World.

Now we have taken our grandchildren there, with our most recent trip being last March for a surprise vacation. All the kids love the "cabinets" (cabins), the golf cart rides, the pony rides,visiting the horse barn, and the campfire. We always decorate our golf cart lights and all. It is always a fun time. No one ever wants to leave.

[Gary writes: Yes Carol, Fort Wilderness is a very special place . . . so close to the parks yet a world away!]

Frank Isaac:

Hi
Really enjoyed your article Have stayed at Fort Wilderness a number of times and loved it.Even been attacked by the goats in the petting zoo. My kids loved that incident and still laugh about it. I have a question though. How do they transport the horses from Fort Wilderness to The Magic Kingdom every day

Thanks
Frank

[Gary writes: Hi Frank, next time you're there walk over to the horse barns beside the petting zoo. You will often see horse trailers picking up horses or dropping them off.

PS: Beware of hitchhiking ghosts and rampaging goats! LOL]

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 29, 2014 5:28 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Disney Buttons.

The next post in this blog is Jim's Attic: The History Behind the Saratoga Springs DVC Resort .

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