Yesterland
Bear Country
“A HONEY OF A PLACE SINCE ’72”
photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Wilderness Trail to Bear Country

The color of the pavement on the Wilderness Trail changes from gray to maroon. That means you’ve entered a new land. Welcome to Bear Country!

You hear someone snoring rather loudly from somewhere along the trail. That’s Rufus the Bear. Nobody ever sees him, but everybody hears him.

Let’s see if we can read the sign:

ENTERING
BEAR COUNTRY
“A HONEY OF A PLACE SINCE ’72”
PERMITS MUST BE OBTAINED FOR TREE-CLIMBING,
FISHING, SCRATCHING AND HIBERNATING
(PERMANENT RESIDENTS EXCEPTED)
NO PERMIT NECESSARY FOR FEEDING BEARS
 
J. AUDUBON WOODLORE
PARK RANGER
 
URSUS AMERICANUS
NATURALIST

The Bear Country naturalist is named Ursus Americanus. Wow. That’s also the Latin Name for the American black bear. What a coincidence!

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

A portion of the souvenir map

Your souvenir map of the park shows you what you’ll find in Bear Country.

The big, new “E” ticket attraction here is the Country Bear Jamboree. If you’ve read about it, you might know that “it stars the wildest bunch of foot-stompin’, knee-slappin’ ripsnorters ever to lumber out of the north woods.”

That’s not the only attraction here. They’re not new, but the Mike Fink Keel Boats and Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes now depart from Bear Country. The Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad passes through Bear Country on a wooden timber trestle, but it doesn’t stop here.

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Bear Country Baths

If you head to the left after you enter Bear Country, you’ll soon reach the Baths. Would you like a hot bath for just 25 cents?

Don’t get your hopes up. The structure with the “Hot Baths 25¢” sign is actually just a north-woodsy themed restroom building. And you can use those restrooms without paying 25 cents (or using a “B” ticket).

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Mile Long Bar

Thirsty? Step into the Mile Long Bar. Okay, the bar isn’t really a mile long, but it looks like it. There’s a mirror at each end, so the bar seems to go on forever. Of course, there’s no beer or whiskey at this bar, but there’s Pepsi and apple cider. Cool off with ice cream or a frozen banana.

Next door, you’ll find Teddi Berra’s Swingin’ Arcade. Teddi Berra is the “last of the big-time swingers” who descends from the ceiling on a swing during the County Bear Jamboree and beckons you with her famous line, “Y’all come up and see me some time, y’hear?” Her arcade has some one-of-a-kind games, including “I’m Gomer, Fly Me.” For 25 cents, you can fly Gomer the bear in circles around a clever Pepper’s ghost (partial mirror illusion) environment, avoiding obstacles such as a bear trap. See how many points you can rack up!

Hungry? Visit the Golden Bear Lodge for hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, sandwiches, and Pepsi products. Dine outdoors while watching the Mike Fink Keel Boats and other river traffic.

There are two shops in Bear Country. The Indian Trading Post features realistic American Indian gifts. Wilderness Outpost sells gifts and apparel with a Bear Country flavor.

It seems that Bear Country is here to stay—as long as the bears can keep the other critters out.


Disneyland’s Bear Country opened in March 1972. It replaced the Indian Village, which had been part of Frontierland. The new area was “outdoorsy,” rustic, Western, and not particularly large. It would have fit in well as part of Frontierland. But Disneyland promoted Bear Country as a brand new land—the first new land since New Orleans Square opened in 1966.

It also meant that Disneyland now had two places called Bear Country—at least until 1977. Bear Country, with bears scratching their backs on trees and catching fish in a pond, had been part of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland since 1960.

photos for an article about Bear Country at Yesterland.com

Site preparation for Splash Mountain (1987 photo)

Within a few years—possibly to avoid confusion with other places having similar names (such as the Golden Bear music club in Huntington Beach)—the Golden Bear Lodge became the Hungry Bear Restaurant. Other than that, Bear Country didn’t change much for 15 years—except that fewer and fewer guests wandered over to this dead-end section of Disneyland as the draw of the Country Bear Jamboree diminished.

Something had to be done.

Disneyland had long had only a single thrill ride, Matterhorn Bobsleds (1959). But during the 1970s, as guests abandoned Bear Country, Disneyland found success with two additional thrill rides, Space Mountain (1977) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (1979). It was time for another thrilling mountain.

photos for an article about Bear Country at Yesterland.com

Construction of Splash Mountain (1988 photo)

The new mountain would be squeezed onto a site that had been a hill between the Haunted Mansion and Bear Country. It would be Splash Mountain, a water flume thrill ride themed around Walt Disney’s Song of the South (1946). The mountain would be inhabited by the Audio-Animatronics cast of America Sings, which was slated to close after a 14-year run.

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Critter Country entrance sign (2009 photo)

With the 1989 opening of Splash Mountain, Bear Country became Critter Country. The Country Bear Jamboree stayed, but there were too many other animals to keep the old name.

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Splash Mountain entrance (2005 photo)

The Bear Country “Baths” were a victim of progress. The entrance to Splash Mountain is near where the “Baths” once stood. The other structures of Bear Country fared better.

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Crowds and Brer Bar (2000 photos)

Crowds returned to this once-forgotten corner of Disneyland as Splash Mountain became an instant hit.

To go with the Song of the South theme, Mile Long Bar became Brer Bar, named after Brer Bear.

photos for an article about Bear Country at Yesterland.com

Teddi Berra’s Swingin’ Arcade (2001 photo).

Teddi Berra’s Swingin’ Arcade survived the arrival of Critter Country, although video games replaced some of the old-fashioned, one-of-a-kind machines.

The Indian Trading Post, which had survived the transition from the Indian Village to Bear Country, became the Briar Patch. It no longer sold American Indian goods.

Another big change was on the horizon. In September 2001, the Country Bear Playhouse (the vacation-themed update to the Country Bear Jamboree) closed permanently.

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (2004 photo)

In April 2003, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a modest, Fantasyland-style dark ride, opened in the building that had previously housed the performing bears.

Cynics suggested there was exactly one reason why Disneyland executives of that era invested in the new ride. It wasn’t because they wanted to a create a delightful ride experience for all ages. It was because the ride’s exit could funnel guests into a large Winnie the Pooh retail store. And unlike Henry or Gomer from the old show, Winnie was a bear who could move merchandise.

photos for an article about Bear County at Yesterland.com

Pooh Corner (2004 photo)

Critter Country gained a Winnie the Pooh superstore. Pooh Corner took over Brer Bar, Teddi Barra’s Swingin’ Arcade, and the retail space around them, resulting in “the ultimate Winnie the Pooh destination for apparel, souvenirs, plus, and candy.” In earlier years, each of the storefronts in that corner of the park offered something different and charming.

That brings us to the present day.

By the way, old snorin’ Rufus the Bear moved into Splash Mountain for a couple of years. You could hear him snoring right before the first drop. Rufus was chased out by Brer Bear, who now lives in the cave.


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© 1998-2011 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated April 15, 2011.

Bear Country art from 1972 Disneyland souvenir map © Disney.
Photo of Bear Country entrance and sign: 1974 by Werner Weiss.
Excerpt from 1972 Disneyland souvenir map © Disney.
Photo of Bear Country Baths: 1974 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Mile Long Bar: 1973 by Bill Nelson.
Photo of Splash Mountain site preparation: 1987 by Robert Demoss.
Photo of Splash Mountain under construction: 1988 by Corby DeMeis.
Photo of Critter Country sign: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Splash Mountain entrance: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photos of crowds and Brer Bar: 2000 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Bear Swingin’ Arcade: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Winnie the Pooh ride: 2004 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Pooh Corner: 2004 by Werner Weiss.