Yesterland
Castle Rock Ridge
on Tom Sawyer Island
“D” Ticket

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Castle Rock, the most prominent landmark of the Castle Rock Ridge

It’s 1957. You’ve just set foot on Tom Sawyer Island after a ride on a Tom Sawyer Island Raft across the Rivers of America. You spent a “D” ticket for this attraction. That’s the highest denomination. (The “E” ticket won’t be around until 1959—at which time the Tom Sawyer Island Rafts will be promoted to an “E” ticket.)

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Frank Taylor, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Castle Rock and Injun Joe’s Cave from the Mike Fink Keel Boats dock.

To make sure you don’t miss a thing on the island, consult your Tom Sawyer Island Explorer’s Map. There’s a map on one side and vividly written descriptions on the other.


Visit Tom and Huck’s Tree House, The Old Mill, the Fishing Pier (where you can borrow one of Huckleberry Finn’s favorite poles and a can of worms to fish for real catfish and river perch), Injun Joe’s Cave, the Pontoon & Suspension Bridges, Fort Wilderness, and Castle Rock Ridge.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Mark Twain Riverboat passing between Castle Rock and a Conestoga Wagon

Here’s what the map says about the rocky ridge.

CASTLE ROCK RIDGE

A fantastic group of rocks stretches along the ridge of the island… and in this primeval playground you can ride the Merry-go-round Rock… or seesaw on Teeter-Totter Rock. Climb the stone steps to the ramparts of romantic Castle Rock high above the river… descend the spiral steps to the depths of the castle.

High adventure awaits you beneath Ambush Rock… Relive the days of the river pirates in the Pirate’s Den… follow the underground maze to The Dungeon of No Escape.

The Dungeon of No Escape? Perhaps that’s why so many rafts are returning to Frontierland with very few passengers.


When Disneyland opened in July 1955, it already had the Rivers of America with the Mark Twain Riverboat plying a route around an island—but there was no way for guests to visit that island and nothing on it but trees, shrubs, and dirt. That changed on June 16, 1956, with the opening of Tom Sawyer Island Rafts and Tom Sawyer Island.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Copyright 1968 Walt Disney Productions

Castle Rock on the 1968 Disneyland Souvenir Map by Sam McKim

Tom Sawyer Island, described before it opened as “a playland out of a youngster’s dream,” cost $250,000. It was part of Disneyland’s $2 million expansion for 1956, which also included the Skyway, Rainbow Caverns Mine Train Ride, the Indian Village, Indian War Canoes, and the transformation of Canal Boats of the World into Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Children and adults could explore the many features of the island as long as they wanted—or until dusk, when the island closed.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2000

Castle Rock in 2000

The trees on Tom Sawyer Island kept growing. What had originally been a rather barren island with young landscaping plants became a mighty forest surrounded by water.

Despite remaining the same size, Castle Rock went from being a towering landmark reaching into the sky to being a rocky structure at the base of towering trees.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Castle Rock in 2002

Over the years, Merry-go-round Rock and Teeter-Totter Rock were quietly removed. Safety standards had changed.

However, as late as 2002, Castle Rock still provided the same experience as in 1956. Guests could climb up in various ways and emerge at various levels.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

2003 Makeover

In 2003, Castle Rock gained an odd assortment of building parts, masts, and barrels around its summit. Apparently Tom and Huck enhanced the rocky castle so they could pretend it was a ship.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Karen Weiss, 2004

Hidden Castle Rock

Disneyland fans blamed Disneyland’s lawyers. But, hey, at least kids could still play on it, just as it was still possible to explore the dark caves of the island. It was even still possible to get a scraped knee.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2007

Pirate takeover

In 2007, the attraction that had been called Tom Sawyer Island Rafts since 1956 became Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Banking on the success and appeal of its Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, The Walt Disney Company gave Tom Sawyer island a pirate makeover. It was an odd juxtaposition of the world of Tom and Huck and the world of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Castle Rock gained a Jolly Roger flag on its mast, crossed swords below the double arches, and various other piratey props.

A 2007 Disney press release suggested, “Guests also should keep a keen lookout for pirates at other island landmarks like Tom & Huck’s Treehouse and Castle Rock, where—as legend has it—marauders have stashed their hoard of loot.”

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2009

Hidden in the forest

And the trees kept growing.

Castle Rock, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Castle Rock in 2013

Castle Rock may not look the same as in 1956, but it really hasn’t gone to Yesterland. Castle Rock is still part of Disneyland, providing a similar experience for children today as it did for their grandparents.

Except that their grandparents had the option of getting hurt.

 

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Updated August 1, 2014.