Bear Country
Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1974

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:


The Bear Country naturalist is named Ursus Americanus. Wow. That’s also the scientific name for the American Black Bear. What a coincidence!

Bear Country at Disneyland

Excerpt from 1972 souvenir map © Disney

Artwork on the souvenir map

Bear Country at Disneyland

Excerpt from 1972 souvenir map © Disney

Bear Country on the souvenir map

Your souvenir map of the park shows you what you’ll find in Bear Country—including lots of evergreen trees surrounding a huge concrete floor. The trees give it a north-woods feel. The concrete, not so much.

Elsewhere in the park, there are some show buildings for major attractions located beyond the railroad berm, but Bear Country is the first land whose guest area pavement extends to the other side. A wooden trestle allows the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad to pass safely overhead.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1974

Stroller parking

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1974

Country Bear Jamboree presented by Wonder Bread

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.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1974

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).

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Bill Nelson, 1973

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 Barra’s Swingin’ Arcade. Teddi Barra is the “last of the big-time swingers” who descends from the ceiling on a swing during the Country 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. 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.

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.

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.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2009

Critter Country entrance sign

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.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

Entrance to Splash Mountain

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

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photos by Allen Huffman, 2000

Crowds and Brer Bar (2000 photos)

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photos by Chris Bales, 2001

Country Bear Playhouse exit leading to Brer Bar

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

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

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Teddi Barra’s Swingin’ Arcade

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

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

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2001

Final performances: September 9, 2001

The next big changes began in September 2001, when Country Bear Playhouse (the vacation-themed update to Country Bear Jamboree) closed permanently.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

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 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. Unlike Henry or Gomer from the old show, Winnie was a bear who could move merchandise.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2004

Pooh Corner

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, plush, and candy.” In earlier years, each of the storefronts in that corner of the park offered something different and charming.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2018

Walkway at the Hungry Bear going to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

For more than 60 years, this corner of Disneyland was a dead end. That changed May 31, 2019, with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A waterfront walkway goes to one of three entrances to the newest land.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2023

Disneyland Railroad trestle still bisecting Critter Country

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2023

Teddi Barra’s sign in 2023, long after the demise of her Swingin’ Arcade

Hungry Bear Restaurant is still essentially the same as the old Golden Bear Lodge. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh uses the same entrance Country Bear Jamboree. The storefronts that house Pooh Corner are from Bear Country. The dock for Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes is just as out-of-place now as it was when bears ruled the land. Overall, Critter Country still feels like Bear Country, although there’s no longer as much concrete on the ground.

Critter Country is getting another major change.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Artist concept only © Disney

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure

Splash Mountain is slated to become Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Although Splash Mountain avoided the problematic aspects of Song of the South, the time had come to give the ride a complete divorce from that movie. In June 2020, Disney announced plans for a re-theme to Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009). The Florida version of Splash Mountain closed January 23, 2023, with the California version staying open a little longer.

Although not part of the announcement, we can expect Briar Patch to get a new name and an update. Sculptures based on characters from Song of the South will disappear. And the ride photo shop will undoubtedly get a theme based on the new ride.

With the French Market Restaurant in nearby New Orleans Square becoming Tiana’s Palace, it’s unlikely the Hungry Bear Restaurant will become Tiana-themed. Also, there’s no reason to expect Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes to change.

Despite all the changes to the area since Bear Country opened in 1972—and the fact that Bear Country “disappeared” in 1989—quite a bit of Bear Country from 1972 continues to survive.

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Updated June 1, 2023