As we stated on the Overview page, the Wilderness Lodge opened in 1994, having been designed to inspire memories of the great Northwestern Forest Lodges–particularly Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, circa 1904. The Lodge will be celebrating it’s 15th year of operation this year, and over that time many have discovered the secrets and interesting facts that the beautiful Lodge has to offer.
One of the Lodge’s greatest treasures was the now-retired Ranger Stan, who gave tours of the Lodge Wednesdays through Sundays at 9:00am. It’s from Stan’s tour that we got most of this information. By the way, the tour still happens and we greatly suggest you schedule it in; very informative!
Just walking into the Lodge provides a sensory experience like none other on Disney property. The cavernous, 8-story atrium lobby is made almost completely of lodgepole pine imported from the standing dead forest of Oregon. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the beautifully polished hardwood floors. These actually feature a design adapted from a Native American creation story and highlight four strikingly different types of wood, including pine, bird’s eye maple, and brazilian cherry. You can see this design clearly from the 5th floor of the lobby.
From the floor, your eyes travel to the far corner of the lobby, which features the incredible, 82-foot fireplace, built to mimick the rock strata of the Grand Canyon.
On either side of you tower two 55-foot totem poles, commissioned by Disney from one of the world’s preeminent Native American historians and totem pole artists. The totems took over a year to complete, and are known around the Lodge as the Eagle totem and the Raven totem; these animals top either pole, as traditionally in Northwest Native American cultures one could trace one’s history back to either the Eagle Clan or the Raven Clan. Below the Eagle and the Raven, the totem poles are decorated with dozens of carved animals depicting stories and myths from those cultures.
In the back of the lobby, you’ll see a little bridge straddling what looks like a hot spring. This is the headwater of Silver Creek, which, according to the story, bubbles up from the lobby and flows down the Wilderness Lodge property. It flows then over Silver Creek Falls and into Silver Creek Springs Pool, and from there, trickles into Bay Lake. Though most guests would say that this all looks plausible, the spring/creek/pool/lake route actually represents three different water systems, using Disney’s magical landscaping to make it all look as though it flows continuously!
Stop by the front desk when you arrive at the Wilderness Lodge and ask for a Hidden Mickeys Hunt! They’ll hand over a paper with clues to find all of the hidden mickeys in the Lodge! (Psst! Don’t want to stop by the front desk? Just look at the image gallery and download the Hidden Mickeys pages!)
The Wilderness Lodge is the first Disney Resort Hotel to have an official mascot, the brown bear, who you’ll see all over the resort in cartoon, silhouette, and even shadow format! It’s a little known, but confirmed, fact that the shadows cast by the resort’s multi-peaked roof structure were designed to resemble a bear! You can see this well if you look at the resort from the vantage point of Bay Lake.
CAROLWOOD PACIFIC ROOM
Many folks know that Walt Disney had a fascination with steam trains, and the Wilderness Lodge has been the lucky host to a mini-museum of art, photographs, replicas, and actual artifacts from Walt’s hobby and Disney World’s earliest years.
In the Carolwood Pacific Room, which you can find tucked into a corner of the Villas building at Wilderness Lodge, you can spend the afternoon playing chess, sitting by the fireplace (screened by ironwork trains, of course), or learning more and more about Walt Disney’s favorite hobby. Two of the most intriguing pieces of history in this room are the two train cars, donated by Walt’s daughter to the Wilderness Lodge. The cars actually come from Walt’s own backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Walt used to pull these cars behind his own American 4-4-0 engine, which he named “Lilly Belle” after his wife. You can see a replica of this engine at the Main Street station at Disneyland. You can also see the Carolwood Pacific logo on the cars. Though small in scale, these train cars carry significant history for Fort Wilderness, Disneyphiles, and Disney World itself.
HUGE thanks to Darren Grabowski for the information about the Carolwood Pacific Railroad!
BLESSING OF THE FOUR DIRECTIONS
During November, Native American Heritage Month, interpreters James Hansen (Black Wolf) and Anita Hansen (Quick Silver) perform a ceremony intended to drive out negative energy and purify the resort for coming year. You can find out more and see a video at the Disney Parks Blog’s post on the Blessing of the Four Directions.
THE STORY OF WILDERNESS LODGE
As with many Disney resorts, The Wilderness Lodge has a rich and storied back history…invented by Disney Imagineers. The story used to be told through issues of the “Silver Creek Star” newspaper, given to guests at their arrival. The Star has since been shrunk to merely a guest services pamphlet.
The History of Silver Creek Springs:“The history of Silver Creek Springs, a valley of exquisite beauty and amazing natural wonders, located in America‘s great Northwest, can be traced back to one rugged individual who embodied the frontier spirit of that long ago time. Colonel Ezekiel Moreland first discovered this majestic landscape in the early part of the 19th century, and then later, along with his daughter Genevieve, and soon to be renowned artist Frederich Alonzo Gustaf, returned to settle the area and make it their new home.” …read more here
The History of Artist Point Restaurant: “Young and ambitious, Frederich Alonzo Gustaf accompanied Genevieve Moreland on her journey west, in hopes of making a name for himself as a painter. Standing upon high rocks above the valley that Colonel Ezekiel Moreland discovered, Gustaf knew at that moment he had found his destiny. He immediately unpacked his gear and set up his easel somewhat precariously on a rocky outcropping that provided the best possible views of the surrounding area.” … read more here
The Story of Georgie MacGregor: “MacGregor, a prospector, arrived in the valley in 1852 seeking his fortune. Silver Creek was named for its mineral deposits that made the water shimmer, but that didn’t deter MacGregor. He was convinced there was a rich silver vein there just waiting to be tapped. The Silver Creek Star newspaper related how Georgie managed to “set up camp” near the Lodge with the help of proprietress Genevieve Moreland” …read more here