7 Old Dollywood Rides That You’ll Be Sad to Learn No Longer Exist

the Slidewinder

The Mountain Slidewinder was a fan favorite, but it was retired in 2019 (archived Dollywood media photo)

A Dollywood fanatic remembers rides and attractions that have been removed over the years

Dollywood’s master plan is a thing of wonder. The 36-year journey from niche theme park to being named the No. 11 theme park in the world, according to TripAdvisor, is a remarkable testament to strategic planning and execution. But with remarkable progress, there is some element of trial and error. If you don’t follow theme park news, it can be shocking to discover that in the course of an off-season, a favorite ride has been shuttered in the pursuit of bigger and better things. Sometimes the changes are quite evident. Other times, they sneak up on us and we only realize something is gone when we’re staring its replacement in the face. But that doesn’t mean that dearly departed rides are gone from our memories. So let’s take some time and remember our top gone, but not forgotten rides and attractions at Dollywood that no longer exist.

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a family rides the mountain slidewinder
We will continue to mourn the loss of the Mountain Slidewinder for years to come (Dollywood archive media photo)

1. Mountain Slidewinder

The Mountain Slidewinder was a water-based thrill ride that served its purpose until Dollywood developed more (and better) thrill rides. The Slidewinder was essentially a long water slide with multi-seat toboggans. It was retired in 2019 after 32 years of service. Rumors are that the upkeep costs outweighed the ride’s value, but I think it was the long hike up the queue. The debut of Wildwood Grove proved that Dollywood’s planners are giving more thought to comfort, accessibility and practical movements. The trek up to the Slidewinder was significant.

timber tower at dollywood
Timber Tower only lasted for four seasons before being replaced by Drop Line (Dollywood archive media photo)

2. Timber Tower

The Timber Tower opened to much fanfare in 2006. A gigantic tower with a massive 40-person gondola that lifted to the top 60 feet in the air, the Timber Tower looked much like its eventual replacement, Drop Line. But instead of a slow ride up and a quick drop-down, the Tower spun its gondola and rocked back and forth, giving the riders the sensation of falling to the ground like a tree felled by a lumberjack’s ax. The problem? These lumberjacks were not OK. The Timber Tower had an incident roughly a year after opening that resulted in some guests being stuck up in the air for as much as six hours. The ride lasted another 4 seasons, but you have to think it was doomed by a failed safety sensor.

dollywood river battle ride
The River Battle had a fairly short run, but it was a good way to cool off (Dollywood archive media photo)

3. River Battle

Another ride that didn’t have a long life was the River Battle – an interactive watercraft ride that allowed riders to shoot targets and each other with streams of water. It was fun – unless you ran across some young jerks in another boat determined to blast your 3-year-old and make them cry even after you asked them nicely to stop. Then, you’d be forced to follow the young jerks around the park, hypothetically, of course, plotting a chance to take sweet, sweet revenge. Still, it was a fun way to cool off on a hot day. River Battle’s sister ride, Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast at Silver Dollar City, also closed in 2017.

dollywood's log flume
The Log Flume was originally a Gold Rush Junction/Silver Dollar City attraction that became part of Dollywood in the 1980s but no longer exists today (photo contributed by Richard Melton)

4. Country Fair Falls

This oldie was a holdover from the pre-Dollywood days, but it was showing its age by its 2004 removal. The ride was born for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Later, it found its way to Pigeon Forge when the park was still Gold Rush Junction in the late 60s. It was pretty basic, bang around in a water-filled half-pipe until being carried up the incline by a chain. It was a lot of suspense for one quick thrill, the drop and a cooling splash of water. Reportedly, when the log flume ride came down, it made way for six other kiddie rides in the Country Fair section. With Daredevil Falls and Mountain Slidewinder, the Country Fair Falls outlived its usefulness.

guests ride thunder express at dollywood
The Thunder Express was Dollywood’s original outdoor roller coaster. It was later replaced by the Tennessee Tornado (Dollywood archive media photo)

5. Thunder Express

This runaway mine train’s story is an interesting insight into theme park operations. In addition to being Dollywood’s first outdoor coaster, the ride was also the first roller coaster at Six Flags over St. Louis. The Thunder Express began as half of the twin-tracked River King Mine Train in the early 70s. The secondary track was sold to Dollywood and rebranded in 1988. Interestingly, anyone who wishes can still ride both halves of the original 1971 ride, albeit with several modifications having been made over the years. The primary Mine Train track is still in operation at Six Flags. Its sister, the former Thunder Express, is in operation at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Today it operates under the name Big Bad John, as it has since it opened there in 2002 (POV video below).

the Dreamsong theater
The DreamSong Theater once housed Thunder Road (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

6. Thunder Road

Thunder Road was a motion ride that came onto the scene in 1996. And it taught us everything we ever needed to know about the history of moonshine. The ride was inspired by the classic 1957 film “Thunder Road” and took its riders on an adventure-filled car chase with an explosive ending. At the time, the ride cost about $5 million to create according to the Dolly Parton website. The attraction was also the largest Turbo-Ride Action Adventure ride of its time.

It was replaced in 2002 with the Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure, a ride where Dolly Parton’s cousin took Dolly herself, along with its riders, on a sight-seeing adventure of the Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure had about a 6-year run before becoming the Dreamsong Theater. Editor’s Note: We’d love an old photo of Thunder Road. If you happen to have one you’d like to submit for publication, please email editor@thesmokies.com)

scenes of prisoners from the flooded mine
The Flooded Mine might have closed at Dollywood in the late 1990s, but the ride lives on today at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri (photos courtesy of Paul Drabek, collage by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

7. Flooded Mine

The Flooded Mine was a float-through ride that depicted prisoners working in – and escaping from – a mine that was flooding. Truthfully it was slightly morbid. Even as a kid, I remember thinking, “Are these guys drowning? That’s what’s happening here?” It was shut down in the mid-90s to make room for Daredevil Falls. However, the Flooded Mine at Dollywood’s sister park, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., is still up and running. To make things more interesting, they’ve recently added “pistols” (laser guns) that you can use to shoot at targets as you ride.

Ya know those prisoners need to be taught a lesson for trying to escape. (Okay, you got me, you’re not shooting at prisoners, you’re shooting at bullseyes that trigger bell and whistle sound effects).

Pro-tip: Next time you ride Blazing Fury, be on the lookout for a few Flooded Mine Easter eggs. One is a boarded-up sign that reads “Flooded Mine / Danger Keep Out”. The other is a tombstone of Charlie Turner, who was “killed by flooded mine.

Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN. For more information about the theme park, visit dollywood.com.

Do you remember any of these rides? Are there any that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at editor@thesmokies.com.

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36 thoughts on “7 Old Dollywood Rides That You’ll Be Sad to Learn No Longer Exist”

  1. I miss the Ferris wheel. They should seriously build one like they have at California adventure park. Each gondola is on a loop and it makes it alot more fun. I was scared last time I rode the one at dollywood as it looked very rusty!

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  2. Doly needs to make the quick que back to it’s original format, also at the water park, it’s a shame the wait is too long and restrictions on how many can be signed in to any particular ride is a sham, iv been going every year season pass holder for 11 of past twelve years, not last season of course. But we love Dolly and the parks just a suggestion.

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  3. They need to bring the train ride and skit back. Also Dave the magician. He was wonderfully funny. And the knife maker

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  4. I want flooded mine back it was awesome and put the water back in blazing fury and put a robbery on the train a chicken thief pls

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  5. Yes I miss all of these rides. I would love to see the train have some type of action again too. I still love the park but it would be nice to have another water ride again.

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  6. My family loved Thunder Road and so disappointed when a musical theatre went in there. Not anything we enjoy!

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  7. Wish they had more water rides middle age and elderly don’t do rollercoaster and I agree train ride needs action or even moonshine bootleg them

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  8. I hated when the water was removed from Blazing Fury but the ride was so old and the water was causing a fair share of wear and tear on components. I suppose if their only two options were to remove the water or remove the ride, the water would have to go, sad but true. At least some of it is still around for nostalgia’s sake. I do remember the Flooded Mine and Country Fair Falls when I was a kid, I can remember every detail visually but couldn’t remember the name, thanks!

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  9. I haven’t been able to get to Dollywood in years. I’m handicapped and can’t afford to pay for admission plus Powerchair. Sure miss it. Getting ready to celebrate my 61st birthday in September.

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  10. The price,s here have gotten to be a big burden after my retirement.
    Love this place and have always loved Dolly for since I was just a kid.
    She will always bring back my childhood with her beautiful songs.

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  11. I really miss the Ferris Wheel!?! I ride Ferris wheels all over US! What happened to Dollywood’s ?’

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  12. I miss the train robbery. Loved the flooded mine and country fair falls. Thunder express was a great coaster. Needs a new water ride. Also needs more rides for those who dont like coasters.
    Prices have alot to do with me not being able to come like i want. Too expensive.

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  13. Yeah I would of loved to had gotton a season pass also but couldn’t afford it cause I’m on a fixed income I had one last yearconnie

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  14. We’ve been twice this year (2021) to Dollywood. The newer rides are good but I can go anywhere for the “thrill” rides. I love the Smoky Mountains because of the history and traditions. I, too, missed the action on the train ride and the water in the Blazing Fury. I understand progress but leave the favorites alone. It’s really why people come back and bring their kids. By the way, my children absolutely loved the Blazing Fury…just wish there would have been water ( especially in July).

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  15. I loved all of Dollywood and our family and I went there lots of time over the years. We loved the shows and the train with the actors, robbing the train. I love heartsong , it touches my heart.

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  16. You missed the Veggietale roller coaster. I loved it as a kid. Now it’s just a place to sit and hang out instead

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  17. What about that big green jungle gym-type attraction where Firechaser now stands? You had to be harnessed in traverse all through the course. It was a lot of fun. I think it was called Adventure Mountain and only lasted two seasons. Dollywood also used to have a Trabant ride called The Butter Churn, a Tennessee Twister ride, The Ballon Race ride, Swingamajig ride, a Wonder Wheel ride, and the Veggie Tales Sideshow Spin, which are all gone now.

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  18. Bring back thunder road! I loved the heartsong theater when it did the skit and had thunder and lightning, and butterflies and Jack! And don’t for get the boy jumping of cliff and getting splashed by water! Bring it back! More water rides are needed.and more help is needed, if you have 3 rides per ride have help to manage it to make short wait times in lines. The lines are ridiculous and if your only there for a day you won’t be able to see and ride everything there, the bubble show is amazing it needs to be offered more times during the day. Lower your prices make it affordable for families. Quit offering quick passes to skip lines this isn’t fair to the average people that can’t afford to buy it.

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  19. Loved thunder road! Also when they did it as runaway mine car from journey to the center of the earth. Also great was the polar express 4d ride. Timber tower was one of my favorites! The one I really miss is the river ride. I enjoyed being in the boat or being on the sidelines squirting people.

    Reply

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