Disney’s Wilderness Lodge: A New Frontier

Bryan RipperBlog

One of the things I look forward to when I visit Walt Disney World is the resort that I will be staying in during my trip. Walt Disney World has an amazing selection of resort hotels that allow the magic of the parks to follow the guests back to their room at the end of the day. One of my favorite resorts in Walt Disney World is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort. It’s one of my favorites for several reasons. One reason is it was the first Deluxe resort that we splurged on. We had always been restricted to Moderate and Value due to budgetary constraints, but one birthday trip to Walt Disney World we decided to splurge at the last minute. It really added to the experience. But once we were there, I began to realize just how amazing this resort was. Now, with the opening of their brand new, and second, Disney Vacation Club section of the resort, Copper Creek, we see Disney continue to tell a great story with the theming in this resort. It really builds on to the resort in such a fulfilling and complete way that I thought I would do this week’s post pointing out some of the details and American history that this resort references and pays homage to in some subtle and also not-so-subtle ways.

The main building reflects the natural wonders that drove Americans west

The main building, which opened on the bank of Bay Lake, represents the natural wonders that drove Americans west. For instance, the 82-ft fireplace in the lobby of the resort mimicks the rock strata of the Grand Canyon. There are 2 55-ft. totem poles that adorn the lobby. These are authentic totem poles as Duane Pasco, a Native American history as well as a totem pole artist, was commissioned by Disney to create the 2 poles. The Eagle and Raven poles were both designed to be “read” from top to bottom. It took Duane and 3 assistants 6 months to build the 2 poles.

The resort pays homage to the many streams, rivers, and waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. Silver Creek is a stream that actually begins inside the lobby, flows outside and winds its way down to an eventual waterfall that empties into the resort’s pool, and continues on from the pool until it finally flows out into Bay Lake, the natural Florida lake that the resorts sits on. Technically, it’s actually 3 separate water systems, but the illusion of it being one seamless system is pulled off beautifully!

Outside by the pool, there is an actual man-made geyser, called Fire Rock Geyser, that erupts every hour on the hour from early morning (usually around 7 am) until 10 pm.

The resort actually has a mascot!

This is the first Disney resort to actually have a mascot. This character is Humphrey the Bear, who first appeared in a Goofy cartoon entitled “Hold that pose” in 1950. Of course, Humphrey is a Brown Bear, like the kind that you will find in numerous national parks all over the Pacific Northwest, as well as other parts of the country. You will find Humphrey all over the resort in one form or another, including in totem form holding up the base for Donald, Mickey, and Goofy.

The 3 sections of the resort represent 3 centuries of western American history

As the resort has grown with the addition of Boulder Ridge (the Disney Vacation Club section added in 2000) and Copper Creek (the second Disney Vacation Club section opening summer of 2017), the resort has developed a story of 3 centuries of American history.

The main building pays homage to the lodges that welcomed American travelers that were traveling west. This detail is all the way down to the materials used to construct the massive 8-story atrium lobby. The wood is made entirely from trees imported from Oregon’s standing dead forest. The same kind of wood one might imagine would be used to build tourist lodges in the Pacific Northwest.

Boulder Ridge opened in 2000 under the name “The Villas at Wilderness Lodge”. This is a smaller, quieter wing of the resort reserved for Disney Vacation Club members, but it is still attached to the rest of the resort. Boulder Ridge reflects the rustic communities along the railroad in the late 1800’s. The railroad was such an integral factor in the frontier and Americans heading west, and this section of the resort has references to trains and the railroad all over the place! For example, the Iron Spike Room is a quiet room where you can relax and talk, read a book, or even play board games, and it is decorated with all kinds of railroad memorabilia. It even ties in Walt Disney’s own love of trains through pictures and even a painting of Walt at his “Magical Barn”, where he kept his 1/8 scale fully operational locomotive, which he called The Carolwood Pacific, at his home in Holmby Hills, CA.

Disney Vacation Club has become popular enough to the point where Disney has begun rapidly expanding the amount of villas and rooms on Disney property. This summer Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will be adding a second Disney Vacation Club section to the resort that will be known as Copper Creek. This section will represent the Pacific Northwest of today. More modern design will be seen, such as buildings designed to be old railroad relics that have been converted with a contemporary repurpose.

The resort tells its own story

The thing that separates Disney theme parks and resorts apart from other properties is Disney’s ability and insistence in telling a story in everything they do. It makes sense that a company built on movies, animation, and storytelling would make the story the foundation of their parks and resorts.

Disney historian Jim Korkis wrote a great piece depicting the exploits of Colonel Ezekiel Moreland, whom the story of the resort was founded on. The original story was actually told in the resort’s very own official Silver Creek Star, a clever paper Disney had made up as a way to communicate to guests the services the resort has to offer while immersing them in the story they had created for the resort.

You can read the full story as retold by Jim Korkis in an article he wrote for Mouseplanet titled, “The Forgotten Story of he Wilderness Lodge“.

There is so much that can be said about this timeless and endearing resort; much more than can be properly written about in a single blog article. Things like the numerous Hidden Mickeys that can be found around the resort, the interactive and sometimes overbearing (in a fun way) cast members at the Whispering Canyon Café, the distinction you can enjoy of being the family of the day and raising the resorts flags, and the relaxation of watching the Electrical Water Pageant on Bay Lake from the resort are just a few of the things that make Disney’s Wilderness Lodge much more than a place to stay. All of the unique features the resort offers, coupled with the connection with American History, makes this a must-experience resort for any Disney fan or history buff.