Bear Country
Bear Country at Disneyland

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1974

Wilderness Trail to Bear Country

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

Art © Disney

A portion of the souvenir map

Your souvenir map of the park shows you what you’ll find in Bear Country.

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. The 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.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Robert Demoss, 1987

Site preparation for Splash Mountain, 1987

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.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Corby DeMeis, 1988

Construction of Splash Mountain, 1988

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 Werner Weiss, 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 Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

Entrance to Splash Mountain

The Bear Country “Baths” were a victim of progress. The entrance to Splash Mountain is near 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)

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

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

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.

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

Another big change was on the horizon. In September 2001, the Country Bear Playhouse (the vacation-themed update to the Country Bear Jamboree) closed permanently.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2004

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. And 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, 2015

Inside Pooh Corner

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Teddi Barra’s sign in 2015, long after the demise of her Swingin’ Arcade

That brings us to the present day.

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 new land.

Bear Country at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2018

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

By the way, old snorin’ Rufus the Bear moved into Splash Mountain for a couple of years. You could hear him snoring right before the first drop. Rufus was chased out by Brer Bear, who now lives in the cave.

Click here to post comments at MiceChat about this article.

Mile Long Bar
Happiest Turkeys on Earth

© 1998-2020 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated July 10, 2020