Dollywood Clearing Land for 2019, 2020 and Beyond
Major land clearing is underway at Dollywood near the Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass areas of the park.
While riding the Dollywood Express train over the weekend, I got an up-close look at the massive, now-barren site.
It’s clear that Dollywood is planning something big.
Below is a satellite image of the area where land is being cleared (I did some guessing on the land clearing boundary).
Dollywood 2019, 2020 and Beyond Construction Overview
Site Overview Legend:
- Red: Dollywood Express train route
- Orange: Service road running behind FireChaser Express and Thunderhead
- Yellow: Land clearing (again, estimated)
- Green: Pathway through Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass
Below is a 3D view of the same area from Google Earth, which provides a better perspective of the terrain. This image was taken sometime in 2013 as FireChaser Express was under construction.
As you can see, it’s a hike up this hill to the area being cleared and leveled. You can explore the Google Earth 3D view of the site here.
I used the GPS coordinates embedded in my iPhone photos to get a better idea of the location of this clearing in relation to the train route:
Currently, much of the work consists of flattening the land, which is necessary for infrastructure, buildings, etc. I think it’s safe to say whatever is in the works for this area is more than one attraction:
Bulldozers and dump trucks are scattered throughout the entire area. Notice Wild Eagle and the new-for-2017 Drop Line poking out from behind the trees.
The park is losing a lot of trees as part of this land prep, but Herschend Family Entertainment (who shares ownership of Dollywood with Dolly Parton) reportedly plants three trees for every tree that is removed.
It’s fun to imagine the possibilities of what can be done with this much land (keep reading for my thoughts and ideas at the end of this post).
Photos really don’t do the massive size of this area any justice.
Views like this will be gone once the trees’ leaves return in the spring.
Below, you can see Drop Line on the left and the peak of Thunderhead’s lift hill on the right.
This gives you a much better idea of the elevation of this area.
Likewise, this area is nearly level with the top of Mystery Mine’s show building. Considering that Mystery Mine houses an 85-foot-tall drop, this clearing is possibly 100 feet above the Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass midways.
So what is Dollywood planning for 2019, 2020 and beyond?
The following is pure speculation and wishful thinking on my part. I have no insider information as to what the park is planning. But here are my ideas (in no particular order):
Ski Resort Themed Area
Given the higher elevation of the area where this work is underway, imagine taking a ski lift up to a new area themed to a ski resort with snow- and ski-inspired rides, shows, dining and more. An avalanche-themed coaster would be the centerpiece — perhaps a Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster (watch out, Alpengeist). Or maybe an RMC single-rail coaster themed to a bobsled.
I can’t take full credit for this idea. If I recall, the park many years ago sent out a park survey which included an “Ice House” coaster as one of the options. If you have any additional information about that survey, please share it in the comments section below.
And on a somewhat related note, Dollywood was once planning a snow park in Nashville, Tennessee, so perhaps they could re-purpose some of those plans in this new area.
A hyper coaster — or perhaps even a giga coaster — taking full advantage of the mountainous terrain would be a stellar addition to the park’s already impressive coaster lineup. At first, I thought Bolliger & Mabillard would be the clear choice to build the ride. But given Silver Dollar City’s recently announced Time Traveler spinning coaster, Mack could be a contender. Regardless, the views would be stunning.
As I stated earlier, I think this space is being cleared for much more than a single attraction. So this hyper or giga coaster would likely be the centerpiece of a new area.
Expansion of Wilderness Pass
Since the service road leading up to this construction site is so close to the Wilderness Pass area, I think an expansion of the Wilderness Pass area is plausible. Dollywood has always maintained a strong connection to its natural surroundings — this new area could forgo roller coasters and other traditional theme park rides (gasp!) for a more nature-focused selection of experiences such as the nearby SkyZip.
Imagine nature trails, educational wildlife shows and other “return to nature” type of attractions, possibly themed to a camping expedition. This wouldn’t cater to us coaster enthusiasts, but it would likely appeal to families and outdoor enthusiasts who may pass on Dollywood in favor of hiking through the Smoky Mountains.
On-Site Resort Hotel
An in-park hotel would solidfy Dollywood’s position as one of the most unique theme parks in the United States. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa seems to be a hit (read our review here) as are the park’s cabins scattered throughout the area. But I think there’s enough demand for another hotel resort. And how cool would it be for the hotel’s grand lobby to connect directly with the park?
Of course, the area could contain a mix of all the above. Again, I highly doubt this work is in preparation of only one attraction.
Dollywood has already announced its 2018 plans — a huge investment in live entertainment — so this groundwork is likely in preparation for the 2019 season at the earliest.
The Dollywood Company revealed in 2013 that it would invest $300 million its parks, resorts and other properties over the next decade. As less than five years have passed since that announcement, we can assume that big things are in store for this area.
What do you hope is in the pipeline for Dollywood? Share your ideas in the comments section below.