The Flooded Mine, one of the most unique and detailed attractions at Silver Dollar City, is celebrating it’s 50th season in 2017. It formally turns 50 in May of 2018, but that will be part of its 51st season. The ride has faithfully entertained generations of park guests – and thanks to the gentle, open nature of the ride many generations of park guests have been able to ride together throughout those years creating memories unparalleled to most other theme park experiences. The Flooded Mine opened in 1968, the same year the park started charging admission. It was originally just a leisurely boat ride through a labyrinth of highly themed rooms and caverns with plenty of vintage special effects. In 1990 the ride was spiced up with electronic guns and targets and the official name of the ride was changed to ‘The Great Shoot Out at the Flooded Mine’. It has stayed much the same over the years, though maintenance is constantly being done which occasionally involves refreshing a scene or switching out props. Last year one of the thematic towers that helped disguise the roof was taken down due to age.
It’s hard to express just how special The Flooded Mine is among the world of theme park rides and their patrons. Few rides outside of Orlando are so filled to the brim with such attentive detail, few rides allow the entire family to ride together (besides the train of course), and few rides make it to 50 seasons. It has certainly shown its age after so many years and so many millions of rides given, but while many guests often offer their ideas of how to refresh or rebuild the Mine for new generations, it’s hard to imagine that today’s penny-pinching market forces would produce the same level of immersion that we have taken for granted with The Flooded Mine. It is truly a gift from a past generation that cannot easily be surpassed without Disney or Universal-level money.
If you’re too far away to get a chance to experience the Flooded Mine in person, Erick Norlund has a good video from a couple seasons ago here on YouTube. Neatocoolville also has a nice video that shows some extra angles here on YouTube.
Here is a small curation of photos to celebrate how far the Mine has come. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of photos of the interior since I’ve never had a good camera for taking photos in the dark. Thanks to Austin Zamora for the first photo, which is from opening day 2017.
Silver Dollar City will debut a new festival on April 6, 2017 to replace the former World Fest. The new Festival of Wonder will focus on amazing and exciting performances and interesting food options. Highlights will include the world’s largest stringed instrument, which will run the length of Red Gold Heritage Hall, and The World of Bacon. It’s also worth getting excited for the wild Flamenco Kings musicians and acrobats, and the gourmet grilled cheese varieties that will be introduced. The new festival will also welcome in the opening of the full park for the 2017 season (only rides and select shops and eateries are open during March Spring Ride Days).
Get more info here on the official site.
Large scale clearing has continued at Silver Dollar City in preparation for what we can only assume is a major new roller coaster project. The clearing is now readily noticeable behind Echo Hollow and next to ThuNderaTion. The change in the scenery when riding TNT is drastic: the once hidden helix and swoop through the woods is now completely exposed on one side. As we noted back in May, a large cut was made into the hillside next to TNT’s lift hill, which is now occupied by construction office trailers. The clearing shows off the large expanse of land that was previously hidden in this area; easily enough for a large new coaster. The survey stakes that clearly state ‘CL Coaster’ and ‘CL support’ are still there.
On the other side of Echo Hollow the majority of the current action is taking place. New utility lines are being placed down the hill, and a large new excavation has been made on the East side of the amphitheater next to the concession stand that is nearly always closed. It’s speculated that this will be a new set of restrooms to replace the set being demolished on the other side. We will probably see the Echo Hollow entrance moved closer to this side as well.
It’s still not easy to photograph the construction from inside the park without breaking any rules (do NOT take a camera on any coasters), but here is what I was able to snap with my cellphone from the TNT queue and EH:
The original Silver Dollar City that was such a quintessential piece of the park during it’s early years was purchased some years ago by a man named Rick Hamby who grew up riding it. Since then he has taken it on multiple cross-state trips, using it not only to educate about the old west but to also spread the practice of good old fashioned pen pals and letter writing. At each stop on his trips he would hand out letters to the local school kids from other school kids in the Ozarks.
This year is the 15th time he’s made such a trip, but now it seems that he’s giving it up. The stagecoach is going to be returned to SDC this fall and will presumably be put on display outside of Outlaw Run, the stagecoach robbery-themed roller coaster at the park.
More details and a video are available on ky3.com
The 2017 project is already well underway it seems. Construction markings are flourishing in the area around ThuNderaTion and Echo Hollow. The markers clearly identify the centerline of a new roller coaster, complete with arrows apparently depicting the direction of travel. There is also a lot of electrical line work going on, with orange markings leading out from the TNT station and near the power box by Echo Hollow.
The ride markings make a tight loop mostly encircling the Echo Hollow restroom building, with markers leading off down into the valley behind the amphitheater. At least one marker can also be spotted within the turn of ThuNderaTion following the dive out of the tunnel.
The small gravel area that has always been next to ThuNderaTion’s lift hill has been expanded and had fresh gravel added, and a tall chain link fence with high wires has been added around the coaster. This is obviously going to be a major staging area. If you are quick, you can also spot a large clearing being made on the entrance road just past the turnoff where an access road is being added into the area.
At this rate, I would not be surprised to see actual clearing for the coaster itself begin next month, but that’s my assumption.
In 1969 Silver Dollar City thrust itself from obscurity and directly into the national spotlight by playing host to one of TV’s most iconic families: The Beverly Hillbillies. Not just one, but five episodes were filmed at Silver Dollar City as part of the 8th season of the massively popular series. SDC wasn’t just a backdrop – it’s name, characters, and real life history was used in the episodes giving the park an unimaginable amount of publicity considering it’s size and relative obscurity at the time. Silver Dollar City and the Ozarks in general got a lot of love from the show because Paul Henning, the creator of the series, was actually inspired to create the show on a Boy Scout camping trip to the area in 1962.
The five episode run took the Clampet family back to “the hills” to see the Silver Dollar City Fair (SDC being portrayed as an actual Ozark town), where Granny intends to find a suitable husband for Elly May. Elly tries to show off in the fair’s competitions, but Granny’s plans get derailed when her Ozarkan arch-rival, Elverna Bradshaw, ends up competing with her instead. Several famous Silver Dollar City citizens made appearances such as Shad Heller, Peter Engler, and Chick Allen, as well as Branson icon and country singer Roy Clark.
These episodes were not the only love SDC got from the Hillbillies, as throughout the 9-season series there are numerous references to Silver Dollar City, it’s characters, and local Branson icons such as Jim Owens. Shad Heller especially got some traction on the show, even being flown out to Hollywood after the five SDC episodes to carry on as a recurring character in several more episodes. It’s said that SDC got exposure on at least twenty episodes of the show.
The result of the SDC episodes hitting the airwaves was dramatic. Attendance rose some 16% at Silver Dollar City by the following year to reach over 900,000 visitors. That’s a respectable number for a small theme park even today, and this was long before the emphasis on roller coasters and big thrill rides. Given that Silver Dollar City had trouble finding it’s footing as an attraction during the early years, it’s possible that the show marked a turning point leading it to evolve into the massive entertainment company it has created today. Roy Clark, who was just a country singer at the time, got exposed to Branson through his appearances in these episodes leading to his eventual return and setup of the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre which also helped put Branson on the map.
DVDs of the Silver Dollar City episodes can usually be found in the Hospitality House within the park. I’m having trouble finding where you can buy DVDs online of the later seasons, so if you find a source let us know!
One of Silver Dollar City’s finest festivals kicks off on May 5. Bluegrass and BBQ brings together two of the Ozark’s best traditions. Red Gold Hall fills up with BBQ styles from across the nation including Memphis, Cajun, and Hawaiian styles. At Reunion Hall they have an all-you-can-eat rib fest which includes St. Louis style ribs and hickory smoked beef brisket. While you are chowing down on all that, there’s a huge list of famous Bluegrass performers from across the country scheduled to perform all throughout May. This festival is a pretty huge deal within the Bluegrass world, so don’t miss your chance to see some of the world’s best in Silver Dollar City’s perfect settings.
For more info, check out the official event page.
Our observant friends at midwestinfoguide.com have spotted a number of orange construction markings at Silver Dollar City in the area just above the Echo Hollow amphitheater. You can check out the photos and summary here on the MIG blog. It seems the color of the markings indicates that some communication utilities are being relocated in the area. While these specific markings could just be related to upgrades or maintenance at the amphitheater, rumors have already been starting to swirl about a major new attraction for Silver Dollar City in 2017.
While so many park rumors are little more than gossip or hearsay, one can pick up a hunch that something big is on the way to the park within the next couple of seasons just by observing the recent patterns in park development. The 2017 season will be four years removed from the opening on Outlaw Run, which is not a large gap but matches the gap between Wildfire and Powderkeg. In recent years the park has followed a pattern of adding large additions every other year with smaller projects or no development in the years in between. This year is seemingly one of those “dry” years, after the $10 million Fireman’s Landing addition in 2015. Dollywood, Silver Dollar City’s sister park in Tennessee, has been adding new coasters like crazy in the past decade as they transform into a resort destination.
There are certainly no guarantees that any of this means anything other than that some utilities have been located, but you can be sure that the park’s fans will be eagle-eyed all season long for any markings, clearings, or equipment that might indicate something new on the way.
Marvel Cave is the original attraction on the Silver Dollar City property, and the historical activities related to this cave are the basis of the park’s overarching theme and the theme of a number of individual rides and things within the park. The history of Marvel Cave is the story of the origins of Silver Dollar City.
The history of Marvel Cave stretches back into the 1500′s and beyond when various Indian tribes, most notably the Osage, inhabited the area and acknowledged the cave. Local lore says that the Indians called the cave “Devil’s Den” due to the occasional sounds that echoed from its mouth. It has been said that sometime in the mid 1500′s Spanish Explorers went into the cave searching for the Fountain of Youth or other treasures, but I’m not aware of any actual evidence to back that up. Due to the cave’s dangerous sunken entrance it seems that no notable exploration was made into the cave until 1869 when Henry T. Blow led the first official expedition in search of minable ores. They didn’t find any useful ore, but they did find large quantities of bat guano and what they thought was marble. It’s thought that since the explorers only had lamp light to see with, they mistook the guano-covered rocks for marble slabs. The cave soon became known as Marble Cave.
In 1882 the Marble Cave Mining Company began attempts to mine the supposed marble out of the cave. After about four and half years of trying and finding no marble, the company folded. While the company was operating a mining town called Marmaros sprung up around the operation, named after the Greek word for marble. Silver Dollar City was actually created to commemorate this town, albeit in a rather idealized manner. When the company gave up the operation, Marmaros became a ghost town.
In 1889 the cave was bought by William Henry Lynch, a Canadian entrepreneur who had an interest in opening the cave as an attraction. For reasons that are somewhat muddled in the fog of history, Lynch’s purchase of the cave and business intentions set off a local band of vigilantes known as the Baldknobbers. The group swept in one night and burned the entire town to the ground. Fire-in-the-Hole, one of Silver Dollar City’s first rides, is themed to the story of the Baldknobber attack. Lynch continued on with his plans and brought in the famous artist and scientist S. Fred Prince to survey the cave. Prince spent most of two years living in the cave, and built his own living areas and fireplace so he could stay down there for months at a time. The cave was first opened as an attraction in 1894. Prince continued to work for Lynch as a guide and explorer until Lynch’s death in 1927. Around this time the cave finally became known as Marvel Cave.
Hugo Herschend, a former vacuum cleaner salesman from Chicago, acquired the cave in 1950 on a 99-year lease from the Lynch sisters. Hugo Herschend passed away in 1955, but his wife Mary took over the cave operations and set forth a serious of grand visionary expansions. Her two sons, Jack and Peter, helped construct concrete paths and stairs within the cave, and a tower that allowed guests to easily climb down the sinkhole to the bottom of the Grand Cathedral room. They also built a funicular inclined railway system to haul guests out of the cave, removing the dread of climbing back up all of those stairs in the summer heat. This train is especially notable for having a fairly sharp curve for such a cable pulled mechanism. The Army Corps. of Engineers told the Herschends it couldn’t be done, but they went ahead and built it anyway and it has been operating for over 50 years now.
With all these improvements in place and Branson tourism surging, Marvel cave began to grow in popularity faster than tours could be provided. Mary Herschend expanded the cave attraction by building the afore-mentioned idealized recreation of the town of Marmaros and began giving out change in Silver Dollars as a marketing ploy. Silver Dollar City was born and has never stopped growing.
The cave attraction is still operating – making it the oldest continually operating cave attraction in the United States. Due to it’s somewhat restricted capacity it isn’t heavily advertised, so it can be easy to miss for novice visitors to the park. The entrance is located within the Hospitality House, which is the building all guests pass through just before reaching the main square. You’ll have to crawl underneath a cutout representing the most difficult passage of the journey in order to reach the waiting area. Check the Silver Dollar City Times (the park’s brochure and maps handed out at the entrance) for the tour schedule.
Upon passing the cut-out check to get into the tour waiting area, you’ll meet your tour guide and go over the cave rules, regulations, and guidelines. The normal tours are approximately 1 hour long and include about 600 stairs that will take you down hundreds of feet through the sunken cave entrance and down to the depths of the gargantuan cathedral room. Your guides will inform you that the cathedral room is so large that they have flown 5 hot air balloons inside of it at once.
Regular tours will take you past a number of interesting cave formations and even an underground water fall. At one point in the tour your host will turn off all the lights and allow you to experience absolute darkness. You’ll also see a replica of Harold Bell Wright’s cabin, which he once stayed in at times for artistic respite.
Lantern light tours are also now available for a small upcharge of $10 per person, with very limited tour capacities. You can reserve a space online at this link. The Lantern light tours follow a fairly new trail within the cave that includes the Mammoth room which can’t be viewed during the regular tours.
For more official information, check out the Marvel Cave page on the official site.
Check out Marvel Cave’s Wikipedia page for more in-depth information.
USA Today has a yearly tradition of running various online polls focusing on the best places and things around the U.S. The polls are hardly scientific, but they do add exposure and a small marketing boost for the covered attractions. As expected, each attraction appeals to its fanbase to encourage more votes. This year Silver Dollar City is represented in two categories: Best New Theme Park Attraction (Fireman’s Landing) and Best Roller Coaster (Outlaw Run). One of the downsides of the 10Best platform is a limited (and biased) selection of options, so SDC doesn’t seem to appear on the best entertainment or park restaurants lists. Dollywood is also included in a few lists, including a restaurant.
We encourage our readers to pop in and contribute to SDC’s vote counts. While the poll is fairly meaningless, I know the park appreciates our support. If you are feeling generous you can even vote once each day until the poll closes.
Archives by Subject:
- 2009 Project Progress – July 5
- 2009 Project Upate 7-25-09
- 2013 Roller Coaster Construction Update
- 2016 Season Begins March 12
- 2017 Project Construction Update – 5/21/16
- 2017 Season Begins March 15
- 225ft Tall Drop Tower and Other Attractions In Latest Proposal for Branson Strip
- An Old Time Christmas 2008
- An Old Time Christmas 2010
- An Old Time Christmas 2014
- An Old Time Christmas Begins Nov. 7
- Attraction Spotlight: Birdle’s Cabin
- Attraction Spotlight: Grandfather’s Mansion
- Attraction Spotlight: Marvel Cave
- Attraction Spotlight: Powderkeg
- Attraction Spotlight: Tom and Huck’s RiverBlast
- Bigfoot Drop Tower Attraction is Now Vertical
- Bluegrass & BBQ All Through May
- Branson Harbor Building Demolished For New Development
- Branson Landing Extension Proposed
- Branson Mountain Coaster Is Now Open
- Branson Water Chute Up For Sale
- Branson Zip-Line Roundup
- Celebration City Buildings Vandalized
- Celebration City Update – Aug. 2011
- Clearing Continues On Apparent New Coaster Project
- Coaster Christmas 2014
- Cool-Off Water Chute Being Torn Down, New Attraction on the Way
- Culinary Arts School and Off-Season Construction (2008)
- Culinary Arts School Update
- Curtains Close on Geyser Gulch
- Date Set for SDC 2015 Project Announcement
- Documentary Featuring Branson Performing Families is Now on Netflix
- Dollywood 2016 Coaster Rumors Heat Up
- Dollywood Tops Off Resort, Hints at Another Major Announcement
- Dollywood’s FireChaser Express Gets Own Ice Cream Flavor
- Downtown Branson Revitalization Project Begins Soon
- Final WorldFest Features Entertainment From Around the Globe
- Fireman’s Landing Construction Update
- Fireman’s Landing has Grand Opening and Dedication
- Fireman’s Landing S&S Tower Lifted Into Place
- Fireman’s Landing Topped Off with Iconic Bell
- Fireman’s Landing Update (Coaster Christmas)
- Fireman’s Landing Update – Nov. 30, 2014
- Harlem Globetrotters Now Performing at SDC
- Herschend Family Entertainment to Help Fill Record-Setting 500,000 Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child
- Inside the SDC Costume Shop
- It’s An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City!
- Joel Manby to Leave HFEC for SeaWorld CEO Job
- Moonlight Madness
- More Markings Appear for 2017 Project
- Mysterious $10 Million Attraction Coming to Branson Strip
- National Harvest & Cowboy Festival
- New Chipotle-Inspired Restaurant Coming to SDC
- New Construction Markings Show Up at SDC
- New Festival of Wonder Runs April 6-30
- New Pasghetti’s Exterior Reveals Branson’s Continued Low Standards
- New Ride Prep/Culinary Arts School Update
- Old Reeds Spring Church In Jeopordy
- Original SDC Stagecoach Completes Tour, Will Return to Park This Fall
- Outlaw Run Construction Tour
- Outlaw Run Officially a World Record Holder
- Ozark Wildcat to be Torn Down, No New Plans for Site
- Packing Up the Landing
- Park & Construction Update – 7/19/09
- Park Updates and Photo Trip Report – Aug. 2011
- Park Updates and Photo Trip Report – Aug. 2012
- Park Updates and Photos – Aug. 2010
- Park/Construction Update – Sept. 28, 2009
- Parking Project Update
- Plans Revealed For New Branson Landing & Water Chute Site Attractions
- Ray Johnson, Silver Dollar City Bladesmith, Passes Away
- RiverBlast Concept Artwork
- Roadwork on 76 to Begin Later This Month
- SDC Debuts New Teaser Site For 2018 Coaster Project
- SDC Off-Season Photos – 2008
- SDC Purchases Additional Steam Trains
- SDCFans Member Featured on GAC Show Featuring Silver Dollar City
- SDCFans.com Undergoes Yet More Changes
- Silver Dollar City Announces ‘Fireman’s Landing’
- Silver Dollar City Featured on DIY Network’s Salvage Dawgs
- Silver Dollar City Hits Single Day Attendance Record
- Silver Dollar City Hosts Firefighter Event and Honors Fallen Firemen
- Silver Dollar City Introduces New Character
- Silver Dollar City Meets Attendance Expectations for 2014
- Silver Dollar City Memorial Day Weekend 2014 Trip Report
- Silver Dollar City Opening Day 2015
- Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas 2011
- Something’s Missing at SDC
- Southern Gospel Picnic Starts August 27
- Spirit of 76 Project Provides a Way Forward for Branson
- Spring Ride Days Start on March 14
- The Flooded Mine Celebrates 50 Seasons of Fun
- Three Reasons To Visit Silver Dollar City Theme Park In 2017
- Throwback Thursday: Gaslight Square
- Throwback Thursday: Jim Owens’ Float Trip
- Throwback Thursday: Runaway-Ore-Carts
- Throwback Thursday: Shanty Town
- Throwback Thursday: The Beverly Hillbillies Visit SDC
- Throwback Thursday: The Gandy Dancer
- Throwback Thursday: The Green Parking Trams
- USA Today’s 10-Best Website Poll Includes 2 SDC Attractions
- Violet Hensley, One of Silver Dollar City’s Oldest Musicians, Biographed in New Book
- Waterboggin/Splash Harbor Demolition
- What’s Next for the Grand Palace?
- Wild Adventures to Get Flying Carpet Ride