Wild Eagle (B&M Wing Coaster) at Dollywood
This past weekend my girlfriend and I had an opportunity to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. This included visiting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and as you can guess by the title of this article, the Dollywood theme park.
As some of you may know, Dollywood is a small theme park created by music legend, Dolly Parton. This is essentially her park, and she’s been known to make occasional visits and say hello to the guests. The park is clean, the workers are friendly, and there’s plenty of live country and bluegrass music.
And for the past few years, Dollywood has been making a name for itself in the world of roller coasters. It’s been making a BIG name, and the park’s coaster collection just recently took a giant step forward.
“Wild Eagle” is the latest addition to the growing number of roller coasters inside Dollywood. This is a custom-made Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) creation that not only seats riders four-across, but it seats them on the sides of the track. In fact, there’s no coaster car above or below you. This creation is known as a wing coaster, and believe me, it’s an AWESOME experience!
This past Sunday we rode the Wild Eagle coaster twice at park opening. Later that afternoon there was a massive line of people waiting for the ride.
Wild Eagle itself is a fairly tame roller coaster. The first drop is nice and steep and gives you some good speed, and the three inversions aren’t enough to get most coasters riders sick or too intimidated. Since the riders are situated NEXT to the track rather than on TOP (like a sit-down, floorless or stand-up), or hanging BELOW it (like an inverted coaster), there’s a limit to how many G-forces the vehicles themselves can handle. The end result is a fairly tame but extremely FUN steel roller coaster that races down and around part of the Appalachian Mountains.
A P.O.V. ride on Wild Eagle
One of the interesting things at Dollywood that day was that a camera crew was filming a TV show throughout the park. We first saw them filming scenes outside of Wild Eagle at the park’s opening. After that we saw somebody being interviewed while holding a Bald Eagle.
Last year saw the opening of the Barnstormer, an aviation-themed thrill ride that swings groups of riders back and forth. Personally, I’m not a fan of thrill rides like that. But the theming was great and it sounded like the riders were having a lot of fun.
Getting back to the roller coasters of Dollywood, one of my favorites is the ass-kicking wooden roller coaster, Thunderhead.
Opening in 2004, Thunderhead is simply an amazing wooden coaster that blows you away with its curving first drop and series of big hills and steep curves. Thunderhead doesn’t even think of stopping until you hit the brake runs before returning to the loading station. Thunderhead may only have a 100-foot first drop, but that height is more than enough to send riders racing along its 3,230 feet of track, including screaming through the loading station at a high rate of speed.
One ride on Thunderhead and you will know why it jumped to the top of roller coaster rankings and since kept a tight grip on its legitimacy as one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world. And that coaster resides right there in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at Dollywood. If you want some real fun, try riding Thunderhead on a cold and sleeting day in December.
Sadly, photos of the visit to Dollywood end there. We just ran out of time and had to hit the road for the ride back home. We did ride Mystery Mine, Tennessee Tornado, Blazing Fury, and had a wet trip down Daredevil Falls.
The recent roller coaster and thrill ride additions to Dollywood have definitely put the small theme park on the map for coaster lovers. The park captured our curiosity with Mystery Mine, blew us away with Thunderhead, and now we’re soaring with energy on Wild Eagle. I can’t wait to see what is added next to the park!