|Jungle Island at Knott's Berry Farm. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.|
Shortly after grading land at Knott's Berry Farm for use as an amazing South Seas Island Boat Ride, theme park legend Bud Hurlbut abandoned the tiki theme for the boat ride. Either on his own, or under advisement from Russell or Walter Knott, Bud decided that another "Old West" type ride would suit Knott's Berry Farm better. Other than some Hawaiian-style patio decor for sale in the Basket Shop, Knott's didn't have much of anything that evoked the South Pacific.
So it was that plans for the South Seas Island Boat Ride were transformed into plans for the Northwest Fur Trapper Boat Ride. It was essentially the same ride, but with different set dressing and no flow of "red hot lava" to simulate.
|Concept painting by Mentor Huebner for the Northwest Fur Trapper Boat Ride. Note the incongruous Polynesian island motif still depicted on the far shore of the lagoon. Image courtesy Christopher Merritt.|
Bud and his crew at Hurlbut Amusement focused on making improvements to the mine ride, and on a variety of new projects -- some of which came to fruition and some not. There were unrealized plans for a monorail with 2,000 feet of track, and plans for a variety of attractions that were built near the farm's seal pool.
However, in 1963, there were new signs of life across the highway. With no progress evident on the boat ride, John Holland -- an employee of Knott's stagecoach concessionaire Bill Higdon -- suggested using the boat troughs as the pathway for an outdoor "Tallyho Ride," where guests would be taken past scenes of animated woodland animals and deserted pioneer wagons in a horse-drawn Omnibus.
|Concept model for Overland Trail, 1963. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.|
Indeed, the Overland Trail Ride only lasted a few years. But it seemed to ensure that the boat ride plan would never rise again.
|Overland Trail Ride at Knott's, 1964. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.|
At about that same time, the small paddle-wheel steamboat Hurlbut originally intended to have circling the entire South Seas Island Lagoon, was completed. It would have served something of the same purpose as the old Mike Fink Keelboats at Disneyland. But with no water in the South Seas Lagoon, the steamboat Cordelia K (named for Walter Knott's wife) was put to use in a small manmade lake also on the property.
|The Cordelia K paddle-wheeler. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.|
|Forrest Morrow carving one of his Wood-imals: "a completely unique race of 'Natural-Art' creatures in a fantastic Jungle setting." Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.|
Morrow's Wood-imals were fanciful depictions of various animals (and occasionally people) made from twisted and gnarled tree branches and stumps.
It was decided that Morrow would populate Jungle Island with his Wood-imals and operate it as a children's playground with a 25-cent admission fee. Finally, the portion of the Lagoon immediately around Jungle Island was lined with gunnite and filled with water, the existing tropical landscaping was supplemented, and Morrow moved himself and his family to California to run the operation. At the time, he was 77 years old.
|Map of Jungle Island, courtesy Orange County Archives.|
|Evalee Webb, Walter Knott and Forest Morrow at Jungle Island, circa 1964. Photo courtesy Stack’s Liberty Ranch.|
|Entrance bridge to Jungle Island. Postcard courtesy Orange County Archives.|
However, in 1982, Knott's new C.E.O., Terry Van Gorder, who had wrested artistic control from the Knott family, decided that Jungle Island had to go. In 1983 it was turned into a park like "nature area."
|Lush, tropical, silly Jungle Island.|
[Ed - A certain blogger once visited the nature area as a lad and was yelled at by "one of the Knott girls" for swordfighting with his friends using fallen bamboo poles from the landscaping.]
Eventually the nature area was turned into an area for corporate parties and events. The small lagoon bordering part of Jungle Island still remains, as does some of its tropical landscaping. Coincidentally, the large picnic shelters constructed in the 1980s were designed with a Polynesian look.
|Current corporate picnic area at Jungle Island/Knott's Lagoon. Photo by author.|
Just to the north of Jungle Island, the planned site of the South Seas Island Boat Ride is now another corporate picnic area, called "Gold Rush Camp." The slightly rolling terrain still hints at how Hurlbut once carved the land to fit his vision.
Why Bud never built his elaborate South Seas paradise remains a mystery. But by looking at the remaining evidence, and by knowing his innovative and impressive work on the Mine Ride and Log Ride, we can be sure we missed out on something very special.
|Another view of Jungle Island. Postcard courtesy Orange County Archives.|
(Click here to see Part I of this article.)