What can be seen from several kilometres away and has become a "milemarker" for motorists traveling along 400 Highway? Wonder Mountain stands majestically in the centre of Canada's Wonderland amusement park, acting as a reference point for lost park patrons. It has stood silently at the end of International Street since the park's opening. Ever “wonder” why the mountain is there and from where the idea originated? Although Wonder Mountain tied in nicely with the mountain in the Paramount Logo, the mountain was constructed long before Paramount owned the park. Here is the true story of Wonder Mountain.
In the tradition of Kings Island and Kings Dominion, Taft Broadcasting created a centerpiece for Canada’s Wonderland. Unlike the aforementioned parks, Canada’s Wonderland did not receive the familiar Eiffel Tower, which was also considered for this park. The company tackled a new concept for Canada's Wonderland; one more in tune with the themes in the park and the Canadian landscape: Wonder Mountain. Made of 1100 tons of steel girders, tied together with heavy steel webbing and 5 000 000 lbs of sand and concrete, it took many months to complete. In order to achieve the natural rocky finish on the artificial mountain, workers attached to safety harnesses dangled in midair and sprayed a layer of concrete, called gunite, over the entire surface. The surface was then painted a grey colour, with the crags and crevices being beige to give the illusion of deeper relief. The behemoth structure occupies 2.5 acres and, stands approximately 45m (150ft) tall, has 21 peaks and cost around $5 000 000 to build.
The majestic waterfall flowing down the face of the mountain is named Victoria Falls after a famous waterfall in Africa. Water once cascaded from the very top of the mountain but was discontinued sometime after. 35000 gallons of water cascade over the falls every minute. This waterfall also serves the practical purpose of cooling the central air conditioning components which in turn keep all of the park's structures at a pleasant temperature during the summer heat. Cliff divers have been a tradition at the park for many years. The divers leap off a ledge some 58ft in the air. The mountain itself is also fashioned after an African peak, most likely Mt Kenya, as the appearance is very similar.
Like the Eiffel Towers, the mountain once had walkways, from which park patrons were able to access an observation deck and get a breathtaking view of the entire park. These walkways were in place from 1981-1985. The reason for the closure of the walkways was to relocate mechanical equipment from the interior of the mountain to public areas on top of the mountain in order to accommodate the addition of the Thunder Run mine train coaster. In addition there were potential dangers to patrons riding Thunder Run prompted the closure. Another walkway behind the falls, similar to an attraction in Niagara Falls, awed guests until its closure in the mid 1990s due to slippery walkways.
Originally, concepts for the 200 000 sq ft interior of the mountain included: a Bavarian theme, a ride based on "The Cremation of Sam McGee, and a killer-whale exhibit. Instead the interior of the mountain was initially occupied by equipment and operational installations. However the first "invader" of the mountain was a roller coaster and it appeared only a few years after the mountain was constructed. The Blauer Enzian was an outdoor powered mine themed coaster that once stood where “The Fly” is today. In 1985, portions of the coaster, including its train were relocated inside of the mountain, in addition to new materials to become Thunder Run. The new home for the Thunder Run is much more suitable considering the mine train theming that it always possessed. The dragon and other special effects were added during this construction as well in an attempt to add a higher “fun” factor to the ride.
Arrow Dynamics designed and built a suspended coaster named Vortex in 1991. The lift hill for the coaster was constructed up to and over the summit of the mountain. In a dramatic display, the trains crest the lift and then plunge over the edge and over the heads of anxious onlookers. The Vortex not only added a thrilling ride for daring guests but an amazing sight for guests passing by. It is nearly impossible to walk past this ride without looking up to watch it soar through the air overhead.
More recently, Wonder Mountain was home to a 20th anniversary celebration in 2000. The park designed a pyrotechnics display named “The Eruption” which took place every night during that year. In 2001 and 2002, the eruption only took place for 2 weeks toward the end of August. Although the mountain is silent again, who knows when it could once again erupt?
Though Wonder Mountain is no longer the tallest structure at the park, it is quite possibly the most important part of Canada’s Wonderland. The peak can be seen from several kilometers away. It is a home to two roller coasters, and serves as a facility to house infrastructure. A photo of Wonder Mountain is immediately recognizable as being associated with Canada’s Wonderland. The mountain will continue to be the focal point of guests entering the park for many years to come, and as you now know, will be an integral part of the operations of the park as well.