NC Attractions - Ghost Town in the Sky
July 24, 2014 by
Ghost Town in the Sky
in Maggie Valley NC is a western-themed
amusement park resting at the top of Buck Mountain
(at nearly 4,700 feet in elevation) overlooking Maggie Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains.
At one time (1960s and 1970s), Ghost Town was a big
draw for western North Carolina. In recent
years however, it has been fraught with peril as attendance
has dropped significantly. It has become
somewhat the laughing stock of theme parks in
America, due mainly because the concept of the
"cowboy hero" died since those days when the Lone
Ranger, Bonanza, and other western television shows
impressed children. This is the main reason
why Ghost Town is a ghost town.
If you want
to see just how hokie Ghost Town is,
try to survive the first few minutes of this
"gun fight". Observe closely, as there
are literally dozens of guests at the park
There are two ways for visitors to summit the park:
a 1,240 foot climb in elevation on the chair lift
(3,370-feet long) or via the nail-biting train ride
(if it is operational that day).
"mile-high theme park" has a storied history. R.B.
Coburn was the original creator while
Russell Pearson designed and built the park
in 1960, at a cost of $1 million. By
May Day of the following year, Ghost Town
was open for business, and soon landed the
top spot for tourist attractions in this
part of the state. In part because
this was an era of wild west heroes, the
popularity of the park skyrocketed. In
the years that followed, as many as 600,000
visitors arrived each year.
Ghost Town in 1973 to National Services but
repurchased it in 1986. It was then
that the Cliffhanger roller coaster was
installed. But poor management,
accidents, and general upkeep of the rides
led to a reduction in attendance. By 2008,
numbers had dropped to around 300,000
visitors per year. In one incident,
the chair lift malfunctioned, resulting in a
two-hour event that left passengers
stranded in their seats. Within a
week, the park was closed and put up for
five-year hiatus and almost $40 million in
repairs and renovations, the new owner
reopened Ghost Town in 2007. But,
within two years, the park went into
bankruptcy, a partial response to the
failing economy. It was planned that
the park would reopen the following summer.
But, money was needed for inspecting the
park - $330,000 in fact. Ghost Town
asked the town of Maggie Valley for the
funding, reminding the community of the
park's importance to the local economy.
But, before the vote, Ghost Town received
the funds from an anonymous
opened on schedule, with the exception of a
few rides which had not been inspected.
And, at least one new ride, the Geronimo
Drop was added. Additionally, Ghost
Town announced a $27 million plan for
improving the park.
unfortunately, did not happen for Ghost
Town. By the end of the 2009 season
they were having trouble paying their
employees. Adding more anguish to an
already bad situation, a mudslide occurred
as a result of a retaining-wall collapse on
park property in early 2010. Several
homes were damaged and the service road was
buried. A federal grant paid for the
road repairs. A month later SunTrust
and BB&T Banks foreclosed on Ghost Town, to
settle $14 million in debt. After
renewed negotiations failed, American
Heritage Family Parks took control of Ghost
Town, offering SunTrust $7 million and BB&T
$5 million after restructuring. They
also agreed to pay $100,000 in back taxes to
the Haywood County.
following year, the bankruptcy case fell
through and foreclosure was imminent.
In 2012, Alaska Presley purchased Ghost Town
at public auction. Presley was an
original investor and
previous owner of the park.
of improvements to Ghost Town were planned.
Phase 1's Level Town (kiddie rides,
round-up, zipline,etc.) and Phase 2's
Western Town (cowboys, gun fights, can-can
dancing, music) were completed by 2014, while
Phase 3's "Resurrection Mountain" (teasing
the area's religious flock with a replica of
the Holy Land) was to open in the summer of 2014. Or
so it has been announced.
Town is promoted as "Smoky Mountain
Headquarters for Fun!" and features the
three aforementioned "towns" - one on each
of the three levels at the top of the
mountain. The Western Town entails two
saloons, a bank, church, jail, school, and
other cowboy town businesses. A
gunfight occurs each day at the top of the
hour in the middle of the street.
There are can-can dancers in the saloons and
bluegrass music throughout.
Cliffhanger roller coaster (previously the
Red Devil) takes riders over the edge of the
mountain and through a single loop, giving
them amazing views of the mountains.
A major draw for Ghost Town, the Cliffhanger
has also struggled to survive. After
two years of closure, it opened in 2009 for
two days. More inspections and repairs
were needed after a hairline crack was
discovered in the frame of one of the ride's
seats. Ouch! After repairs by
the manufacturer, Cliffhanger reopened and
performed flawlessly for the final few weeks
of the 2009 season. But in early 2010
more problems with the coaster were
discovered a day before Ghost Town opened.
As a result, the Cliffhanger was not
operational for the 2010 season. Of
course, riders could enjoy the smaller kiddie coaster, the "Tumbleweed".
Ghost Town is
scheduled to open June 20, 2014.
UPDATE - Did NOT open until July 4, 2014.
Starting to look like "Joke Town in the
Sky", if you ask me.
According to their
website, new attractions include Picnic
Point, Lookout Trail, and Stage Coach
Restaurant. Of course, if you want any
real information about Ghost Town,
you'll not get it from the website.
There aren't even any photos of the rides or
attractions. But, hey... if you get
bored, you can click on the "history" link
to learn their version of the park's history
- mostly the grand beginnings of Ghost Town.
that's on everyone's minds is, "will Ghost
Town prevail under new leadership and save
the economy of Maggie Valley NC?" That
remains to be seen. We should know
something by the end of this season.
admission is "free". Right. But, tickets
to ride the chair lift to the actual park are $25 for adults and $15
for children 3-12. The zip lines are
$45 for adults and $40 for children.
in the Sky
16 Fie Top Road
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
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Try one of the
Maggie Valley area attractions.