One of the classic icons of Disneyland is the Mark Twain Riverboat. The excitement she creates, as she travels through Frontierland on the Rivers of America, is classic to every child and child-at-heart. In fact, though you may have taken more than one trip on this paddlewheeler, you might never have taken the time to walk all the decks and take in her details. Join me in this edition of our Disneyland Gems Series, as I show you some of the things that make her so special!
The Mark Twain (and her sister, the Sailing Ship Columbia) are a great way to grab a quiet break from the hectic pace of the park. As you board, you immediately notice that one of the prime real estate spots on the Mark Twain is her prow. Lined with comfortable (and stylish) chairs, it is the perfect sunny spot to “set a spell” and watch the river roll by. These chairs are highly coveted, so if you want them, be sure to board early!
Right behind you is the heart of the vessel – the boiler chamber. She doesn’t make a lot of noise, so a ride on the prow is a quiet one.
The stairs on either side of the boiler beckon you to travel to the upper decks.
On the second deck, you’ll find the Saloon. If you use that childhood imagination of yours, you will notice that it is the perfect place to grab a drink (if there were actually any served there) and listen to bands coming from the stage on the other side.
That’s right. In the early days of Disneyland, musicians would have played a variety of tunes on this very stage and folks would be dancing all throughout the voyage. In fact, Walt Disney hosted several private parties where that very thing happened! That must have been quite the sight to behold!
That large bench at the end of the stage exemplifies how the Mark Twain’s Imagineers combined form and function in their design aesthetic. Not only is it a nice shady spot with a view, it serves as storage for life jackets. The brass plaque on the storage area is a great example of the minute detail in design.
Moving up the stairs, you’ll find the third deck has a nice little treasure. If you couldn’t find a seat below or if it’s just too warm in the sun, you can find some shady seats in the salon.
Now that little door across from the Salon exit leads to someplace pretty special. If it’s said that the boiler is the heart of the vessel, then it must be true that the Pilot House is certainly the brains of the boat. Narrow stairs lead the Captain and some specially-selected guests up to the best seat in the house. From here, the Captain will chart our course, teach us signal and whistle commands, and let us record our names in a very special guest book – a Disneyland tradition!
Now, if you are one of the lucky few that get chosen by the captain to pilot the riverboat, you might get the vantage point that this handsome captain has – all while manning the wheel and ringing the bell. Don’t forget to add your name to the thousands that have signed the captain’s guest book before you leave the pilot house. Disneyland has kept every guest book since they started that tradition!
Of course, no journey along the river is complete without the workhorse of the vessel – the paddle wheel. This photo, taken from the top deck, shows the polished steel gleaming in the sun, as the wooden paddles churn up the water.
There are many great sights on the Rivers of America, to enjoy while riding the Mark Twain, including many that give you a glimpse of the fun things you will do if you take the raft to Tom Sawyer Island. Regardless of how you choose to travel on this classic vessel, the Mark Twain has a little something for everyone!
Photos by N. Johnson, K. Ransden, and T. Bell.