27 April 2010

Wilderness Swamp Trail

A while back we talked about Fort Wilderness’ Pedestrian Nature Trail, a path that currently runs from behind the Settlement Trading Post, towards the junction of Bay Lake and the former Marshmallow Marsh, and then deeper into the woods of central Florida. Once upon a time, however, the Pedestrian Nature Trail was known as the Wilderness Swamp Trail.

While Wilderness Swamp Trail may sound more rugged and wild and less, well, pedestrian, both trails offer a break from the hustle and bustle of resort and theme park life and some the best views found in Walt Disney World. Yet, where the Pedestrian Nature Trail ventures out into the woods and loops back in upon itself, the Wilderness Swamp Trail took explores to the marshy edges of Bay Lake via its boardwalk. Here guests could not only take in the sights and sounds, they could also come into contact with a wider variety of wildlife than is currently found along the current trail. Heron, alligators, and turtles were just a few of the untamed creatures that could be found stirring here.Just a few months after Fort Wilderness had opened, Walt Disney World released this photo of the Wilderness Swamp Trail in early 1972, and had this to say about it:
[The] Boardwalk is part of [a] nature trail in [the] Fort Wilderness area of Walt Disney World’s Vacation Kingdom. [The] trail takes adventurers to natural Florida beauty and protected wildlife. At night, canoe excursions are led through [the] Ft. Wilderness area. Horseback riding and camping are other Ft. Wilderness attractions.

While the boardwalk section of this trail has long since been forgotten, and has fallen into decay, I will always have found memories of running along its planks, the heavy thump of my sneakers echoing through the wilderness, trying to catch a glimpse of some swamp creature plying the waterways. I, and others who remember this lost piece of Fort Wilderness, can take heart in one thing, when closing the boardwalk, Walt Disney World only modified the trail, where beauty, protected wildlife, and a calming walk can still be found.


Disneyana World said...

i really liked these two articles.

i walked back there a few months ago and was confused about the run down and seemingly useless structures.

two questions:

1. what was inside the cabin?
2. did you walk down the narrow trail that leads into the woods?

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Matt - My memory is hazy on the cabin and my research materials limited, but from what I remember it was part of the staging grounds for the Marshmallow Marsh events. As for the trail, yes I walked down it, but all it does these days is loop back around on itself.

mattzap44 said...

Incredible set of articles. I had the true pleasure of experiencing the old Swamp Trail when I was a kid in the late '90s. Every time I visit Fort Wilderness, I still make a visit to those secluded swamps of yesteryear. I never knew that that little area was called Marshmallow Marsh and that the dock existed for the canoes. Fantastic research! Did you know that a majority of the boardwalk still exists out in the woods there? They aren't visible from the current path, however, they continue to quietly sit footsteps away, among the towering Cyprus. E-mail me if you want more info on finding them. mattzap44@comcast.net

Unknown said...

i emailed u a few months ago and never heard back from u.