Fans looking for the oldest attraction in Orange County’s Disneyland might venture to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle or It’s a Small World. But they’d be wrong. Instead, they should seek out an easily-missed petrified tree in Frontierland. The humble stump is estimated to be anywhere from 55 to 70 million years old.
While the tree’s story began long ago, the tale of its journey to Disneyland began in the summer of 1956, when Walt Disney and his wife, Lillian, went on a trip to Colorado to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary. During their visit, they stopped at the Pike Petrified Forest (now known as the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument) to view prehistoric remains.
Apparently, Walt purchased one of the petrified trees for $1,650, joking that it was an anniversary present for Lillian. But Lillian wasn’t very impressed with the ten-foot-tall, five-ton stump, eventually donating it to Disneyland, because it was “too large for the mantle” at their home.
According to a post on the Walt Disney Family Museum blog, Walt’s daughter Diane said that the whole “anniversary present” story was made up by Walt himself. Diane told a Disney historian, “The ‘gift to my wife’ was just a gag. He [Walt] was the consummate gag man, and proud of it.” If that was the case, the joke persists today: The plaque in front of the tree states that it was gifted to the park by Mrs. Disney herself in 1957.
Know Before You Go
The Petrified Tree can be found near the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland.