After several years of announcing its new attraction during the prior season, Great Adventure held off sharing exactly what they were preparing for when construction walls went up at the end of the 1995 season.  It was obvious something big was planned, but details were scarce.  Although a large indoor coaster was in the works, the exact theming had not yet been confirmed.  It is believed that the ride which would become Skull Mountain was initially planned as an attraction themed to the Warner Bros movie Gremlins.  For whatever reason, changes were made and the movie tie-in was dropped.


Instead, the theme of the new roller coaster took on a scary exploration theme with guests traveling in expedition trains through a unique shape mountain dig site. 

Concept art and initial planning shows the elaborate facade of Skull Mountain and complementary waterfall to the neighboring Adventure Rivers and Lakefront areas.  

The new ride would be a fully-immersive experience, where the roller coaster was contained within the caverns and tunnels of a foreboding mountain.

Blueprints show that this new attraction would take the location of the Rotor ride (known then as the Typhoon), prompting the second and final relocation of this attraction in its time at the park.

As the summer season of 1995 came to a close, construction fences sprang up and extended from the Adventure Rivers portal to the remote control boats (former site of Condor), enclosing the land within its perimeter.


Site preparation started with the disassembly of the Rotor ride for later reassembly in Frontier Adventures as the Taz Twister.  Further land clearing saw the removal of the man-made hill on which the Rotor sat and the surrounding trees and plants. Though within the construction fences, the Red River Taco Restaurant (currently site of Panda Express) would remain untouched during site clearing. 


Construction crews persisted through the winter weather as land clearing had concluded. During this time, concrete foundation was poured and beams went up to form the metal building which would encase the coaster.

 By the end of 1995, the first segments of the huge building that would house Skull Mountain were erected forever changing the skyline of this quiet section of the park.


By springtime, the roller coaster would begin assembly before additional building features could be added to complement the ride path. 

The two lift hills were assembled and  followed by the twisted helixes throughout the ride. Corresponding platforms on the building were added to create additional tunnel effects along the lift hill section that would have windows to the outside.


Soon, more framework for the building began to take shape as the upper reservoir for the waterfall was assembled. In addition, beams were constructed under the track as a base for the floors of the mountain caverns. 


As the 1996 season began, Skull Mountain was not nearly ready for opening. Signs around the construction fence illustrated the concept art and a tentative opening of June of that year while the basic layers of rocky exterior began to take shape.

Additional building features were completed around this time, with the exit cavern being placed in the outskirts of Adventure Rivers next to the Riverís Edge Trading Post (now Wild Things which sits shuttered enclosed by claw machine games). The rocks were painted to give a more weathered look, with the building receiving an artistic mural which gave the illusion that the mountain was placed against a foggy and cloudy sky.


The interior queue and main station would be given similar rock facades. Sheetrock and styrofoam were used to create the look of a cavern and abandoned temple station. The look of an excavation shaft was captured by wood frames placed throughout the cave. 


As the roller coaster itself was completed and fully tracked, the interior and exterior were fully painted in time for the arrival of the rideís three trains.


Construction of the outer queue surrounding Red River Taco in the Lakefront would delay the opening further, but allowed for the refinement of details around the building. 

After being outfitted with a 3D ride logo sign, Skull Mountain was ready for exploration and opened to the public with a ceremony on June 3, 1996.

Original Spotlight:  October 14, 2018.  GAH Reference #:  RIDE-1996-001C.