Ever since Dollywood announced Wild Eagle, America’s first wing roller coaster, I was looking forward to what looked to be a great ride. It not only boasts a eagle-themed trains that place riders to the left and right of the track with nothing above or below riders, Wild Eagle also has a layout in a wooded area. I’m a big fan of terrain roller coasters and you couldn’t ask for better terrain than a mountain.
Wild Eagle’s Theme
Dollywood did an exceptional job with Wild Eagle’s theme. The eagles on each row of the train looked cool in person, but the most impressive theming feature may be the massive steel eagle sculpture located at the plaza in front of the ride. It was the first indicator that Dollywood really pulled out all the stops for their new marquee attraction. As you enter the rustic, upscale station, you can’t help but get a sense of the ride’s uplifting, inspirational feel. Quotes like: “Today You Fly” and “Grab Adventure” adorn the walls and upbeat (but not hyper), music pervades throughout the lodge-like building.
The theme was refreshing and overall quite different. Usually thrill rides convey a sense of “extremeness” or “fear” to get your adrenaline pumping. With Wild Eagle, it’s more of an adventurous challenge than a death-defying hope-you-make-it-back-alive theme. I can appreciate the difference and it aligns well with Dollywood as a whole and their goal of adding a multi-generational thrill ride.
Loading & Lifting
Downstairs in the cavernous station, the queue splits as guests choose which side of the train they want to ride. I was lucky enough to get exclusive ride time (ERT) on Wild Eagle in conjunction with TPR’s New Hotness Tour. So, in all, I got 5 or 6 rides on Wild Eagle. The front seat was especially fun. On a wing coaster you’re already pretty exposed, but without other riders in front of you it feels like it’s just you, a friend, and an eagle. Yes, I did catch myself looking over at the eagle like it was another rider.
Wild Eagle begins with a left turn and then an immediate climb up the mountain that it’s situated on. The ride’s layout is mostly out of sight except from a few spots (like high points on other rides), but all is revealed as you crest the lift hill. My last ride at dusk offered an incredible view as not only did the ride’s twisted blue track lie ahead, but also an unforgetable view of the Smoky Mountains in the background.
Wild Eagle’s Layout: Soaring Like An Eagle
While some of the other wing coasters, start with that nifty drop loop, Wild Eagle has a traditional 135-foot straight drop. I don’t recall a lot of airtime on the drop (probably because of the restraints), but it’s quite a fun dive as the wide, eagle-themed train accelerates. Immediately after, the train navigates a huge vertical loop. It’s not as forceful as your standard vertical loop, but it’s still a solid maneuver. Next, the train twists riders through a good zero-g roll and then an Immelmann. The back-to-back inversion onslaught ends with the fourth and final loop, a corkscrew. The corkscrew is probably my favorite of the four.
Wild Eagle’s loops are done, but the ride’s not over just yet. The trains rises up and goes over a short little airtime hill that’s mostly air-less, but produced a little pop of air on occasion. Next there’s a wide left turn that can be seen from the pathways. Now, low to the ground the train traverses a heavily banked right turn. If you’re seated on the right side of train you’ll be a lot closer to the tree branches that are nearby. Finally, Wild Eagle comes screaming down a straight, sloped section of track. It’s slowed as you approach the station and you’re ride’s over.
Wild Eagle’s Restraints
As you can see from the video below, Wild Eagle’s restraints are very open. They’re not the horse collar-like restraints that you’d find on most looping coasters. The hard, metal part is nowhere near your head, so even if there was roughness (and there’s none at all), there would be nothing to bang your head into. Unfortunately, there were times when the restraints came down one more notch during the ride. It didn’t happen every time, but it did happen. That’s not unusual in itself, but when these restraints come down a notch, they feel pretty uncomfortable. Since this was infrequent and I didn’t really notice it during the ride as much as I did when I was waiting to get off, it’s notable, but only a small knock. Overall, the restraints are comfortable and should make tentative riders feel pretty secure.
My Take & Final Rating
While there are other wing roller coasters, Wild Eagle’s location, atmosphere, and even its theme all add up to a unique experience. It’s smooth, has some fun inversions, and is meant to be a wide-reaching crowd pleaser and it fully delivered. Maybe it’s the theme, but there’s a larger sense of the experience than just what I’ve described above. It’s tough to put my finger on exactly why, but Wild Eagle is a special ride. It’s just a notch below the very best roller coasters I’ve ridden, so I’m going to go with a 9.0. That puts it in some fine company, right there with rides like Manta, Tatsu, Nitro, and X-Flight. Final Rating 9.0 (Excellent)
A Cool Ride Tip & My Favorite Seat
One of the best things about Dollywood is the people that work there. A friendly ride op gave me and Doug a ride tip. He told us to hold on to the little black knobs on the sides of our seats. It sounded like weird tip, but we took his advice. We were rewarded with an odd and very vulnerable feeling during the first drop. It felt like we were being dumped out of our seats.
My favorite seat would be on the right side of the train in the very last car and in the outer seat. There’s a bit more of a pull during the first drop, a little more force on the inversions, and you’re closer to the trees during the final turn.
Have you ridden Wild Eagle? What’d you think? Leave a comment below.