We want a time machine to visit this bygone Flintstones theme park in South Dakota
The Bedrock City theme park opened in 1966 and was reduced to rubble in 2019.
Read to Me
You can not enter the cartoon world of The Flintstones, but if you wanted to wander a landscape similar to Bedrock, the southwestern corner of South Dakota makes a pretty darn good approximation. The barren buttes, steep pinnacles and arid sandstone found in the Badlands and the Black Hills bring to the mind the backdrop of Bedrock. The only things missing are the palm trees and pterodactyls.
No wonder that in 1966, as The Flintstones was wrapping up its sixth and final season in primetime, six entrepreneurs opened a Bedrock City Theme Park in Custer, South Dakota. Yes, the landscape was ideal, but with the national attractions Mount Rushmore and the forever-in-progress Crazy Horse Memorial nearby, that nook of the Great Plains was a popular road-trip destination. After driving to gaze at George, Teddy, Tom and Abe, the whole fam could pile into the station wagon and cruise 20 miles down the road to visit Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty.
Better yet, these were not 60-foot sculptures. Fans could shake hands and hang with the Rubbles and Flintstones, wander their neighborhood, and even feed on "Dino Dogs" at the hot pink Bedrock Drive-In.
As seen in this postcard, the fast-food shack flipped "Brontobugers" and served up "Mammoth Malts" and "Mastodon Ice Cream" (in flavors from banana to black raspberry). Back then, at the opening, everything could be had for under a buck.
The props and costumes were pretty spot-on, though some employees ruined the effect wearing jeans and sneakers.
Actors in "feet shoes," like Hobbits, appeared to be more Bedrock appropriate.
Over the years, the attractions grew. The fossilized website, now archived, proclaimed, "Walk the streets of Bedrock City. See Mt. Rockmore and Barney Peak. Enjoy the Flintstones™ Trio Show and Rockmore Theatre. Take the Iron-Horse train through the Wild West and Dinosaur Canyon!" The park offered putt-putt, a swimming pool, camping, a choo-choo train, and even a small market.
The TV series might have been coming to an end in 1966, but it was a savvy investment for founders Eddie Speckels, Woody Speckels, Harry Hollmann, Milton Hollmann, Darwin Steckelberg and Harold Steckelberg. The Flintstones were growing in popularity. A feature film, a spy caper called A Man Called Flintstone, hit theaters that year. Two years later, Flintstones Vitamins appeared in drugstores. A year after that, Pebbles breakfast cereal hit grocery shelves. Meanwhile, the adventures of Fred and Barney lived on in reruns on Saturday mornings.
In June 1972, Woody Speckels and his son Francis opened a second Bedrock City, in another geologically iconic landscape with heavy tourism — the Grand Canyon.
The original location closed in 2015. The Arizona spin-off carried on until early 2019. It would prove to be a dark year for Bedrock City. Months later, the South Dakota park was reduced to… er, rubble.