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Who is Ned Oakley? And What is Going on in Wildwood Grove?

Intrigue, confusion and a whole mess of dirt. This is what perfectly describes the current state of the back lot of Wildwood Grove. For months, guests have speculated about what could be happening in this area of the park.

Are they digging for gold?

Are they expanding the Grove?

Did Dolly really lose her earrings as the train conductor explains when the Dollywood Express passes by?

With so many questions, we here at Dollywood felt it was high time to let the public in on one of our storied secrets. The work is just getting started, but the payout is gonna be big!

The Story

Wildwood Grove has a rich story behind its beautiful landscape. Diligent park goers have likely read the sign upon entering that explains how Wildwood Grove was discovered and eventually settled by the loggers of Timber Canyon. What that sign doesn’t mention is the elusive and legendary creature believed to reside just beyond the Wildwood Tree.

Ever since loggers first started settling this land, fireside stories have been told about a rather large creature hiding in the woods nearby. For decades, the locals have been telling legends about a massive bear living just beyond their homes. With each retelling, the so-called “Big Bear” gets more and more outlandish, with some stories now claiming he’s twenty-feet tall when standing! The believed tall tale has grown so common that people use Big Bear as an excuse for just about anything that goes haywire in the Grove.

While most people see the story as just that, a simple story, there are a few that believe Big Bear is not only real but claim to have seen him. One of the Grove’s most-popular residents, Ned Oakley, has even dedicated his life to finding out the truth behind these stories.

Who is Ned Oakley?

Dollywood guests may recognize Ned as Benjamin Bear’s caretaker. The fourth-generation wilderness explorer is a good friend of Wildwood Grove’s friendly bear and is often seen with him in the park. Ned is a fervent believer in the existence of Big Bear, and he intends to get to the bottom of this legend once and for all. Ned has spent the past four years researching everything he can on the creature and gathering tons of intel. After years of studying, he is finally ready to venture out past the Grove and put an end to the speculation.

What Does This Mean for Wildwood Grove?

Dollywood has been very supportive of Ned’s efforts.  Just recently, they have decided to join Ned in updating his great-great-great Grandfather’s old logging bunkhouse, and turn it into a home base for his Big Bear operation. The building rests just beyond the gates of Hidden Hollow and Dragonflier, and is currently undergoing some serious renovations—hence, the big mess! By next spring, Dollywood and Ned will have crafted the “Smoky Mountain Adventure Outpost” in and around the old logging home.

What Can You Do?

I’m sure by now you’re as ready as we are for next spring!

In the meantime, Ned is currently taking any tips or evidence on Big Bear through his hotline. If you can’t wait to help Ned out, give him a call at 865-868-0168.

Get ready, guys, things are about to get BIG!

By | 2022-07-27T12:02:17+00:00 August 1st, 2022|Attractions|0 Comments

About the Author:

Joshua Sauer is a local East Tennessean who has always referred to Dollywood as his second home. Being the youngest of his family, he always wanted to play with the “big kids” at the park. His favorite childhood memory is when he was finally tall enough to ride Thunderhead. He is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee and a rather loud fan of the Big Orange. Growing up beside Norris Lake, Joshua prefers to be on water when he is not riding a roller coaster. His favorite non-Dollywood hobbies include: spending time with his fiancée, water skiing, wearing orange and refusing to grow up even a little bit.
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