NCL Free At Sea

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day Photos

By on 07/09/2013

Unlike today, not everyone carried around a camera in their pocket when Magic Mountain swung its gate open for the very first time on May 29, 1971. Therefore, pictures from that very first day, or even the first couple of years, are very few and far between. Fortunately, there are some floating around out there. The following pictures are from the 1971 Magic Mountain opening day, graciously shared by the Spencer family.

You may have heard stories that when Magic Mountain first opened, it was incredibly hot without much shade or places to rest out of the heat. There also wasn’t that much to do, and several of the rides they did have weren’t working properly and were closed. Within just a couple of hours, people were able to ride everything the park had to offer. The park took lots of notes and corrected many of the shortcomings in time for the second season. As you can see in the following photos, the park was a lot different than it is today.

In this first photo from the Sky Tower, you can really see how barren the park was. The Showcase Theatre (now the Golden Bear Theatre) really stood out as a massive structure, even though you can barely see it through the trees today. The entire Log Jammer flume ride was fully exposed and Whitewater Lake was completely full and looked great. The building in the lower-left corner is the Four Winds Steak House, which was last known as the Laughing Dragon Pizza Company. It’s still there today, but is only used for special events. You’ll notice a fence just on the other side of it, with a dirt road leading out to what is the Superman Plaza today. The giant towers were for the Eagle’s Flight sky bucket ride and the Metro monorail beam can be seen coming out of the tunnel, which of course is where Full Throttle comes out today. With the exception of Colossus and Scream eating into part of it, this section of the parking lot is virtually unchanged today:

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day

In this next photo from the Sky Tower, you can just make out part of the very red Funicular (now Orient Express) in the lower-right corner. That’s an access road next to it. The paths between it and the Log Jammer were part of the Japanese Gardens, a tranquil area to relax and take in views of the park. Today, both Tatsu and Revolution take up most of the green space that you see here:

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day

Looking on the other side of the hill, you can see the old El Bumpo bumper boat ride in the lower-left corner, along with all of the water that made up the wharf area. The grassy racetrack area was the Chevron Grand Prix go-kart ride. That’s where The Riddler’s Revenge, Tidal Wave, and Green Lantern all sit today. It took up a lot of space! The red and white roof belongs to the Sand Blasters bumper cars, which are still there today:

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day

This next photo was taken from Eagle’s Flight, between the Shangri-la and El Dorado stations. The Eagle’s Flight path you’re looking at is heading to the Galaxy station, which sat where the base of the Superman tower is today. You can see half of the colorful Galaxy double Ferris wheel sticking up just on the other side of the hill. Many people don’t know that the Gold Rusher track was originally painted red. After the first season, changes were made to the queue to increase wait capacity and the track was painted yellow. If you look at the track in the station today, you can still the the original red paint job. Checkout how exposed Gold Rusher was when it first opened:

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day

As you can see here, the Gold Rusher trains really haven’t changed at all since they debuted 40+ years ago. It’s also interesting to note that people where taking on-ride photos from day one, just like they do today. The tower structure you see in the background was one of the Eagle’s Flight support columns on the El Dorado line. This was the very back of the park. There was nothing beyond it at the time:

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day

Other than the paint job, the Sky Tower has remained virtually unchanged over time:

1971 Magic Mountain Opening Day

I’d like to thank Ezra Spencer and his family for sharing these wonderful photos. If you have any old photos or video from the early days of Magic Mountain that you’d like to share with others, please feel free to contact me.


  1. Gregg

    07/09/2013 at 8:53 am

    Wow, what a treat. Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Dane. P

    07/09/2013 at 10:08 am

    Hard to imagine a Magic Mountain without trees

    • tacalert

      07/13/2013 at 9:13 pm

      Hard to imagine Magic Mountain was a family park back then.

  3. Candice Hargrove

    07/09/2013 at 10:18 am

    Wow this is awesome! I had no idea Gold Rusher was originally painted red and I didn’t realize The Galaxy was a sky ride. Thank you so much for sharing! It’s pretty amazing how much SFMM has changed in 42 years. Wow! I wonder if they’re planning anything big for their 50 year anniversary 🙂

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/09/2013 at 10:51 am

      The Galaxy was actually a double Ferris wheel. The sky bucket ride, up on the towers, was called Eagle’s Flight. The upper EF station was called Shangri-la, and it’s still there today. It’s the V-shaped building with the restrooms, just behind the Superman gift shop.

    • Eric

      07/09/2013 at 4:17 pm

      Galaxy was an Intamin ride and, unfortunately, very troublesome in the first few years of park operation. Because of that, it took me till about the second or third season to actually ride it. But it was a good ride and is something I’d like to see Magic Mountain consider bringing back—of course, in a much bigger version (going much higher).

      • Gregg

        05/29/2014 at 1:50 pm

        Trouble with an Intamin ride? Why I’ve never heard of such a thing. 😉

    • Mike Metzler

      05/22/2016 at 10:48 am

      The “red” of the track is actually just the primer on the steel. There hadn’t been enough time to get everything done by opening day, so the actual finish painting of the track would not be completed until the following year.

  4. michaelochs

    07/09/2013 at 12:53 pm

    Wow mm looks soooooooooo, different, I mean i saw that first picture and was like, what, thankyou spencers and coasterguy, it was cool to see what it used to look like.

  5. Eric

    07/09/2013 at 4:14 pm

    My first visit to Magic Mountain was on August 20, 1971, just a few months after opening. Even after a few months, the park was still rather bare of plants and grass. Where Hurricane Harbor is now was also part of the parking lot. Because of the lack of buildings and anything tall, you could see most of the Log Jammer flume before even entering the park. And, yes, the Gold Rusher track was red (like the station part of it still is), but a friend told me that it actually might have been the primer that Arrow put on its coaster tracks before the final coat of paint. Newhall Land & Farming and SeaWorld were in a rush to get Magic Mountain open, so it’s possible that they let the track go with the primer. For the second season, the yellow paint was applied and has been yellow ever since.

    Thank you to the Spencer family and to you, Kurt, for sharing these photos. They’re priceless for anyone who is a Magic Mountain fan.

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/09/2013 at 4:23 pm

      The Gold Rusher primer theory does make sense. Does anyone know if the track has ever been painted since 1972? I’m guessing that it hasn’t since the station section has obviously never been painted. If not, that’s a very long time not to refresh a paint job!

      • Eric

        07/09/2013 at 7:08 pm

        I’m pretty sure that it’s been painted at least one time, but I don’t know when.

        • tacalert

          07/13/2013 at 9:14 pm

          I am going with it hasn’t ever been painted.

          • Eric

            07/17/2013 at 1:10 am

            At one time, it was more of an orange/yellow, and right now it’s bright yellow. So it has been painted more than one time since 1971.

  6. miklo de la noche

    07/09/2013 at 8:44 pm

    wow those are awesome pictures! thanks for sharing! and i thought it changed a lot since 1996…. sheesh!

  7. Kieran

    07/09/2013 at 8:53 pm

    I was just looking for old videos of Six Flags Magic Mountain from the early 70’s, and I found a video that shows real footage of the park 3 months after it opened in 1971.

    Go here ^

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/11/2013 at 9:24 pm

      That’s a great video! It’s amazing how many of those buildings are still there. I laughed when I saw the old station wagon backed up to the Galaxy. They must have been working on it, which I hear wasn’t that uncommon.

      • James

        05/29/2014 at 4:13 pm

        I am pretty sure the mechanics use that very same station wagon to this day. Back in 2006 when I worked there, I definitely drove that thing around to ride inspections before park opening.

  8. Kieran

    07/09/2013 at 8:55 pm

    I will be looking for more videos, and if I find any, I’ll post them in the comments.

  9. Ryan

    07/09/2013 at 10:10 pm

    wow, that is awesome, its amazing how much its changed. Can really see the “mountain” in those photos without all the trees in the way 🙂

    Do you happen to have photos from today from the sky tower from the same angles to do a now & then comparison? That’d be cool

    Cheers 🙂

  10. JJJJ

    07/10/2013 at 8:51 am

    The aerial ride looks surprisingly high up. Just rode the great adventure version last week, was a fantastic way to cut across the park.

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/10/2013 at 9:10 am

      They were very high. I think I heard they were about 100′ up. These are a great way to get from one side of a park to another. Awesome photo ops along the way.

      • JJJ

        07/10/2013 at 6:41 pm

        Yeah we got stuck for 2-3 minutes but it wasnt a problem because the vie was great

  11. Ezra

    07/10/2013 at 7:00 pm

    I’m glad you guys liked the pictures!

  12. Alex

    07/11/2013 at 8:52 pm

    I think you might be mistaken, wasn’t the area that hurricane harbor occupies today a lake? I remember they used to have the batman show there… It was called Mystic Lake no? Kurt? Anybody?

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/11/2013 at 9:18 pm

      You’re both right. Eric is talking about long before Mystic Lake. Part of the parking lot used to be along the front entrance, where the bus turn around, bus lane, and Hurricane Harbor are today. If you look at the light poles between the toll booths and the ticket booths, you’ll see that they look like big white balls. I believe those are original and were used to light up that part of the parking lot when the the park first opened.

      • Eric

        07/17/2013 at 1:12 am

        That’s correct. I do have some pictures from about 1973 that I need to get scanned. They show cars parked there.

        • Chris Murray

          05/29/2015 at 4:22 pm

          just watch the movie Rollercoaster Tim Bottoms goes out to his car to set the up the train bomb from that parking lot just outside the gates

  13. Gregg

    05/29/2014 at 1:50 pm

    Awesome pictures!! Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Jones

    10/03/2017 at 9:56 pm

    50 trees everywhere now. There’s a 1980 construction video that shows just before the back trail was cut out from Viper to Apocalypse as the ground was dramatically lowered between Sky Tower and Roaring Rapids

  15. Joneser

    09/12/2018 at 10:53 am

    On the second photo upper right edge of the picture you can see the wooden bridge that was in front of the waterfall and next to the Glass Shop

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