Memories of Echo Valley

41 thoughts on “Memories of Echo Valley”

    1. We visited Echo Valley one summer in 67? My dad was in the USAF and we were home from Puerto Rico visiting my Grandparents and cousins. My Aunt Sarah took us there for the day. I remember riding the train and the robbers grabbed my sisters purse. The sheriff shot him on the spot giving her back her purse. We got off the train and the robbers were caught and were hung right there in the center of town, but they were rescued Clint Eastwood style by shooting the hangman’s rope thereby escaping on horses.

      It was a beautiful setting. I have hence searched for this place for years only to find it this year. Only a convenience store remains.

  1. Tom, that was a really fascinating post. Well written and researched. Thanks. Didn’t know much at all about Echo Valley. Maybe a separate post on the SC – born porn star? 🙂 Or not.

  2. This piece is great. Got me wanting to read the Jarrad autobiography. I rode the chair lift at Ghost Town and dropped my indian head dress to the ground, but still had a pocket full of gem stones from the mine.

  3. I remember Echo Valley. I rode the chair lift and the train. Also remember my Daddy peeling off the bumper stickers. Man was he mad! I live in Asheboro NC but every chance I get I go back and look at the old cement block that reminds me of days gone by, and of some good entertainment. Man that was the good ole days!!

  4. I worked the first summer it was open, it was a fun place to work. We all would go on the last train ride of the day.

  5. Thank you for sharing this information. I remember how excited I was to visit Echo Valley for the first time. We had visited Cedar Point (Ohio) and was expecting the same type of park. It was not, but, it was wonderful just the same. I had a cousin who worked there during the summer and it was fun seeing him in some of the skits. It is such a shame that it could not endure.

  6. I grew up just down the road from Cleveland, SC and Echo Valley Park. I was away in school most of the time the park was being built and operating, but did enjoy visiting it once with my girl friend who later became my wife. We have a picture that was taken of us on the chair lift going over the lake. I remember that the train passed by my Dad’s pasture a few mile down the road. The only summer that I was home when the park was operating, I remember being over at my Dad’s barn near the tracks and hearing gun fire coming from the “train robbers” just up the hill from the barn. That time seems so long ago but yet like it was just yesterday.

  7. I can remember the park also…the train ride, the shootouts…it brings back memories of my Mother and I taking my Nephew and Niece there…being from a Rail Road Family…makes me a little home sick and makes we want to hear that whistle blow and think of the sweet people I went to school with and they as well as the Park will hold dear to my heart and I won’t forget them. I live on the Coast now so the mountains and trout streams still make me realize how much that area means to me. Thank you for the write ups.

  8. The Cowboy and the Indian in front of the train. The Cowboy is Ray Mcneely Sheriff of Echo Valley and the Indian is a real Cherokee Indian from the reservation. His name is Johnny Lasee.

    1. i’m looking for vintage photos or slides of the old swamp rabbit steam train.
      would you have any old pics I could scan or old slides I could scan to make vintage post cards and magnets to sell?

  9. Thanks so much for this post! My dad and I were talking at lunch today about Echo Valley (although Im only 28 years old and Echo Valley had come and gone long before I was born…lol) and when I got back to work I googled Echo Valley and came across your post. Such a great read! Melvin was my great grandfather and it was so exciting to see you quote his book! Thanks again!

  10. I too remember the old park. My Aunt lived in Anderson, S.C. We spent a day at the park. I have a small wooden toy plane with Echo Valley burned into the wing that I managed to talk my Dad into buying. Not doing anything
    with the plane. Will donate to good home if anyone collects.

  11. I grew up in Clemson. When I was about 9 or 10 I remember going up to that Park. They were
    so nice. My littlest sister wanted to go on the train with the rest of us so they told my brother that if he would hold her the whole time they would let her go. I still remember driving around down into the valley to park and that we had a picnic next to the stream. I moved to Texas,
    New Orleans, and Ohio through the years. Now I have moved back to S.C. and live only a few miles from Echo Valley. I take groups of children on recreational outings and always stop at the Echo Valley Store and take them behind the store to see the animals and tell them about the Park that used to be there. I did not know it had just closed down , I always guessed that it had flooded in the area and messed up the Park. I am glad that was not the reason for
    the closing. I tell my husband about the Park and he kinda acts like maybe I have just
    forgotten where the Park really was. Now I can show him your post. Thanks.

  12. I was a member of the trio that sang in the saloon and were bartenders during the summer of 1965. I was only 16 years old that summer and the other two members were a year younger. We had no car so we lived in the saloon the entire summer. I remember Dave Bailey very well. I also remember Johnny, the Cherokee Indian. My friend Jack and I were just discussing Echo Valley this past weekend and I drove by it on Hwy 11. It was a summer we will never forget and am amazed that our parents allowed us to live there at that age. Those were different times. Thank you for this post, it helped bring back some wonderful memories.

  13. I have wonderful memories of Echo Valley as my father, Carl Riedel, ran the Gun and Saddle Shop there. The stories I could tell….like the time during a shoot-out when my dad was supposed to shoot the bad guy off a roof and his gun wouldn’t fire. The guy on the roof threw down his gun, dad shot him with his own gun and he finish his stunt. It was hilarious! One more…My big brother, Edwin Riedel, was the young sheriff who escorted the train robbers from the train to the jail! I got to ride in the caboose with “Montana Murphy”. Thank you so much for bringing these memories back. They’re coming in waves now!

  14. My dad was one of the original investors, and I worked in the Camera Shop in the summer of 1964 — our family spent a lot of time up there for several years while they worked really hard to make a go of the park! There were other teenagers working there too which made it a lot of fun if you were one! Great memories of the gun fights, saloon show, and the last train ride of the day! Thank you so much for helping bring back these memories!

  15. Does anyone remember other amusements in Maggie Valley? I spent many summers at Lake Junaluski during the 60’s and 70’s. I almost 50. I went to everything in that area Cherokee Frontierland, Santa Land, Ghost Town etc. Great memories. I am looking for some who remembers a bunch of mini houses that closed down in the 70’s. We went there in late 60’s and in 70’s there was one house left in an overgrown field. Doing research for a book. Thanks so much.

  16. Didn’t part of the place get washed away in a big flood that struck there, I remember seeing a photo of where the train engine had been washed off the tracks?

  17. Found this site thru Denton Farmpark ….denton nc Our handy dandy railroad engine ( now # 9 ) runs each 4 th July week @ southeast old threshers reunion ,,,,,,,,,,, largest collection of working steam power around..During Christmas come on up and enjoy gimger bread cookies cooked on a wood stove and have the best train ride ever all in the Sprit of our Lord ! God bless Yall

    1. I remember the Echo Valley Park. Parker High School owned a camp near by. James Senn was the PHS band director. I was a member of the Berea HS band. The PHS and BHS bands would go to camp at the same time in the summer. Jim McMahan was the BHS director at that time. I think of band camp quite often but had forgotten about the Echo Valley Park. I miss the people and the times.

  18. My dad put the some of the plumbing in echo Valley. I was young and helping him. Got to ride train and the chair lift before opened. I think I was the first person to ride chair lift besides the people installing.They were testing it

  19. The park closed when I was 7 years old but I can still remember it, I remember the chair lift hanging there for what seemed like years after the park closed. I have a color photo taken from the chair lift that is actually from a postcard but shows a lot of detail including The 110 Cliffside or(Swamp Rabbit)engine, the pontoons,people,etc. I would love to share this photo if anyone is interested. this is a part of our history that needs not be forgotten.

    1. Gary – if you have a way to upload it, I would be happy to link to it here. If not, we can work out a way for you to get it to me via e-mail.


  20. I came across a photo of my grandfather at what appears to be a Texaco station with a teepee in the parking lot behind him. I can see billboards advertising Santa Land and Frontier Land. It looks like he’s wearing a hat with a feather sticking out of the top. Picture is from the early 70s or late 60s. I googled Santa Land and Frontierland and landed here. What a fun way to link this picture with all of your wonderful memories. Sounds like a fun place!

  21. I recently transferred 8mm film to DVD for a family reunion. I inquired with relatives about the “Old West Town” footage; as I was a very young visitor. That’s how I found your post, thanks! I have approx. two minutes of footage of Echo Valley taken sometime between 1964 – 1967.

  22. tom,
    i’m looking for vintage photos of Echo Valley Amusement Park and of the 110 steam engine known as the “Swamp Rabbit”
    so I can do some vintage post cards and magnets for the Handee Mart in Cleveland to sell.
    do you have access to such pics?

  23. Thank you so much for putting this up! My brothers and I grew up in Spartanburg and were taken to the park at some point – I am not sure when. I have very clear memories of being terrified of the train robbers and my Mom being nervous that she would lose her shoe(s) on the chairlift and they would end up in the lake! I have searched the Internet once in a while for info and not found much. I am glad to see people sharing the information they have. I do once in a while find a postcard up on ebay. We still have one of our tickets in a scrapbook but I don’t remember seeing any photos. If I find any I will be back in touch.

  24. My Grandparents, James and Maude McFalls lived in the back of the saloon. Granddad drove the train and Grandmother sold tickets at the ticket booth. There was a donkey there that smoked cigarettes and drank coke out of a bottle. I remember being in the park after it closed. My uncles had a band that played there sometimes. I have a few memories but I’m sure my Dad has more. Dad is 80 now but there might be some pictures in their possession. I will find out. Thanks for reviving my sweet memories.

  25. Echo Valley was started by my dad Heyward Ballard, my uncle Grady Ballard, Oregon Lawton who owned Lawton Lumber Co. and by one of the Tucker Brothers, Frank or Virgil, and with some locals from the Marietta area, who I never knew, but was probably Melvin Jarrard. As kids we worked there doing various jobs. Phil Buckheister worked there and showed me my first chords on the guitar. Buddy Strong’s Dad was the Sheriff, and did the gunfights. It was a really cool place while it lasted.

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