Victoria the condor on Bedrock City's main street.
Victoria the condor on Bedrock City's main street.

Bedrock City and Raptor Ranch

Field review by the editors.

Williams, Arizona

In the survival-of-the-newest jungle of popular culture, where lifespans are shorter than those of cavemen (although not everyone believes in cavemen), the Flintstones franchise should have been extinct long ago. And yet here we are, over 50 years after the original cartoon series was canceled, and most of us can still recognize Fred, Barney, Wilma, Betty, and Dino.

View through a Stone Age window at the Slidasaurus.
View through a Stone Age window at the Slidasaurus.

Fruity Pebbles and Flintstones Vitamins had something to do with that, as have decades of reruns, several underwhelming spinoffs and feature films, and a lot of image merchandizing.

Flintstones Bedrock City has helped, too.

Bedrock City was built by Francis Jerome "Hudi" Speckels (1940-1990) and opened in 1972. Standing on a desert plateau south of the Grand Canyon, with a giant Fred Flintstone by the highway, Bedrock is an outpost of the 1960s cel-animation universe, and perhaps the best place on earth to enjoy 2-D reality. Its cartoon-colored buildings, goofy Paleolithic creatures, and vehicles with wheels made of rock -- a gag that never grows old -- solidly preserve the Flintstones legacy in appropriate stone-like concrete.

Fossil fuel station, from 1994 Roadside America visit.
Fossil fuel station, from 1994 Roadside America visit.

Troy Morris and Cookie.
Troy Morris and Cookie.

The sparse Arizona vegetation makes Bedrock City seem like an encampment of apocalypse survivors, or one of those ghost towns built by the military to test the blast effects of atomic bombs. You'd think that a place as tough as this would last forever, yet it was nearly obliterated in early 2019. That's when the Speckels family sold the attraction to Troy Morris and Ron Brown, who announced that the Flintstones Era was ending and that the property would become an ecotourism destination named Raptor Ranch.

And not prehistoric velociraptors, but modern-day hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls (Dinosaurs did evolve into birds, but that was an unintended connection).

News headlines announced, "Flintstones Park Strictly for the Birds," and "Yabba Dabba Adieu!" Bedrock City fans, some of whom had visited the park over several generations, sent out wails of social media protest.

"Did that surprise us? It did!" said Troy, who manages the property. "We were closed while we were doing repairs, and people kept driving around back to get in and climbing over the walls. We hadn't planned on the years of affection that people had for the place."

Troy put a cash register out in the gift shop, which at that point was just a gutted shell with a plastic sheet for a front wall, and found that visitors were willing to pay to get in. "That's when I said to myself, 'You know, this is not a bad thing.'"

Pterodactyl perches on the pink lava volcano.
Pterodactyl perches on the pink lava volcano.

The original plan had been to tear down parts of Bedrock City and customize most of what was left for the birds of prey attraction. But it quickly became apparent that more people were coming for Bedrock City than Raptor Ranch; Troy estimated that 80 percent of his visitors wanted to see the Flintstones. The infrastructure for Raptor Ranch was taking longer to build than anticipated, but Bedrock City could be patched and painted fairly quickly. And it only occupied three of Raptor Ranch's 30 acres.

"We said, 'People love it, so let's just keep all the stuff,'" said Troy. "'If people want to come by and enjoy it, we're all in.'"

Troy told us that Bedrock City's dominant popularity didn't dismay him. He's confident that Raptor Ranch will eventually develop its own passionate fanbase. When the attraction is fully up and running, he said, the Ranch will "show how these birds hunt in the wild" with raptors swooping and pouncing on mechanical rabbits and remote-controlled robot birds, a Nature-vs-cyborg contest that sounds worthy of Westworld.

Prehistoric creatures are given free rein at Bedrock City.
Prehistoric creatures are given free rein at Bedrock City.

As for Bedrock City, Troy wants to clean up the neighborhood while maintaining its lumpy charm. "It's a place where you're not worried about the kids falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon," he said. "I want to make it a nice place to hang out."

Troy said that he's still trying to figure out "how to marry these two and not confuse the public," but the attractions' shotgun wedding seems to have produced a happy union. Troy said that tourists have been enjoying the birds of prey demonstrations -- the birds sometimes hang out on the old Bedrock displays -- and that he frequently encounters Flintstones fans (some who arrive in costume) who tell him they visited Bedrock City decades earlier, which he finds reassuring. "This place has a fifty-year track record."

Raptor Ranch falcon comes in for a landing.
Raptor Ranch falcon comes in for a landing.

One problem: while Raptor Ranch can keep every building, prop, and prehistoric creature that came with Bedrock City, it can't keep the park's licensing rights, which ended with the previous owner. "I can't call it 'Flintstones Bedrock City' and put it up on a sign," Troy said. "But the 20-foot-tall Fred out front is pretty suggestive."

Also see: Another Attraction That Can't Speak Its Name

Bedrock City and Raptor Ranch

Address:
332 AZ-64, Williams, AZ
Directions:
On the west side of AZ-64, just north of its intersection with US-180. 28 miles north of Route 66, and 24 miles south of the Grand Canyon
Hours:
Open daily 8-dusk. Tu-Su bird flight shows every hour 12-6. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
928-635-3072
Admission:
Adults $5.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Cowboys, Indians, RocksCowboys, Indians, Rocks, Valle, AZ - < 1 mi.
Bearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife ParkBearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife Park, Williams, AZ - 27 mi.
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In the region:
Grand Canyon Deer Farm, Williams, AZ - 27 mi.

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October 1, 2020

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