Discovery Island (Bay Lake)
The Wreck of the Walrus on Discovery Island.
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, United States|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Operated by||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
|Opened||April 8, 1974|
|Closed||April 8, 1999|
|Previous names||Treasure Island, Raz Island|
|Area||11.5 acres (4.7 ha)|
Discovery Island is an 11.5-acre (4.7 ha) island in Bay Lake, Florida. It is located on the property of Walt Disney World in the city of Bay Lake. Between 1974 and 1999, it was open to guests as an attraction, where they could observe its many species of animals and birds. Disney originally named it Treasure Island, and later renamed it Discovery Island. It currently sits abandoned, and Discovery Island is now the name of a land at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
From the early 1900s, the island was known as Raz Island, named after the family that lived there. In the late 1930s, it was purchased for $800 by a man named Delmar "Radio Nick" Nicholson, who renamed it "Idle Bay Isle" and lived there for 20 years with his wife and pet crane. It was later sold, renamed "Riles Island," and used as a hunting retreat. Disney bought it in 1965 as part of its strategic property acquisitions before building the Walt Disney World Resort.
The island opened as Treasure Island on April 8, 1974, as a place to observe wildlife, and was later renamed Discovery Island when it was recognized as a zoological park. Discovery Island’s name was chosen by Steven Ramsdale, a Disney employee who worked as a life guard at the Polynesian Village hotel in the late 1970s.
The admission cost in 1995 was $10.60 for adults and $5.83 for children aged three through nine. Discovery Island also contained a beach where swimming was not allowed, but playing and walking in sand was permitted. The island's facilities were the home of the last known Dusky Seaside Sparrow before it died in 1987. The subspecies was declared extinct in 1990.
Discovery Island closed to the public on April 8, 1999, but continued to operate until July 9, 1999, at which point all of its animals had been relocated to Disney's Animal Kingdom (whose Safari Village hub area was renamed Discovery Island) and other zoos. Although Disney never officially stated its reasons for closing the park, poor attendance and high maintenance costs, combined with the newer and bigger Disney's Animal Kingdom being opened a year before, are the most likely causes.
Since its closing, the island has sat largely abandoned, with no signs of development. As of 2018, all original buildings and attractions remain on the island, though several have sustained major damages from hurricanes and natural decay. At one point, Disney considered teaming up with the makers of the Myst video game, Cyan, to create an interactive experience to be called "Myst Island". Guests would explore unusual locations and unravel a mystery about the island's previous inhabitants. Development of this attraction never moved beyond the concept stage.
Today, the island can easily be seen from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, as well as from boat trips between them. It is adjacent to Disney's River Country, which closed in November 2001.
- Parrots Perch – The Discovery Island Bird Show, featuring macaws, cockatoos, and other trained birds.
- Monkey Colony – Capuchin monkeys
- Trumpeter Springs – trumpeter swans
- Bamboo Hollow – lemurs from Madagascar.
- Vulture’s Haunt – vultures
- Toucan Corner – toucans
- Cranes's Roost – demoiselle cranes, sandhill cranes, and African crowned cranes
- Avian Way – The United States' most extensive breeding colony of scarlet ibis. Muntjacs and peacocks were also kept here.
- Pelican Bay – brown pelicans
- Flamingo Lagoon – flamingos
- Tortoise Beach – five Galápagos tortoises
- Alligator Pool – american alligators
- Eagle’s Watch – bald eagles
- "Discovery Island: The Early Years". Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- "Did Disney World visitors "Myst" out on an amazing new interactive attraction?". Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Wendy Lefkon, ed. (1995). Birnbaum's Walt Disney World. Hyperion and Hearst. pp. 198–199. ISBN 0-7868-8040-6.