Disney's River Country

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Disney's River Country
Disney's River Country (logo).png
Location Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, United States
Coordinates 28°24′41″N 81°33′53″W / 28.411325°N 81.5646805556°W / 28.411325; -81.5646805556Coordinates: 28°24′41″N 81°33′53″W / 28.411325°N 81.5646805556°W / 28.411325; -81.5646805556
Theme Old-fashioned swimming hole
Owner The Walt Disney Company
Operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Opened June 20, 1976 (1976-06-20)
Closed November 2, 2001 (2001-11-02)
Status SBNO
Pools 2 pools
Water slides 5 water slides
Children's areas 2 children's areas

Disney's River Country was the first water park at Walt Disney World. Located near Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, it opened on June 20, 1976, and closed indefinitely on November 2, 2001, following the September 11 attacks. On January 20, 2005, The Walt Disney Company announced that River Country would be closed for good. Since then, the park had become severely overgrown with trees, and is in extremely poor condition.

Along with Discovery Island, it is one of only two Disney parks in their history to close permanently. Both were left to deteriorate rather than be demolished.


River Country in 1977.

Positioned on the shore of Bay Lake, near Discovery Island, the park featured a rustic wilderness theming, complete with rocks and man-made boulders. It was described as an "old-fashioned swimming hole"[1] with "a twist of Huckleberry Finn".[2] The original working title was "Pop's Willow Grove".[3]

The park was featured in a musical number from the 1977 Wonderful World of Disney episode "The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World", which included a song titled "River Country" and featured the then-current Mouseketeer lineup from the late 70s incarnation of The Mickey Mouse Club enjoying its attractions.

The park featured a sandy bottom and unique water filtering system using confluent water from adjacent Bay Lake, which was dammed off creating a natural-looking man-made lagoon. The park's water was at the higher level than the lake's, which was an effort to prevent lake water from going into the park.[4] But even with the filtration system, the water was not completely purified. In 1980, an 11-year-old boy was killed by a deadly infection caused by an amoeba (Naegleria fowleri), which is found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs.[4]

Besides the amoeba death, there were two drownings at River Country, in 1982 and 1989.[4]

In 1989, Disney opened a second new water park, Typhoon Lagoon. It had much more parking, many more slides, newer amenities, and was much larger. In 1995, Disney opened a third water park, Blizzard Beach. River Country was much smaller than the other two parks, yet it remained, surviving the competition.[5]

As it did every year, the park closed at the end of the warm-weather season in November 2001, with the expectation that it would reopen in spring of 2002. But after the September 11 attacks, there was a decline in business across Disney World, with many other parks cutting back their hours, several restaurants closing down, many hotels discontinuing early-morning events, and Port Orleans – Riverside closing indefinitely.[5][6] A decrease in visitors at all Disney World parks and hotels prompted them to halt the reopening.[5] On April 11, 2002, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “Walt Disney World’s first water park, River Country, has closed and may not reopen,” concluding with this line: “Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said that River Country could be reopened if ‘there’s enough guest demand.’”[4] The attraction may also have been affected by a change in Florida laws, which prohibited unchlorinated natural water bodies from being used for water park attractions.[7]

The abandoned Slippery Slide Falls attraction in 2013.

Soon afterward, the park fell into disrepair, precluding any hope of reopening with the Walt Disney Company having to invest significant amounts of money into the park. It was thought more prudent to operate Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon instead.[5] In 2005, the Walt Disney Company officially announced that River Country would never reopen. River Country has been left abandoned to rot instead of being demolished. Disney employees monitor the park for trespassers. Many YouTubers have been caught taping videos of themselves trespassing in River Country for entertainment purposes.[8] In the meantime, River Country is fenced off from the nearby Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. River Country is no longer in operable condition, and it is thought that should Disney ever need to open a third water park, it will build a new park from scratch rather than rebuilding River Country.[5]

On August 25, 2016, it was announced that Disney would be draining and filling in Upstream Plunge, the 330,000 gallon pool, though there are no immediate plans to tear down any other part of the park.[9] Along with Discovery Island, it was left to deteriorate rather than be demolished.[10][11]

List of attractions[edit]

Slippery Slide Falls and Upstream Plunge in 1977.

Attractions included:[12][13]

  • Upstream Plunge, a kidney shaped clean-water pool.
  • Slippery Slide Falls, two water slides that emptied into Upstream Plunge.
  • Kiddie Cove, a kids zone with two large water slides and a cove. This area was targeted toward preteens.
  • Barrel Bridge, a bumpy bridge with barrels under it, similar to the one at Tom Sawyer Island.
  • White Water Rapids, a 330-foot (100 m) long inner tube river.
  • Bay Cove, a half-acre (2,000 m²) sand-bottom lake which featured a tire swing, boom swing, rope climb, and T-bar drop.
    • Boom Swing
    • Cable Ride
    • Tire Swing
  • Whoop 'n' Holler Hollow, two water slides, 260 ft (79 m) and 160 ft (49 m) long, that emptied into Bay Cove.
  • Bay Bridge
  • Indian Springs, a very small splash zone with fountains spraying kids. This area was mainly designed for guests under age 8.
  • Cypress Point Nature Trail, a trail among trees beside Bay Lake.
  • Pony Rides
  • Mercury WaterMouse Rental


  1. ^ "Almost Forgotten". Teen Disney: For Kids By Kids. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "River Country". WDWhistory.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ "A Tribute to Disney's River Country". BigFloridaCountry.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Yesterland.com: River Country Closed by Brain-Eating Amoeba? (Part 1 of 2)". Yesterland. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Yesterland.com: River Country Closed by Brain-Eating Amoeba? (Part 2 of 2)". Yesterland. 
  6. ^ Smith, Dave (September 2010). "Ask Dave". D23. Archived from the original on September 28, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Disney's abandoned water park was affected by same fatal virus that now raises concerns about Extreme Sports project. here". Martin County Times. June 26, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2012. 
  8. ^ Sim, Nick (March 29, 2015). "Abandoned: The Rise, Fall and Decay of Disney's River Country". Theme Park Tourist. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ Pedicini, Sandra (August 25, 2016). "Disney World draining, filling in long-abandoned River Country pool". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved August 25, 2016. 
  10. ^ Fritz. "Abandoned Disney River Country". Abandoned Disney series. ImagineeringDisney.com. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ "River Country Neglected". DisBoards.com. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  12. ^ Weiss, Werner. "River Country News". Yesterland. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  13. ^ "River Country". WDWinfo. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 

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