Disney's River Country was the first water park at Walt Disney World. Located near Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, it opened on June 20, 1976, and closed indefinitely on November 2, 2001. On January 20, 2005, The Walt Disney Company announced that River Country would remain closed permanently.
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.
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" with "a twist of Huckleberry Finn". The original working title was "Pop's Willow Grove".
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 a higher level than the lake's, which was an effort to prevent lake water from going into the park.
In 1989, Disney opened a second 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, which was also much bigger than River Country.
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. On April 11, 2002, the Orlando Sentinel reported that âWalt Disney Worldâs first water park, River Country, has closed and may not reopen." Disney World spokesman Bill Warren stated that River Country could be reopened if âthereâs enough guest demand.ââ
In 2005, the Walt Disney Company officially announced that River Country would never reopen. River Country was left abandoned, instead of being demolished, and is fenced off from the nearby Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Disney employees monitor the park for trespassers, who risk up to lifetime bans if caught.
On August 25, 2016, Disney announced that they would drain and fill in Upstream Plunge, the 330,000 gallon pool. There are no immediate plans to tear down any other part of the park.
List of attractions
- 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 mÂ²) 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, 260Â ft (79 m) and 160Â 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
- A photo essay in 2009 of the decaying River Country
- Disney's River Country on Modern Day Ruins
- A four-part series on the abandoned resort