Disney’s River Country – A Blast from the Past!

We are so used to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, that it’s so easy to forget that Disney’s River Country paved the way for Disney’s chart topping success in the world of water park entertainment.

Disney’s River Country first opened to guests way back on June 20th 1976, just four years after the legendary mark Spitz won an amazing 7 Golds at the Munich Olympics.

On November 2nd of 2001, the very last splash occurred after 25 years of faithful service, earning the daunting award as Disney’s only park to close permanently.
Curiously still un-demolished, Disney’s River Country’s ‘ghost’ still appears on satellite images near the shore of Bay lake near the Fort Wilderness Resort.

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The theme was very much about a river adventure, kind of Huckleberry Finn style, with rustic logs, natural looking pools and a forest wildness setting.
The 2000 sq/m man made ‘swimming hole’ included a sand bottom and filtered water from Bay Lake that gave an illusion of a natural setting.  Artificial rocks and mounds finally set the scene.

The lake was surrounded by zip lines, water slides, barrel bridges and tire swings, making this a very cool alternative to Wet ‘n’ Wild as the only other water park at that time around Orlando which opened in 1977.

Several theories surround the closure of Disney’s River Country, but the most credible explanation from Associated Press was that Disney feared a repeat of a very rare bacterial infection that sadly took the life of a 11 year old guest in 1980.
The bacteria can become more of a risk in natural waters such as lakes in warmer Floridian weather, and on very rare occasions can affect swimmers in the many beautiful Florida springs during the summer months.

Although the tragedy was attributed to the presence of natural bacteria in the lake fed waters of Disney’s River Country, Disney were not in the least found to be negligent, and the water park remained open for another 21 years before Disney themselves decided to close the park permanently.

River Country

River Country

Image courtesy of www.yesterland.com

Image Archive – Disney’s River Country as it is ‘Now’

For hundreds of amazing images from 2009 check out this Disboards link to see the abandoned River Country !

Water Mania in Kissimmee

Another long lost water park was based just a few miles to the east, closed in September 2005.
If you’d like to know more about the water parks that are still available, visit our Orlando area water parks quick guide!