Sunday, June 5, 2011

Disney's River Country Water Park

Q: While preparing for an all-adult family trip to Walt Disney World, my brother and I were reminiscing about River Country, which was the water park we visited on our first trip in 1987. We were wondering when it closed and what was built in its place?
Carrie, New Rochelle, New York 

A [Dave Smith]: River Country closed on September 1, 2001, after having been open for 25 years, and nothing has been built in its place. It was essentially superseded by the more elaborate water parks of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. 

[by Marcio Disney

The water park was created by the same man who created Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

"The original working title before being changed was "Pop's Willow Grove" and 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. It was much smaller than the resort's other two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, with the latter nearly four times the size of River Country."
- Wikipedia

It was commented by a Cast Member that a contributing reason for the closing was the new state rules concerning water parks. Pools and water activities must have their water originating from municipal water systems, not natural bodies of water but officially, the closure was due to high amoeba levels from Bay Lake which Walt Disney World was built on.


Click Here to read ‘Explorers’ invade Disney’s abandoned Discovery Island and River Country water park at Inside the Magic.

The Discovery Island is adjacent to Disney's River Country water park

Before there was Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World’s mega water parks, there was River Country. River Country, which is located at the back of Fort Wilderness on Bay Lake, was revolutionary when it opened in 1976. Back then, hotels didn’t routinely build their own water slides and aqua playgrounds as they do today.

The “old-fashioned swimming hole” theme was in line with the times. As one poster astutely described it: “Remember that in 1976 the ‘country theme’ was big. On TV we had The Waltons, Little House on the Prarie, etc. The nation was celebrating our bicentennial. Home decor reflected a rustic theme. Fake spinning wheels, eagle emblems, and decorated steel milk canisters were found in living rooms all over the U.S. A very simple and patriotic craze happening right along with disco, if you can imagine that.”

River Country was small by today’s standards. It included two flume slides, one tube slide, and rope swings, T-bars and a barrel bridge in Bay Cove; a heated swimming pool with two short slides that started high in the rocks but ended well above the surface, giving the guest a short free fall; a beach area; and Kiddie Cove for pint-sized guests. 

I visited River Country on three vacations in the early 80s, and like so many others, have fond memories of those times. My sister and I worked up our courage to go down Slippery Slide Falls, screaming as we fell into the pool, and couldn’t get enough of the Whoop ‘N Holler Hollow flumes. Going to River Country was a highlight during those trips to Walt Disney World. As adults, we visited once with our spouses — no children yet — in the 1990s. It was fun reminiscing, but of course River Country loomed larger in our childhood memories.

River Country closed for good in November 2001. Some say filtering lake water was no longer considered safe, and others blame the popularity of Typhoon Lagoon, which opened in 1989, and Blizzard Beach, which opened in 1995. Whatever the reason, fans of River Country still mourn its loss and actually hope for its return one day. Their hope is buoyed by the fact that the water park was never torn down; Disney just allowed nature to reclaim most of it.

Recently, photos of the abandoned River Country surfaced online, prompting extensive discussions on several fan forums. Viewing the photos is like looking away from the proverbial train wreck — it’s virtually impossible to tear your eyes away. It’s fascinating to see what has become of the property after eight years and three hurricanes. Many detailed shots can be seen here and a side-by-side comparison of like photos taken then and now are here. For a look at guests having fun at River Country, check out this video. You’re sure to chuckle at how swim suit styles have changed.

1 comment:

  1. Peppa Pig world
    Style demonstrated a traditional theme. Fake spinning wheels, eagle icons, and designed steel use products containers were found in areas all over the U.S. A very simple and devoted trend happening right along with disco, if you can imagine that.”


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