FastPass to History: River Country

Oh, who doesn’t love the story of River Country?  It’s got all the nostalgia, mystery, and just-slightly-creepiness anyone needs in conjunction with Disney.

To be clear, there is nothing actually CREEPY about River Country, aside from the simple fact that the property is abandoned and is left to become overgrown and wasted.  It’s not haunted, no mysterious tragedies occurred there, and there’s nothing hidden or buried that has been discovered.  It’s just, you know, property at Disney World that is no longer in use and has rather quickly been reclaimed by the local vegetation.  But it makes for some fascinating pictures. 🙂

Since this is a FastPass to History feature I’m going to focus instead on the River Country that was.  River Country opened in 1976 at the Walt Disney World Resort, adjacent to Fort Wilderness, and was the resort’s first water park – the only one, in fact, until Typhoon Lagoon opened 13 years later.  River Country kept the rustic theming of Ft. Wilderness intact and presented itself as an “old-fashioned swimmin’ hole”, with all the attractions built to resemble a homemade backyard entertainment set-up around the ol’ lake.

River Country's map

River Country’s map

Much of the water actually came from the surrounding lake, though it was heavily filtered and cleansed, which helped with the natural look of the area.  Structures mostly had a rocky look to them, slides were disguised within these “mountain outcroppings”, and they had other little homey additions like a zipline and a tire swing.  There were kids’ areas too, including Kiddie Cove and Indian Springs.  Names of other attractions featured stuff like “Slippery Slide Falls”, “Whoop N’ Holler Hollow”, and “Barrel Bridge”.

River Country was “temporarily” closed in 2001 and left in limbo for a few years until Disney announced in 2005 that it would not be reopened.  There are a number of reasons flying around the internet for this, including that the lake water houses an amoeba that can very quickly destroy the nervous system of anyone infected (this is true, it does, which is why there is no swimming on Disney beaches), but points out the fact that they closed for the season in September 2001, right before the 9/11 attacks.  They went into financial emergency mode after that point, and since they had two larger water parks with higher attendance and more capacity, and it made sense as a cost-cutting measure to eliminate the oldest, smallest one.  That simple.  Too bad though!

River Country overhead. Looks big from up here!

River Country overhead. Looks big from up here!

Did you ever go to River Country?  Any great memories to share?  Comment below!

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11 thoughts on “FastPass to History: River Country

  1. Love the map you included! Haven’t seen one of those in years! River Country was so much fun! I’ve never heard the theory about financial emergency mode…it makes sense though. It would be interesting to know what the reason was, but I doubt Disney will ever tell us. I’m guessing it was probably a combination of several different things. Thanks for joining the blog hop!

    • The maps are great! And it’s really neat how it make it clear how everything was organized. 😀 I had mainly only heard the brain-eating amoeba story, myself, but debunked that very convincingly so I’m actually pretty sold on the financial reasons for closing that park. But you’re probably right, it probably was a combination – maybe it was the least cost-effective park due to having to take extra pains to make the location safe against the amoebas? Who knows. 😀 Thanks for the comment! I’m trying to pick my topics out in advance so I can have them ready for Thursdays now – I love this blog hop! 😀

  2. We loved River Country, my brother and I loved swinging on the ropes and the water slides. It was also a good location to see the fireworks if you weren’t at the park. I really wish they would have just removed everything. Leaving it there makes it look like a junkyard and entices those that want to explore. Glad I didn’t hear about the amoeba when I was younger, scary!

    • I know, having stuff look abandoned/creepy just invites trespassing. I know they can’t really be sure what they’re going to put there and it’s a lot to take out, but it would still be nice if they could do something to avoid the temptation. …That said I really enjoy looking at the pictures, guilty pleasure. 😉 I wish I’d been able to go there while it was open, honestly, it looks like fun! I’ve never done any of the water parks – I’m much more interested in theme parks in general. Thanks for the comment!!

  3. Alas, I’m a bit young to have visited River Country (or to remember it, even if I had), but I’m so curious about it! It seems like it would have been such a fun place, especially for my family who camped at Fort Wilderness when I was a young’un!

    • I know what you mean! I’m NOT young, but as I only visited once during the time it was open, I’ve never gone. (I’ve never gone to any water parks actually!) It really does seem super fun, and since I LOVE Ft. Wilderness it would be wonderful to have it right there! Oh, well… other opportunities about. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

    • I think the water was actually a bit cleaner than they let it look – from what I’ve read they filtered it & kept it up to standard, they just let it look like lake water. *G* No way to know now, though…

  4. I went to it as a kid, but honestly don’t remember it much as we swapped to Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
    Thanks for reminding me! Now I need to go look up pics of it all abandoned, that sound fascinating.

  5. I remember visiting this water park in ’98 on my first trip to WDW. This is one of the only things I really remember from that trip. For years I have been questioning whether this place was actually real as when I went there I was only 5, but I clearly remember the ride where you were in a rubber ring and there was a drop during the ride and in my recent trips I could not find the ride I had remembered in either Typhoon or Blizzard, so I came to believe that I had just made up the memories. Until I found a picture of me swimming with Cinderella’s castle in the background. I’m rather surprised anyone swam in the lagoon water as it looked just as filthy as it does now. I think they may have closed the park due to health and safety regarding the water, but I don’t like the fact that they just left it there to crumble. It used to be such a happy place and now it just looks post apocalyptic 😦

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