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Images: An Aerial View of the Abandoned Disney's River Country Water Park

Disney's River Country

In the mid-1970s, Walt Disney World had yet to evolve into the sprawling multi-day destination that it is today. It still only had one theme park, the Magic Kingdom, surrounded by a selection of resort hotels. EPCOT Center wouldn't open until the start of the next decade, so Disney decided to install another attraction to keep guests on site for longer - its first water park.

Disney's River Country was located on the shore of Bay Lake, and boasted a rustic "wilderness" theme. Packed with rocks and boulders, it was designed to resemble an old-fashioned swimming hole. The water for its pools and slides came from Bay Lake via a filtering system, and abundant sand was used to enhance the natural feel of the park.

Disney's River Country (1)

Source: Auntie Rain Flickr

When Michael Eisner took over as Disney CEO in 1984, he took a more competitive approach than his predecessors. He decided to build a full water park, Typhoon Lagoon, to take on nearby Wet 'n' Wild. River Country's capacity was limited, and its days were numbered. It shut on November 2, 2001, but remains in place today - it was abandoned rather than demolished.

We don't advocate trespass, and making your way into the abandoned River Country these days could be quite dangerous. Instead, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the park and its former attractions from skies, using the magic of Bing Maps.

First, let's take a look at a map of River Country:

Disney's River Country map

There were relatively few attractions on offer at the park, which was much smaller than the current Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks. They included:

  • Upsteam Plunge - a small, kidney-shaped pool.
  • Slippery Slide Falls - two water slides that emptied out into Upstream Plunge.
  • White Water Rapids - a 330-foot-long water slide.
  • Bay Cove - a sandy-bottomed lake featuring a tire swing, rope climb and other apparatus.
  • Whoop 'n' Holler Hollow - two water slides that dropped into Bay Cove.
  • Indian Springs - a play area for younger children.
  • Cypress Point Nature Trail - a trail through the trees alongside Bay Lake.
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There are 56 comments.

I remember going there when I was younger but we as a family prefered the other water parks...still ashame to see it like this

What a waste!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well they shut it down because there was an brain eating virus that originated in a wildelife preserve just off the cost of the water park. something like a 98% mortality rate? Yha, so thats why it is abandoned, that and people didn't like it as much.

Yes, and that virus would also be in the main lake at WDW, because you pass right by River Country riding on the ferry from Fort Wilderness, and this same lake is where people parasail and jetski, so you can still die from playing in the water at WDW!

yeah, not actually. The parasite wouldn't exist only in Bay Lake, if it was there, it would be in a lot of other lakes and rivers in the area. It was closed because it's capacity was way too low. After Typhoon Lagoon opened, people went to River Country a lot less. And once Blizzard Beach was opened, which dwarfs Typhoon Lagoon, no one would've gone to River Country. It was closed because it cost too much money to keep open, staff, and maintain.

I was on the island once when I worked at WDW. It's like being in a Jurassic Park film. I wish I could film there--

I also remember going there when I was about 13 (I'm 32 now). What fun it was! Though we all did prefer Typhoon. And even though River Country was a bit 'old' and worn, we still enjoyed it :)

I went to River Country several times. It was my favorite water park. However you are missing part of the story. The legislature in Florida passed a law that paid swimming areas could not use freshwater or lake areas because of the bacteria that is well known to grow in these waters in Florida. This bacteria can be deadly. This is the main reason that River Country was closed so quickly after this law was passed. I think that this could have been updated making concrete pools. This area does need to be reclaimed into something rustic that goes along with the campground area, maybe another treehouse villa area would be great.

Very interesting! I remember swimming in bay lake as a kid and loving it. I never really understood why they closed it. Thanks for the insight!

You obviously missed the "filtered" part of the story, also Disney is exempt from many of the state laws. I found that out when I worked there back in the early days. Because it was already open and running- it would have been grandfathered in anyway.

Disney may be exempt from certain laws however it is certainly exempt from lawsuits. If people will sue Disney for a million dollars over a child burning their mouth on a grilled cheese sandwich I imagine they would for a potentially fatal bacteria. I should also mention I have been a cast member for 12 years

I would like to point out that people like that are simply looking for trouble and money because Disney is a large and powerful icon and some idiots can't handle it. As for whoever did that, it was their own fault because everyone knows that you will burn your mouth if you bite directly into any freshly made grilled cheese sandwich. I should know because they were my favorite thing to eat as a kid.

I used to go to River Country all the time as a kid... I'm 40 now. At the time the other parks didn't even exist. RC actually had some fatalities from that bacteria. That is in deed the main reason it was abruptly closed.

Actually thats not true. I was a lifeguard at both typhoon and blizzard and we got to meet the higher ups and I asked about rc cause its always been a question on my mind and they said its because typhoon AND blizzard(as blizzard was open before it closed) were way bigger and getting more business and there just wasnt enough business in rc. They still do marathons and kayaking and all sorts of stuff in that lake so there is no way it was because of bacteria.

That stinks. They could've tried to save it. Did they even try??

We loved River Country. But the White Water Rapids was not a lazy river as mentioned in the article. It was a fast water slide that you rode down in an inner tube. It was supposed to be like white water rapids on a river. Sometimes you'd get knocked out of your inner tube and have to try and grab on to another one to finish going down. The first time I went to RC I was 5 and too little to ride it, but eventually it was my favorite ride in the park.

I was there with my boys in the 70s..the only waterpark..and awesome for its time. I wish Disney would bring it back to life. It fit perfect with the camp ground. With todays technology Disney could revive it and make it out of this world. Come on Disney CEO do it for Walt! !

sadly they arent :( i worked at typhoon and blizzard and talked to the water parks higher ups and they said they have no intentions of ever doing anything with rc :( this was last year btw

Well they should because its obvious several people want it back. Even people who have never been there!! Its wrong to have it sitting there deteriorating and wasting space. Its absolutely horrid. Honestly Disney! How wasteful.

Mandamelody- I'm doing a class paper on WDW Resort and possible new revenue streams. would like to talk to you about this. RC to me seems like a no brainer- to turn it back into something usuable for guests staying on property- especially at the higher end properties on the monorail and Wilderness Lodge. could you email me


I took the private fireworks cruise and they point this area out. I never knew it existed before our cruise,

Went there several times when I lived in Florida 30 years ago. We camped at Captain Kids camp ground for the weekend. Those were fun times! Always saying I have to go back...sorry to see its not open anymore...a real waste..

Oh my gosh this place was fabulous. We used to camp at Fort Wilderness every summer and would spend a couple days at River Country. I can remember going home after the first visit -- having never been to a water park (there weren't any back around 1976) and struggling to explain to my friends exactly WHAT it was... So much fun. It felt big, and there was a lot of ground to cover. My favorite was the inner tube ride, which started and ended with small waterfalls you would go over. There would be a zillion tubes all tangled together and over you'd go... so much fun. The grounds were gorgeous, built around that lake, and the water even then was very murky, so it had a very "real" feel to it. The slide into the pool terrified me, as it ended about 8 feet above the water and you would just DROP. We would stay til they closed at 10pm and you would just be exhausted. It made Fort Wilderness seem like a destination. We have crept around the entrance recently, tried to peek through the barrier fences... It looks like a ruin. Very sad really!

I remember this being my favorite water park. I would love to go back. Since they are bring back old rides with a new park this should be restored as well. I'll be the first in line if they grow up and bring back the good things Disney did

This was the first water park my family and I had ever been to. It was the first place that I ever zip lined.

I remember going there when I was a kid (around 10 years old) I actually saved up my allowance for weeks so that I could renew my annual pass so when we stayed at Ft Wilderness I could spend a day at River Country. I really miss that park and am sorry to see it as it sits today

Come on Disney!!! Put some money into getting this fixed and opened instead of that big money suck you call Avarar land!!!!!

Whoops meant avatar!!!

Yes!!! Exactly!

I agree!! As cool as avatar land sounds, I would much rather see another water park. Not to mention all the rides they had closed at disneyland while I was there. Space mountain, finding memo, captain so, the Matterhorn shutdown and Indiana Jones kept having technical difficulties. Honestly, fix that water park up instead of building new crap. You could always expand the park like you do constantly in disney world and disney!land. Besides, abandoned stuff is just plain creepy.

We camped at Fortwilderness while our famly was new and yound. Had many memories with our children at River Country. It was thr true sense of camping and Disney shuld have never shut it down but found a way to filter the water keeping the lake and RC separate similar to infinity pools. They could have used the water but treated. Disney does fantastic thing and could have done this. My wife and I are now in our late 50's still camping there but when we boat to the Magic Kingdom we see RC and still rember those days. Love you WDW.

Our very first trip to Walt Disney World in June of 2000 included a wonderful day of fun at River Country. We loved it! Happy memories!!

I never got to come here but have also heard about the fatal bacteria that caused this area to shut down. Sad since so many people hold so many fond memories of this place. Near there somewhere is also the abandoned Diacovery Island that has also closed.

Discovery Island was filled with all kinds of birds and bird poo. We went there and had to dodge the flying "missiles" and it was not a great experience to say the least. It could be avery nice place. I have heard that it is going to be made into some kind of attraction.

I loved this place as a kid. When we stay at Ft Wilderness and take the boat across to the hotels I point out some of the things you can still see. This would be great if they turn it into a small water park for the people staying as guests at Ft Wilderness

I use to love going to River Country as a little girl. We would stay in Fort Wilderness just for this waterpark. Its a shame Disney doesn't fix it up or turn it into something else. It was a big hit for the campground.

I was an adult the one and only time I went there with my family. Felt you had to be a pretty strong swimmer to really tske advantage of the amenities. Not much to di if you werent.

Live nearby, and when my son was younger (might have been 2003?), we went to Fort Wilderness on an educational field trip with his school. We stopped at the kidney-shaped pool to collect water and look at it under a microscope for microbes. I was so surprised that they would bring visitors into that area, which was obviously in an abandoned state.

I wish they had saved it or improved it. That sucks because I would love to go there.If Disney can or could bring it back they should. I would have loved it. Boo Disney, quit giving up on stuff!!!

OMG! What a shame!!! Disney should be ashamed of letting this go!!! Yeah it was a small park... perfect for the people camping at the camp grounds... We still camp there and every time we go we WISH we could go back to RC. Disney, come on!!! This is terrible. That place was great! Especially when your trying to keep the "rustic" feel to go along with your camping trip... I feel like this property is seriously overlooked. Sell it to me... I'll keep it open and keep the fans happy ;P.

Oh, please bring it back for all the older guys who went there and thought it was the greatest place alive! It would be a be hit there now!!!

We went there years ago and left shortly after arriving after reading the sign on the beach that read that they recommend that you wear nose and ear plugs while swimming in FL water !

Our family enjoyed going to River Country every year. It is such a shame that it closed down and is left to ruin. Only wish our grandkids could be enjoying this as much as our kids did!

We had so much fun at river country when I was growing up. It truly is a shame that Disney did not keep it up... They could use another waterpark. We go every year for a week & we try to breakup our days by going to a park one day & then water park the next. Wish they would rethink their options to restore!

we went to River Country when I was about 6. I wasn't as strong of a swimmer as my brother, but my parents still took us both down Whoop N Holler... My first big water slide. I can still picture the park in my mnd. Sad that it was left to "die". Too bad Disney didn't incorporate it into its plans....

we went to River Country when I was about 6. I wasn't as strong of a swimmer as my brother, but my parents still took us both down Whoop N Holler... My first big water slide. I can still picture the park in my mnd. Sad that it was left to "die". Too bad Disney didn't incorporate it into its plans....

I was there in the 80's it was nice also safe as far as no violent rapids or tube slides. I stayed at contemporary so access was easy and I wondered at the time how would anyone get there if they did not stay disney property? I'm thinking that was a major sticking point, how to get outside people to the water park (access).

I think they should re open it... Not everyone wants to go to the big water parks where you spend 3/4 your time waiting in lines for rides. I think it would be wonderful for it to reopen for those of us who want to
Go our own pace

It isn't a virus in the water but rather an amoeba which is in all still freshwater ponds and lakes in the warm south, during the hot months. No one should swim in unclorinated water then. I think it is such a shame that Disney's trend is to just abandon parks and attractions rather than refurbish or at least sell off or repurpose items. Heck, they even left benches and garbage cans


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