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 in November 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.


River Country in 1977.

Positioned on the shore of Bay Lake, near Discovery Island, the park featured a rustic wilderness theme, complete with rocks and man-made boulders. It was described as an "old-fashioned swimming hole"[1] with "a twist of Huckleberry Finn."[2] The original working title was "Pop's Willow Grove."[3]

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.[4]

On August 22, 1980, an 11-year-old boy died after contracting Naegleria fowleri while swimming in Disney's River Country.[4]


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 “Walt Disney World’s first water park, River Country, has closed and may not reopen." Disney World spokesman Bill Warren stated that River Country could be reopened if ‘there’s enough guest demand.’”[5]

The abandoned Slippery Slide Falls attraction in 2013.

In 2005, Disney officially announced that River Country would be closed permanently and would never reopen. River Country was left abandoned, instead of being demolished and is currently fenced off with signs up reading "Sorry River Country is closed".[6]

On August 25, 2016, Disney announced that they would drain and fill in Upstream Plunge, the 330,000 gallon pool. There were no immediate plans to tear down any other part of the park.[7]

On March 5, 2018, Disney officially filed permits for a new mystery development labeled "Project 89" to be built along Bay Lake and over the former River Country site.[8]

On March 12, 2018, It was rumored that "Project 89" will most likely be another themed Hotel Resort or DVC timeshare property, and if the development goes through it's estimated to open in 2021, for Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary.[9]

List of attractions

Slippery Slide Falls and Upstream Plunge in 1977.

Attractions included:[10][11]

  • 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 m²) 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, 260 ft (79 m) and 160 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


  1. ^ "Almost Forgotten". Teen Disney: For Kids By Kids. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "River Country". WDWhistory.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ "A Tribute to Disney's River Country". BigFloridaCountry.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Yesterland.com: River Country Closed by Brain-Eating Amoeba? amoeba is bad- racing1000 (Part 1 of 2)". Yesterland. 
  5. ^ "As Crowds Dry Up, Disney Closes River Country Park". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved June 19, 2017. 
  6. ^ Sim, Nick (March 29, 2015). "Abandoned: The Rise, Fall and Decay of Disney's River Country". Theme Park Tourist. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  7. ^ Pedicini, Sandra (August 25, 2016). "Disney World draining, filling in long-abandoned River Country pool". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved August 25, 2016. 
  8. ^ Cox, Danny (March 7, 2018). "Walt Disney World Planning New Mystery Project On Site Of Old River Country Water Park". The Inquisitr. Retrieved March 7, 2018. 
  9. ^ Storey, Ken (March 12, 2018). "Disney's forgotten water park River Country may soon become high-end timeshares". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved March 12, 2018. 
  10. ^ Weiss, Werner. "River Country News". Yesterland. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  11. ^ "River Country". WDWinfo. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 

External links