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.
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" with "a twist of Huckleberry Finn." The original working title was "Pop's Willow Grove."
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.
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.’”
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".
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.
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.
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.