River Country Abandoned

My Visit to River Country, Disney’s Abandoned Water Park

Overview

I love all things abandoned, and after finding out about the abandoned water park at Walt Disney World,  River Country, I needed to see it in person! In 2014 my friend and I booked a dinner at Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and headed over to get a glimpse at River Country, Disney’s abandoned water park. River Country is located on Bay Lake on the other side of the Contemporary. Check out this vintage map below to see where exactly it is!

Image result for disney world fort wilderness resort map river country

To get to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, you actually enter through the front gates of River Country. The front half of the park is still open, with ticket gates, water fountains, lights, and some parking. They’ve covered over the River Country sign with a Mickey’s Backyard BBQ overlay. I had previously watched a video about how the “abandoned Disney water park still lights up and plays music”, but the video failed to mention that the front half of the park was open to guests. To clear it up, only the back half of the park where the pools were was actually abandoned.

Image result for river country front entrance

Image courtesy of Yesterland.com

If you walk to the end of the open section of River Country, you see a big green fence dividing the park. This fence had multiple gaps, allowing us to get some great pictures of the abandoned park. We’ve heard since 2014 the pool was filled in and the view is much different. But first lets go back to when River Country was open, the pools were filled with water, and guests visited it every day.

History from 1976-2001

River Country opened in 1976 as Walt Disney World’s first water park. The park featured a rustic wilderness theming, complete with rocks and man-made boulders. It was described as an “old-fashioned swimming hole with “a twist of Huckleberry Finn”. There were many slides, some using pool water and some using filtered water from Bay Lake. This was one of the reasons River Country ended up closing.

Abandoned water park at Walt Disney World Images

Image courtesy of  Yesterland.

The park had 12 attractions from 1976- 2001, listed below. We’ve also attached some vintage pictures of the park in its glory.

  • 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

Abandoned Disney water park before and after, River CountryAbandoned Disney water park before and after, River CountryAbandoned Disney water park before and after, River Country

Images courtesy of Yesterland.

River Country was one of the first water parks in the world to have extensive theming, and wowed guests on every visit. It was small and quaint, but had enough attractions for a half-day trip atleast. Below is a park map from the year before its closing.

River Country map

Image courtesy of themeparktourist.com

Park Closure

In 1989 Disney opened Typhoon Lagoon, and in 1995 opened Blizzard Beach. Both parks were much larger in scale than River Country, and had more attractions. Typhoon Lagoon is estimated to be 9 times larger than River Country.

In November 2001, as it did every year, the park closed in to reopen in the spring in warmer weather. This time, it never reopened. Disney said the park would reopen if there was enough guest demand, and rumors (unconfirmed) also said a dangerous amoeba was in the Bay Lake water and the filtration process was not sufficient for swimming. Four years later in 2005 Disney finally announced that the park would never reopen, and it was left to deteriorate.

There were several deaths that took place at River Country. Most notably,

  • On August 22, 1980, an 11-year-old boy from died after swimming in the water park. The cause of death was amoebic meningeoencephaliatis, traces of which were found in the water
  • On August 9, 1982, a 14-year old boy drowned at River Country. He was polled from the water of the cove about five minutes after going down the 60 ft slide into 5 ft deep water.
  • On July 10, 1989, a 13-year-old boy drowned at River Country, swimming with 8 classmates and two counselers. 15 minutes later, another swimmer felt him under his feet and dragged him out.

One of the reasons the second and third boys were not spotted under the water sooner is that part of River Country used filtered lake water. Because the water wasn’t transparent like at a typical pool, it was harder to spot someone under water.

Abandoned Disney Water Park death

River Country in 2014

Below are our pictures from our 2014 visit. Note that anyone who crosses the fence and trespasses on the property risks a lifetime ban at Walt Disney World.

As you can see in this picture behind me, the fence does not do the best job of hiding the park. Disney left this area to deteriorate quickly, and did not make much of an effort to hide this area, demolish it, or transform it. This is a very unique decision on their part, as Disney is extremely detail oriented and focuses on ensuring guests have a magical experience.

I was able to get a great picture of the now empty pool through the gap in the fence. It seems unreal that Disney left this view so easily accessible to guests. I also stood on a picnic table to grab this second shot.

The back end of the park was not able to be seen through the fence, but on the boat ride from Fort Wilderness Campground to Magic Kingdom you can see the old tire swing and parts of the old slides. Below are pictures  that others were able to snag of the interior of the park.

Again note that trespassing to see River Country could result in a lifetime ban and trespassing charges. We strongly encourage you never enter an abandoned or backstage area at Disney. The pictures below are courtesy of Tri-circle-D, disboards.com who entered the park in 2010.

Abandoned Bay Cove

The old location of the tire swing

Abandoned Whoop 'n Holler Hollow

Abandoned Whoop N Holler Hollow slides

Abandoned Kiddie Cove

Abandoned kiddy pool, once filled with water and now overgrown with grass. Note the slides in the back rocks.

We were very excited to have the chance to see River Country. Our parents talk of times when they visited River Country and enjoyed the unique atmosphere and slides.  Today, River Country is almost completely demolished and being used as the site for a new hotel.

Did you know? The Mouselets are on Etsy! Check out our shop for mini AP and DCP pins, ride-inspired magnets, Disney jewelry, Citizens of Hollywood pins, castle wallets, and more!

14 thoughts on “My Visit to River Country, Disney’s Abandoned Water Park

  1. Jessica Rose says:

    This article is so cool! I wish I had been able to go to the park before it closed, it seems like it was a lot of fun. I took the boat transportation from Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness once and saw what I think were old River Country docks, they were hard to see but with a good camera you could probably get some good pictures

    • themouselets says:

      We wish we had been able to go too, it would be awesome to compare what it used to look like in its heyday to now. That’s a great tip too, we will try to grab some good pictures! On that boat ride you also pass by the abandoned Disney’s Discovery Island, we will be writing a future article about that so keep an eye out! Thanks for checking out our blog!

  2. Catherine says:

    This has always facinated me how they just left it there! I guess until they have plans for that property, they really have no reason to spend the money to demolish it! So interesting! Thanks for going and sharing 🙂

  3. Erin says:

    It’s so cool that you got such a good look around the abandoned park! It’s always been a bit strange to me that they just left it there without demolishing it, but I like that a little bit of history is left standing…even if it’s a little sad. Thanks for sharing!

    • themouselets says:

      Totally agree, it’s so strange that they just abandoned it, but it does make for some interesting research! Thanks for reading!

  4. Nikki says:

    I love all things abandoned also!! I find them fascinating! I spent a whole day researching the old abandoned (old abandoned, lol.. couldn’t resist the Phineas and Ferb reference!!) Resort that is now AOA. I can’t believe that Disney has just left all this here to deteriorate, but kinda glad they did, because I love comparing abandoned places with how they looked in a past life! I love your IG page and blog posts, but I have to say, this one was my absolute favorite!!

    • themouselets says:

      Wow same with Mouselet 2!! I love all things abandoned, so River Country definitely grabbed my interest! Thank you so much for checking out our blog!!

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