Wednesday, June 29, 2011

History of WDW: River Country

Known as the first water park ever created by the Walt Disney Company, River Country opened on June 20, 1976. As water parks go, it was based on the "old swimming hole" theme, and based on its look and feel Disney definitely nailed it.

River Country was (and is ironically still) located on the Bay Lake shores, it was close to another abandoned Disney attraction of the 1970's and 80's Discovery Island (or Treasure Island depending on when you visited the resort.) This water park fit right into the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds that it became a part of.

River Country was made up of roughly four water attractions and one walking trail. It was not known as a rather large water park, compared to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach and therefore was known to have a far cheaper admission price. Its claim to fame was the Whoop 'n' Holler Hallow which was a pair of water slides that emptied into what was known as Bay Cove. One of the most interesting parts of this water park was that it essentially was a part of Bay Lake. Though Disney filtered and cleaned the water being used in the slides and coves, it was nothing more than cleaned up Bay Lake water. This helped the watering hole theme. Bay Cove was also a sand bottomed lake area that had things like a tire swing among other attractions within. The park was a modern marvel in the way it was designed and created. There were very little steel holding the slides up, as Disney did not want to ruin theming so they created rock formations that could hold the slides and made the park seem more rustic.

River Country closed on November 2, 2001. It was reported that it would be undergoing renovations. This rumor continued until January 20, 2005 when Disney announced that the park would remain closed. This permanent decision sparked many questions as to the reasoning for it. Many have speculated over the years, and no one answer is given. One says that the water in Bay Lake actually became a health hazard to guests, but I am not sure that is a viable reason. The other "more" believable rumors is that Disney felt that it was not worth keeping open as a small park with Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard 
Beach packing in guests. Still another rumor is that Florida regulations on water parks changed and forced parks to use "municipal" water. This means the water must come from city wells and filtered by the local town and city water. River Country filtered the water from Bay Lake. This apparently was against new regulations and the cost to use municipal water was too great. 

Today River Country is in a state of ruin and decay. The park was abandoned, and few have seen it since. If you google the name you will find some snapshots of what River Country looks like now. What you will find is a once proud water park overgrown and falling apart. Sadly, this seems to be the future of this famous and groundbreaking attraction.

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