Then and Now: Disney’s River Country

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Park 7 celebrates the rich 40 year history of Walt Disney World. All the figures, 3″ or 9″, feature both current attractions and ones that now only reside in the memories of the guests who enjoyed them. This article is about the later. On January 6th Disney’s first water park, River Country, will be commemorated with a 9″ Vinylmation.

This 9″ features Goofy with a huge water tube “accessory” around his waist. The tube is one of the finest accessories to date for a large figure. Monty Maldovan designed this LE 1500 piece. Goofy’s face has a simple, yet perfectly placed look to it. The nose and mouth seem so much more suited for this larger canvas than previous Goofy 3″ efforts. The ears waving up into the air is nice, although I would have liked to see some kind of background pained on. The bathing suit is also simple, but works. Just a green and white striped pattern. But let’s be honest, the tube is the highlight here.

It has the River Country logo painted on and is very colorful. Overall, this figure is a solid Park addition. Now, the reason Goofy was chosen is because he was featured on the park’s logo:

Goofy always seemed to be tossed into the water at WDW… remember water skiing Goofy? Well I also found this 1981 picture at of Goofy enjoying a River Country slide.

River Country was a fun watering hole for Walt Disney World guests that opened on June 20th, 1976. It was located at the Fort Wilderness Resort, right on the shore of Bay Lake. In fact, the main feature of River Country, The Old Swimming Hole, was actually part of Bay Lake. There were rope swings, T-Bars, large platforms, a ship’s boom and other areas where guests could jump into the water. There was also a barrel bridge for guests to cross over to the slides.

Scan from a WDW guide book. (scan from
Scan of a River Country park map
Here are some of the River Country attractions as described on old WDW material:

Whoop ‘n’ Holler Hollow – Two twistin’ ‘n’ turnin’ body slides that plop right into Bay Cove.

Slippery Slide Falls – Two winding slippery slides that sploosh you into the Upstream Plunge.

Upstream Plunge – Dive into 330,000 big, splashin’ gallons of good, clean fun.

White Water Rapids – Hang on for an adventure in relaxation as you float through swishin’ and swirlin’ waters.

And here is a picture from of River Country in it’s hay day…

I also found a scan of this undated park admission ticket on

Not a bad price for a day at an Orlando water park! This was also a cool find…

A scan of a 1976 Eyes and Ears, the Cast Member magazine, inviting CMs to preview the new water park. So, that’s a bit about the history of the park, but it’s all in past tense… On November 2, 2001 the park closed for the last time… then finally, on January 20, 2005, The Walt Disney Company announced that River Country would remain closed permanently. So what ever happened to River Country? Oh, it’s still there. You can see the banks of this abandoned water park when you take the boat ride from the Contemporary Resort to Fort Wilderness. And here is a current Google maps view.

That’s the watering hole in the center. And you can see all the slides, albeit with much plant growth surrounding them, still standing to this day. Here is a then and now picture from

It’s really a spooky site to see some of these current pictures. Guests have been fence hopping for years to get some shots. Here is one of my favorites…

An inner tube still floats around the murky waters. You can find a ton of pics and stories at these two links:

Although I stayed at Fort Wilderness many times throughout my childhood, we never visited River Country. To this day, I’m not a big water park fan, but do find the history of this park, being that it still sits abandoned, fascinating. Do you have memories of splashing in the waters of River Country? Please share them, and your thoughts on this Vinylmation, here.

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About the author

Nick LoCicero

Nick LoCicero has almost 20 years experience in the media industry. He has worked on numerous Disney related media projects, most know at WDWNT for WDW News Tonight. He has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1982. After moving to Orlando in the late 90's he became a passholder, developed a fascination with the history of the vacation kingdom and has spent way too much money on park merchandise.


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  • The reason it probably closed is that River County seems like one of those places that were awesome in the 80’s and 90’s when parent’s weren’t over protective of their children and people weren’t suing each other over stupid stuff. There’s dirty natural water, there’s unprotected wood, there’s lot of places to jump off of, etc. All of those are probably considered health or safety concern these days, which is why it’s just stayed closed. It’s like how all playgrounds with metal structures and fun stuff like tire swings have been replaced with those recycled plastic things because they’re “safer”.


      • Sorry H, but the parks were closed for 2 reasons.

        1: kids aren’t responsible for themselves anymore, which is evidenced in your post. we live in a fear/protectionist based society now. We can’t let our kids govern themselves because they will either eat each other, the guy with the trenchcoat will get them, or they will get a brain eating amoeba.

        2: bigger parks make more money.

  • Thanks for posting this. I always find abandoned buildings and locations fascinating so to find out about an abandoned Disney park is even more intriguing. Thanks again.

  • i’ve researched River Country quite a few time. It holds some of my fondest Disney Water Parks Memories. I remember leaving Blizzard Beach the first time we went to go here instead… and having way more fun. I feel this is a must have for our collection, much like 20K… not simply because of the design, but because i deeply i miss this part of disney.

  • my mom used to drop me, my brothers and cousins off for the day with the rule that if we drowned it was our own fault and she would kill us. lol. We stayed their open to close. I loved that place.

  • i dont understand why they didnt just destroy the park and put something else on the island it could have been really cool

  • Some of my fondest memories when taking my son to Disney were at River Country. Very very sad they closed such a wonderful place!!

  • My most cherished memories of my family were at River Country before my parents divorced. It’s so sad to see it abandoned the way it is. I remember everything about the park from the zip lines to the water slides and the white water rapids. We use to camp at Fort Wilderness and could walk right to it! I’m shocked Disney just left it in shambles the way it is … Just so sad to remember such an amazing place and now see it like this.

  • I can only echo many of the sentiments already expressed on this forum. Just a few days ago I was telling a friend about my many wonderful experiences at River Country (in the late 70s and early 80s). I just assumed that the property was incorporated into one of the contemporary Disney water parks (Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon). I had absolutely NO idea the property had been abandoned. Makes me feel sort of heart-broken. I vividly remember grabbing my inner-tube and hiking up the “hill” to enter the lazy river ride. I can still see the entry pool with waterfall; I can still see myself trying to get on my tube quickly, while intently watching the person monitoring the flow of people to give me the “go-ahead.” That was, by far, my favorite water ride. Reading through some of the other comments helps me remember that there was a sense of freedom (as a child) and minimal concern (for parents/caretakers) in terms of being able to run around and go on the different rides and reconvene in the originally chosen spot for snacks, drinks, etc. I cannot imagine letting my 4 year old (or even when she is 12!) run free like that in a public place. I would feel the need to shadow her every move to ensure she did not get kidnapped, hurt, lost, etc. 30+ years and everything has changed. Can we start a movement to “Bring Back River Country?” !!!

  • I worked at River Country from ’79 to ’81. I loved the park and the people who worked there. I met my husband while working there and have the most wonderful memories of the park, the guests and the employees. I wanted to go back there a few years ago for our anniversary and was so sad to hear that it had closed. Such wonderful memories.

  • I visited the park the summer of ’76 when it was brand new. Back then, this park was bigger and wilder than anything a kid could imagine! We camped in the nearby Disney campground and I think admission to River Country was included. My brother and I went every afternoon for an entire week! Honestly, it is my fondest memory of Disney World.

  • I was a life guard at river country, and performed the last save there before the doors closed. It was always a much more exciting park, in that it was so much back to basics. Great memories too of swimming with goofy (part of the job!). I haven’t been back to Disney since 02, so thanks to the board for keeping stuff like this up.

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