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 MainStGazette.com 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 BigFloridaCountry.com)
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 BigFloridaCountry.com of River Country in it’s hay day…

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

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 ImagineeringDisney.com.

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:

http://www.imagineeringdisney.com/blog/2009/12/19/abandoned-disney-river-country-part-1.html

http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2344523

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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