Zika Threat Possibly Forcing Disney to Fill Abandoned River Country Pool

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According to the Orlando Sentinel:

Walt Disney World is draining and filling in the pool at its long-closed River Country water park.

The 330,000-gallon Upstream Plunge was a major attraction at the now abandoned water park. It is surrounded by manmade boulders for jumping and diving platforms.

River Country is surprisingly close to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness.

The green and white kidney-shaped area in the Google Earth image is the pool, which is especially close to the still functional Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and Pioneer Hall.  Although fences separate the closed water park from the rest of Fort Wilderness, intrepid explorers have managed to get inside and snap some eerie pictures of the abandoned area, much to the consternation of WDW management.

It is not known what will become of the rest of the abandoned water park, although rumors as far back as 2010 indicated the area was being explored as a possible site for a new DVC property.

River Country as seen from the air in its heyday.

River Country held its Grand Opening on June 19, 1976 as part of the “Bicentennial Summer” of 1976 at the Walt Disney World Resort.  In the 1980s, River Country was very popular but after Typhoon Lagoon opened in 1989, attendance waned, and ultimately River Country was closed permanently in 2001 in the wake of declining tourism after 9/11.

The standing water in the pool could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, the known carrier of the Zika virus. There have recently been documented cases of the virus just miles from Orlando in Tampa, FL, making the threat of the virus very real in the Orlando area.

Disney has not given any official word on why the pool is being filled in, but many have speculated the Zika threat as the reason.

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About the author

Jason Diffendal

Jason has been a lifelong fan of the Disney parks since his first visit at age 2. His biennial pilgrimages during his childhood accelerated into semi-annual visits by the year 2000, when he also Joined the Disney Vacation Club. Luckily, Jason’s bride-to-be was also a Disney fan, which allowed his infatuation with the Disney parks to continue, and ultimately culminated in their wedding at Disney's Wedding Pavilion in September 2003. Early in 2007, Jason began his involvement with the planning for what became Celebration 25, the unofficial fan gathering to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Epcot®. Soon thereafter, Jason met Tom Corless at a pin trading meet in New Jersey, and became part of the WDW News Today podcast starting with Episode 17. Jason has been involved with the WDWNT Network ever since, and can't seem to escape no matter how hard he tries.
Contact Jason at [email protected]


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  • What’s up with this headline? In the Orlando Sentinel article, Disney denied the action was related to Zika. So all you have is your claim that “many have claimed” the move is Zika related. Where’s the source for this? Are you counting yourself as one of the many? I don’t doubt Zika could have played a factor, but to definitively declare that Zika ‘forced’ Disney to fill the abandoned pool seems to be a misleading headline.

    • You’re right. Of all the media lies and propaganda covering up corruption and misinforming people into bad perspectives and decisions, WDWNT is the worst and should be our #1 target of criticism.

      • Obviously poster here works in Disney PR. Get a life guys. Put 1/100th into the actual park’s safety and guest experience that you do in PR and you’ll be ok. Til then. Barely any of the daily mishaps at Disney’s neglect make it to the news. It’s not propaganda. Til you fix the actual problems of the parks….you are part of the problem. Tom is reporting things just fine.

    • I appreciate you updating the headline. I was not trying to be hateful with my comments – just a fan of yours who thought I could help you be more clear. Thanks for listening.

      • They Orlando Sentinal is paid well by Disney. Tom is not. If you don’t like the facts, keep reading the propaganda Disney puts out. This is related to PR concerns. Not related to safety. You don’t sound like a fan. You sound like you work in Disney PR. Please work to actually improve parks. Not people noticing the many problems Disney parks have.

        • Meant The Orlando Sentinal paid well by Disney. And meant to include Jason with Tom. Good work guys.

        • I assure you I don’t work for Disney PR. Are you sure you don’t work for Universal PR?

          • You’re just as reassuring as Disney PR, meaning, you’re not, so it is suspicious! :)

            I am a cast member with Disney (here on the DL). Have been for many great years. Hold myself as a huge fan of the brand and legacy. I’m a top performer, but sadly, am discouraged in reporting “safe-d” concerns, it’s become just lip service. Personal touches and what we used to call ‘magic’ are punished. There’s few of us left who remember how amazing we used to be encouraged to make it, and we KNOW the day will return when a good, and safe experience is priority number one. If my post doesn’t sound positive, it’s out of despair for customers whom I see disappointed every day with dropping quality, and safety and other issues beyond your imagination that are covered up faster than we’re supposed to move people in and out of an attraction and back into the stores to spend money.

            The Orlando media outlets, papers, and some sites are paid by Disney or get letters of C&D by attorneys, so I enjoy this site, as one one the few remaining that not only report objectively whats going on, but not making up and covering up some of the known activities.

          • You know Yolanda, if I ran Disney, I’d bring the magic back that was there in the past to the point of removing every single gift shop that is at an attraction exit and sacrificing profits and risking a plummeting stock price to do so. I’d also be more like than happy to remove all traces of Marvel and Star Wars from the parks in the hopes that doing so would repel guests who want them like mosquitos and get attendance back to 1990s levels. Disney needs to be run by people who can think like Walt and care more about quality and show than short term profits.

          • WWWD, I don’t think you comprehended the message. I feel I’m not the first to tell you this.

            Disney has neglected the parks more or less since Iger showed up. He’s a media guy. Nobody is talking about shutting all shops.

          • Hate to break it to you WWWD, Disney Theme Parks Orlando had a higher CAP (profitability) rate in the 90s than now. You can verify this with their annual reports posted online. And I dare you to find anyone who would say the parks have ‘Improved” the experience since the 90s. I know your post tongue in cheek, however great new things have been, management going for “quantity” over “quality” has not helped their parks division in profitability. And this is even with them getting Star Wars, Marvel. Now, we get gouging prices to try and make up for their mismanagement. Comcast is cleaning Disney’s clock in CAP rates with Universal, and becoming the cleaner, more guest oriented park. Who would have imagined that?

          • Larry, whoever replaces Iger needs to undo everything he’s ever done and publicly vilify him. And Numbers Don’t Lie, hate to break it to you, but numbers DO lie and I’m serious. Both WDW and Universal were both superior in the 1990s than now. Comcast needs to realize that Universal is DEAD and buried as of January 2, 2012 when Jaws closed. Harry Potter does not belong in a Universal theme park because Harry Potter is Warner Bros. and therefore belongs in Six Flags. If I ran Universal, I’d close down Diagon Alley and put back Jaws, close the Mummy to bring back Kongfrontation, kick out the Simpsons for being a Fox IP and put back Back to the Future the Ride, and evict the Blue Man Group to bring back Nickelodeon Studios complete with the Slime Geyser. Universal was built for the children 90s and needs to stay in the 90s. I’d also bring back Alien Encounter to WDW and parents who complain about it being to scary would be called “chicken” like Marty McFly and that would get them to accept because they’d declare that “Nobody calls me chicken!” like Marty.

          • This must be why poster WWWD is homeless and uses a public library for access to this site, and not running a household, much less a company. ;)

          • Hey Larry, I have a wife and kids, and I am a homeowner you dumb f*g. I could run a company 10 times better than the people in charge and I hope someday you get pounded into brain damage like Bryan Stow was at Dodger Stadium for wearing a Giants jersey. That will teach you a lesson.

  • It is pretty much of a duh situation here. After the negative Disney publicity over the death by alligator a short time ago, just the possibility of any other type of injury or even death incident related to anyone ‘exploring’ in this 15 year old abandoned and neglected area most likely has the lawyers and execs sweating bullets. Now throw in the ‘possibility’ of any sort of related Zika danger which forces the Disney crew to go into this preventative CYA mode. Sure it was planned, but why so long of a wait, and why just now? Disney, like any other business is all about the bottom line and max revenue and this is not going to be an inexpensive project.

  • Zika is becoming a medical crisis. Everyone is asked to not have standing water. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the actual reason for filling in a pool. There is no cure for Zika and any Disney guest is at risk of catching and passing a long the disease if bitten by a carrying mosquito. Why Disney didn’t address it much earlier when they knew mosquitos can breed in a stagnant pool of water is just bizarre. I’m sure those water slides have standing water too.

    • Disney couldn’t put a penny into the safety of its guests or their having a good time, unless they think it will make the news and bad PR.

      They are bottom of the barrel in theme parks safety, but one of the most successful on creating an “image” of the contrary.

      They knew River Country unsafe long before it closed, and have ignored this hazard since it closed. Greedy is one thing. Disney Greedy is unsafe.

      I love Disney characters and concept. Their parks need a lot of love.

  • Seriously though, I don’t doubt that Zika had something to do with this. Probably a combination of Zika fears, general liability concerns, and perhaps site prep for future DVC? (Is this anywhere near where they have recently removed the cabins?)

    • Disney historically never does anything that costs any money unless they are made to or fear repercussions. If not Zika, it’s some other fear/expense they’re mitigating. It isn’t for the greater enjoyment of customers, or the environment for sure.

      Cheaper and better land exists for more vacation room sales.

      Zika should be in central Florida by this fall per CDC, when the almost inevitable story of it emerging from a Disney guest and travel warning that women who are or potentially will be pregnant avoid central Florida will be a hit to Disney’s wallet and more importantly their coveted (and mostly smoke and mirrors) safety image.

  • Saw the news about Disney Lawyers having them pass out free bug spray now at the parks. I guess they naysayers on this post owe Tom and Jason an apology.

  • Disney is filling in an abandoned pool. I really don’t understand all the drama behind this post. Whether it’s zika, dvc units or to build an alien landing platform doesn’t change the fact that River Country’s closed.

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