Disney's First Water Park: River Country
by Caine Donis
As the sun rises at the Walt Disney Resort, the light of day shines upon an area that has been left to rot and wither away, allowing mother nature to reclaim what was hers to begin with. At one time, the Walt Disney World had three water parks, and it was its first that eventually got lost in the shuffle. Disney River Country started out something big, but ended up being just a memory.
With Disney River Country you could go back in time to the days of the old swimming hole, and a simpler way. Opening on June 20,1976 as one of the first themed water parks in the country, it was also Disney's first water park built on the shores of Bay Lake. The park had some unique slides built throughout. Some looked like you were sliding down a rocky cliff into a cool refreshing pool. There were tire swings abound and inter tubes rushing down a raging river. River country had a variety of things to do for guests of all ages. Even though it was a small sized park by today's standards, this was an irrelevant fact as it had what all Disney parks have, theming. River Country was a way of just going down to the good old fashioned watering hole and spending a day with friends and family. As they say, all good things come to an end, and there was a gloomy cloud of uncertainty looming over of the once happy River Country.
There are many theories as to why River Country closed. Two big reasons were the addition of Typhoon Lagoon in 1989 and Blizzard Beach in 1995. Both were larger water parks that could hold a higher guest capacity and provided more thrills which and took away from River Country. Various websites say that new Florida laws require water parks to use water from municipal water systems, and they could no longer filter water from natural sources. This issue could have very well put a damper on the fun times that guest could have. I personally feel that it was just showing it's age, and The Walt Disney Resort didn't find it justifiable to continue to operate the park.
As the sun sets on the Walt Disney World Resort, a erie occurrence can be seen and heard at River Country, as the lights turn on and the music continues to play. It's as if the park feels that it is still alive. You can imagine listening to guest screams as they come down the slides and splash around in the wave pool, waiting for families to end their day. River Country is gone, but it will definitely never be forgotten.