River Country: Disney’s Original Water Park

River Country

In June of 1976, Walt Disney World opened it’s very first water park, River Country. Opening one year before Orlando’s Wet ‘N Wild, River Country is also said to be the very first themed water park in the world. Located on the shores of Bay Lake, this old fashioned swimmin’ hole delighted guests of all ages for just over 25 years. I had the privilege of visiting River Country when I was young, and I can tell you this was one spectacular water park!

River Country had a rustic theme which featured many boulders and rocks. Rather than chlorinated swimming pool water, this water park used actual lake water from Bay Lake; however the water was run through a filtration process. A sandy bottom added to the rustic feel of the park.

Disney’s original water park was designed to have a twist of Huckleberry Finn. In fact, the original working title for the park was Pop’s Willow Grove. I think this alternative title would have been a good fit for the water park; however, I’m partial to River Country.

River Country’s six acres featured many fun water activities for families. The park included Indian Springs, a small splash zone for children age 8 and under. Bay Cove, the parks half acre sand bottom lake featured a tire swing over the water, a boom swing, rope climb, and T-bar drop. Two water slides called Whoop ‘n Holler Hollow emptied into  Bay Cove. There was also and inner-tube river called White Water Rapids. In addition to Bay Cove, River Country also included a more traditional swimming pool with clean water called Upstream Plunge. This pool had two water slides, the Slippery Slide Falls. Kiddie Cove, designed for preteens, featured two water slides and a water cove area. Similar to Tom Sawyer’s Island, River Country also had a barrel bridge. River Country also featured Cypress Point Nature Trail, as well as, pony rides.

Goofy was the official mascot of River Country. He could be seen the in water park’s logo and was even known to be seen having fun in the water park! Our friends at Dizznee Momma just happened to get a photograph of Goofy going down Slippery Slide Falls. You’ll definitely want to take a look at that!

After a little over 25 years of fun, River Country was closed for the end of the season in November of 2001. The park did not re-open in 2002. Three years later, it was announced the water park would be permanently closed. Since River Country’s closure, the park has unfortunately been abandoned and left to decay, leaving us with only fond memories of Walt Disney World’s original water park.

Do you remember visiting River Country? Let us know your favorite thing about this old fashioned swimmin’ hole in the comments below! Also, be sure to hop aboard the Magical Blogorail to learn more about Disney’s water parks!

Photo credit: Tom Simpson / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Kimberly's love of Disney began at an early age and grew even more when her family won a Walt Disney World vacation from a local radio station. She grew up visiting the parks every one to two years and is fascinated by Disney history and trivia. Whether at the parks or at home, Kimberly is constantly looking for hidden Mickeys. She enjoys sharing tips and helping others plan their Disney vacations. In addition to Frontierland Station, she can also be found writing for Park World Travel and selecting music for Park World Radio.

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