Disney's River Country
|Disney's River Country|
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, United States|
|Theme||Old-fashioned swimming hole|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Operated by||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
|Opened||June 20, 1976|
|Closed||November 2, 2001|
|Water slides||5 water slides|
|Children's areas||2 children's areas|
Disney's River Country was the first water park at Walt Disney World. Located along the shores of Bay Lake and near Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the park was themed as a rustic, old-fashioned swimming hole. It opened on June 20, 1976, and closed indefinitely on November 2, 2001, with The Walt Disney Company later announcing on January 20, 2005 that the park would remain closed permanently. This made the water park the second of only two Disney parks in the company's history to close permanently, with nearby Discovery Island on the lake having closed earlier in 1999. Both parks were left to deteriorate rather than be demolished. In 2018, it was announced that a new hotel, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, would be built at the former site of Disney's River Country starting in 2019.
Positioned on the shore of Bay Lake, near Discovery Island, the park featured a rustic wilderness theme, complete with rocks and man-made boulders. It was described as an "old-fashioned swimming hole" with "a twist of Huckleberry Finn." The original working title was "Pop's Willow Grove."
The park was featured in a musical number from the 1977 Wonderful World of Disney episode "The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World", which included a song titled "River Country" and featured the then-current Mouseketeer lineup from the late 70s incarnation of The Mickey Mouse Club enjoying its attractions.
The park featured a sandy bottom and unique water filtering system using confluent water from adjacent Bay Lake, which was dammed off creating a natural-looking artificial lagoon. The park's water was at a higher level than the lake's, which was an effort to prevent lake water from going into the park.
In 1989, Disney opened a second water park, Typhoon Lagoon. It had much more parking, many more slides, newer amenities, and was much larger. In 1995, Disney opened a third water park, Blizzard Beach, which was also much bigger than River Country.
As it did every year, the park closed at the end of the warm-weather season on November 2, 2001, with the expectation that it would reopen in spring of 2002. On April 11, 2002, the Orlando Sentinel reported that “Walt Disney World’s first water park, River Country, has closed and may not reopen." Disney World spokesman Bill Warren stated that River Country could be reopened if ‘there’s enough guest demand.’”
In 2005, Disney officially announced that River Country would be closed permanently and would never reopen. River Country was left abandoned, instead of being demolished and is currently fenced off with signs up reading "Sorry River Country is closed".
On August 25, 2016, Disney announced that they would drain and fill in Upstream Plunge, the 330,000 gallon pool. There were no immediate plans to tear down any other part of the park.
On March 5, 2018, Disney filed permits for a new mystery development labeled "Project 89" to be built along Bay Lake and over the former River Country site. A week later, it was rumored that "Project 89" will most likely be another themed Hotel Resort or DVC timeshare property. 
The resort hotel was confirmed on May 31, 2018, and most remaining structures at the park, including the Upstream Plunge pool, were demolished on April 20, 2019 to make way for development of the new hotel.  On October 18, 2018, Disney officially announced that the new deluxe resort would be nature-themed and called "Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge". The new resort is slated to have 900 hotel rooms and is set to open in 2022.
List of attractions
- Upstream Plunge, a kidney shaped clean-water pool.
- Slippery Slide Falls, two water slides that emptied into Upstream Plunge.
- Kiddie Cove, a kids zone with two large water slides and a cove. This area was targeted toward preteens.
- Barrel Bridge, a bumpy bridge with barrels under it, similar to the one at Tom Sawyer Island.
- White Water Rapids, a 330-foot (100 m) long inner tube river.
- Bay Cove, a half-acre (2,000 m²) sand-bottom lake which featured a tire swing, boom swing, rope climb, and T-bar drop.
- Boom Swing
- Cable Ride
- Tire Swing
- Whoop 'n' Holler Hollow, two water slides, 260 ft (79 m) and 160 ft (49 m) long, that emptied into Bay Cove.
- Bay Bridge
- Indian Springs, a very small splash zone with fountains spraying kids. This area was mainly designed for guests under age 8.
- Cypress Point Nature Trail, a trail among trees beside Bay Lake.
- Pony Rides
- Mercury WaterMouse Rental
- "Almost Forgotten". Teen Disney: For Kids By Kids. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- "River Country". WDWhistory.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- "A Tribute to Disney's River Country". BigFloridaCountry.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- "Yesterland.com: River Country Closed by Brain-Eating Amoeba? amoeba is bad- racing1000 (Part 1 of 2)". Yesterland.
- "As Crowds Dry Up, Disney Closes River Country Park". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Sim, Nick (March 29, 2015). "Abandoned: The Rise, Fall and Decay of Disney's River Country". Theme Park Tourist. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
- Pedicini, Sandra (August 25, 2016). "Disney World draining, filling in long-abandoned River Country pool". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
- Cox, Danny (March 7, 2018). "Walt Disney World Planning New Mystery Project On Site Of Old River Country Water Park". The Inquisitr. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- Storey, Ken. "Disney's forgotten water park River Country may soon become high-end timeshares". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- Russon, Gabrielle. "Disney's former River Country water park will become hotel, timeshares". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- F, Cameron. "Former River Country Location Demolished Ahead of Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Resort Construction". Walt Disney World News Today. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Soberman, Matthew. "Disney Announces New Nature-Themed Walt Disney World Resort Hotel for River Country Site". Walt Disney World News Today. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- Weiss, Werner. "River Country News". Yesterland. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- "River Country". WDWinfo. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- McConville, Mark (July 17, 2018). "Eerie remains of Disney water park left abandoned for almost 20 years". Mirror. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- A photo essay in 2009 of the decaying River Country
- Disney's River Country on Modern Day Ruins
- A four-part series on the abandoned resort
- White, Hillary (January 12, 2018). "These Abandoned Disney Park Photos Look Like Scenes From a Postapocalyptic World". MSN.com.