Saturday, May 10, 2014

So... River Country?

     Here is my obligatory occasional post about Disney mystery and urban exploring that I have very legally taken part in. During my last trip to Walt Disney World, I was on a kick of learning about some abandoned places in the World. One of high intrigue for me was River Country, located over by Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. I would like to first emphasize that I did not trespass on any property on which I should not have been! Everything I learned and saw was part the resort where guests are welcome to be!
    River Country opened in 1976, five years after Walt Disney World. It was the first water park made by Disney, and was themed as a down home in the south kind of family adventure locale. It used water from Bay Lake to feed the slides and pools, and therefore felt very natural and part of the landscape; cool! Well in 2001, Disney closed the park. There are many theories as to why this is, but the one I believe is that Florida passed a new 'Water Use Ordinance' which required all water for water parks to come from man-made and filtered sources. This kind of ruined the whole idea of River Country. Consequently, Disney closed River Country, and later announced that it would not reopen. The weird part, however, is that Disney did not demolish the park... at all. In fact, the lights at the entrance to the park still light up and look alive each night. Even weirder is the part of River Country that I saw and explored.

     If you head from the boat dock at the Wilderness Lodge toward River Country, you arrive eventually at a BBQ area, surrounded by a green fence. This is clearly a place where guests are welcome, but it is an eerie place. First of all, there is no music playing in the background. Second, I saw no cast members or movement of any kind in any direction from where I stood. I very much got the feeling that Disney didn't want people over there.
     Now there are two ways to experience a little bit of River Country today. First, you can use the restroom! The restrooms still have the faded and creepy "pool rules" posted on the outside of them. You can walk in, look around at the facilities, and I almost guarantee you will not see anyone else there during the day. Second, you can look at River Country. If you exit the restroom and stand on the rock in the garden area, you can get a nice view of what is left of that pool. It is very... apocalyptic and looks like something out of a zombie movie. If you're into that kind of thing, take a look!
     River Country was a big part of my childhood, and it is very surreal to go there today and look at what is left. Posted in "Will's Pics" is a picture that I took from on top of the above-described rock. Do you have any River Country experiences? Tell me about them below!