Sunday, January 2, 2011

WDW - River Country

Combining the brilliant rockwork of Big Thunder Mountain with the woodland atmosphere of Tom Sawyer Island and the fun of a water park, River Country was an extraordinary place.  Until it was abandoned and left to rot, it was one of the three best-themed water parks in the world (if you know of any others as well-themed, aside from Typhoon Lagoon & Blizzard Beach, please let me know).  Reviewing an archive of photos to piece together this site plan reinforced this opinion – from its old fashioned lamp posts & railings to the dozens of small rivulets and pathways, this was my kind of park, conjuring boyhood adventures in the woods.

Like so many other treasures first created, then despoiled, by the Disney Company, here at IdealBuildout River Country lives on.  My aim was to expand River Country to put it on the same scale as Typhoon Lagoon & Blizzard Beach - for as wonderful as the park was in theme, it was a shadow of its sisters in the slide department.  This would give each WDW Resort Area its own unique, full-scale water park – alleviating crowds at all three.

 The park’s theme is one-part Old West, one-part Native America, one-part Tom & Huck’s ol’ swimmin’ hole.  The southern core of the park consists of what once was. has an excellent & thorough photographic archive of the park, HERE.  

The expanded area lies north of the backstage access road.  One can get there by passing through a tunnel on foot or wading through the shallow Crystal Springs River, based on the Virgin River walk at Zion National Park.  
Discover Zion, UT region here:
 Once in this new “wilderness”, guests will find three new peaks, using similar rockwork to the original.  These mountains contain lengthy tube & body slides, including a large family raft ride similar to Teamboat Springs, that take riders through the cypress & pine forest.  Many of the slides pass through cavern sections – some with interior effects like snoring bears, dripping stalactites or shaking rocks. 
 Pathways under the mountains are somewhat eerie, similar to the caverns of Tom Sawyer Island.  There is an old Cider Mill, smelling of apples, that houses three slides.

What I’ve always found very scary – even moreso than tall speed slides, is high cliff jumping.  Here, there are three levels from which to jump into a grotto, from heights of 25, 35 and for thrill-seekers, 45 feet.

 The flagship slide of the park is Cherokee Caverns, a pair of fast, long & disorienting slides that travel entirely under a mountain in total darkness (with a few light-based SFX).

A unique thing about this idealized River Country is that it has plenty of dryland activities, from pony rides to nature trails to a live music stage and Indian camp.  There are a number of new dining facilities as well as the old cook-out pavilion for those campers who would like to grill for themselves. 

While the abandonment of River Country is somewhat fascinating – watching nature reclaim a Disney park – I do lament the loss of this unique & wonderful place.  It seems it will now be turned into a DVC resort, continuing the march of hotel development on the banks of Bay Lake.

If you enjoy these plans/posts, please take a second to leave a quick or in-depth comment or start a discussion.  Cheers and Happy New Year!


megatron_85 said...

congratulations, you have posted your first water park

I Like It

stitch101 said...

Great ideas, as usual.

I was wondering, though, what would the revived Treasure Island be like? Would it be the same or would it be enhanced in several ways? Also, as long as we're speaking of the Fort Wilderness area, would you keep the railroad that used to go around the area?

RandySavage said...

Thanks for the comments.

Regarding Treasure/Discovery Island, I haven't yet given it a lot of thought. It was a very nice, relaxing place in its heyday, but I think Animal Kingdom now does a good job of filling that role.

I know there have been some interesting rumors for the island over the years (like the Myst, PotC & Lost overlays), but I'm not yet sure how exactly how I would use it.

Andrew said...

I liked this park especially that you have expanded on the theme very well. I like how you have tried to add in quite a few water rides to make it more of a water park than it was when it first opened. Great job.

I cannot wait to see what you have in the pipeline for the rest of 2011. Happy New Year!!!

Douglas said...

nice idea here.

here's an idea for Treasure/Discovery Island. have it be like an island representing lost cities and cities of legend like El Dorado, Atlantis, Pompeii, and lost temples of SE Asia. just have it be a few A and B tickets with maybe a C just so it can feel like a mini park adventure.

FigmentJedi said...

Man, this would be a much better use of the space then another Disney Vacation Club spot...

Alwax said...

Great to see you doing a water park. I'd certainly love to see The Mouse open another and a s far as rebranding River Country, I think this would be the way to go.

Jeff said...

This is a wonderful concept and I'm happy to see you take on a water park! If this were built, it would certainly stand up well with Tycoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. It's a shame that they closed the park down in the first place. I remember going to it on my first Disney vacation when I was five years old and I really enjoyed having something extra like that for Fort Wilderness guests since that resort isn't exactly the most luxurious. Now they have a law in Florida against water parks in natural bodies of water, so that's why they closed it down. I wonder if there's any way to get around that law? Now I've heard they're going to build a DVC resort in its place, which is completely unnecessary. There are plenty of places to build additional resorts without obliterating such a prime location for a water park. Disney shouldn't give up on River Country just yet.

RandySavage said...

Thanks for the comments.

It would be expensive, but I imagine saving River Country would mean giving it its own artificial water source and creating a barrier between the cove & Bay Lake.

The barrier could be hidden underneath the Bay Lake wooden bridge that runs across the mouth of the cove, and thus simulate the cove water being natural. The Beach Club's Stormalong Bay does this something similar on a much smaller scale.

The cove & rivers would be sand-bottomed (concrete shell covered with sand) to simulate nature, but the water would be clear & chlorinated.

Douglas said...

Hey Randy how about for in july you post a concept for Disney's America?

Anonymous said...

Nice job! you did a great expansion of this lost waterpark.

RandySavage said...


I like that Lost Civilizations idea. I would keep the island mostly explorable attractions (rather than coasters, spinners or dark rides) so that from the Lake it still looks overgrown with forest (with maybe a temple or two rising above the tree line).

I think it would be a great place for Disney to test out a MagiQuest on Steroids-like attraction for small groups. It would take ideas from Night Kingdom or the Michael Douglas movie "The Game" and have groups wash up on the shores of the island for their own Indiana Jones type adventure.

And July would be a good month for Disney's America... I'll see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy! Just a quick question: Is the Fort Wilderness Railroad operates in your ideal WDW? just asking so BYE!

defeatocrat said...

Great work! I just found your site recently, and I am enjoying looking bit by bit through the staggering and impressive amount of work you have posted here already.

Regarding your comments about separating the RC cover from the waters of Bay Lake,

> saving River Country would mean
> giving it its own artificial water source
> and creating a barrier between the
> cove & Bay Lake.
> The barrier could be hidden underneath
> the Bay Lake wooden bridge that runs
> across the mouth of the cove, and thus
> simulate the cove water being natural.

I'm pretty sure this is exactly how this pool had been set up from day one. The "swimming hole" was not actually part of Bay Lake, it was just contrived to look that way, with the barrier located under the bridge just as you suggested.

I believe the pool was filled with water from the lake, which was constantly circulating back to the lake, but the bodies of water were separated by a bladder underneath that bridge, and I would think it wouldn't have been a huge matter to convert the "swimming hole" to a sand-bottomed chlorinated affair.

SWW said...

^ Hey, thanks for the informative comment. It makes sense that it was set up the way you describe as to avoid fish, snapping turtles, etc. mingling with the swimming guests...

You've probably read the rumors I have about Florida enacting regulations regarding natural water and water parks (saying it couldn't be a source) and this was part of RC's demise (no idea if that's accurate or not).

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Anonymous said...

I see you dealt with my main concern with re opening River Country in the comments section and that's the Paracites in the Natural water of the bay. I agree that this is a good idea.