River Country at Walt Disney World

Revisiting River Country

June 20, 1976, marked the opening of River Country, the first water park at Walt Disney World Resort.

In the 25 years that followed, approximately 4,000 guests would arrive daily to splash, soak, and sun at the park until its closing in September 2001.

Let’s take a look at some documents and images from a bygone, hootin’, hollerin’ fan-favorite spot near Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
This 1976 map showcases Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground during an exciting era in its history—right around the time that River Country opened.
Letter written by First Daughter Susan Ford, who helped officiate at the grand opening ceremonies of River Country
While celebrating the epic “Bicentennial Summer” of 1976 at Walt Disney World Resort, First Daughter Susan Ford helped officiate at the grand opening ceremonies of River Country, which was attended by more than 700 reporters and their families.
Walt Disney World River Country celebratory coins
For the grand opening festivities, public relations and press officials wore admittance bracelets with specially designed celebratory coins (like the one pictured here) to designate their status as guests for the day’s gala events.
Slippery Slide Falls @ River Country
One of the featured attractions at River Country, Slippery Slide Falls, was always a test of young (or young at heart) mettle. Consisting of a rapid descent down two 16-foot long chutes ending with a seven-foot drop into Upstream Plunge (a large kidney-shaped clear water pool), it was a simple and hair-raising attraction that made the water park memorable.

With the continued popularity of activities at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, and the added success of River Country, additional (and ultimately unrealized) expansion projects for Fort Wilderness were considered. Ideas swirled about possible additions to the property including the creation of a rustic “fun house” and growing the resort past the water park.

If you’re curious to see for yourself the kind of “fun in the sun” that was once had on the shores of Bay Lake, check out this brief clip from 1977’s The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World when The New Mickey Mouse Club paid a visit to River Country—the old swimmin’ hole!

Loading the player...