Disney's River Country was the first water park to be built at Walt Disney World Resort. It was located at Bay Lake and behind Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. It opened to the public on June 20, 1976, known as the first water park in the world to have a theme. Its theme was an "Ol' Fashioned Swimmin' Hole" and was based on the character of Goofy and his adventures. Besides Discovery Island, it is only one of two Disney parks to have closed.
It is to be replaced by the new Reflections - A Disney Lakeside Lodge resort.
An event that might have led to the closure of River Country happened in 1980 when a family from New York City visited the park, and their 11-year-old son later died of a brain-eating amoeba. They linked the cause to the park because most of it was open to Bay Lake, a natural body of water that contained this type of bacteria. They soon sued The Walt Disney Company for this. Yesterland.com, though, has debunked the rumor that the amoeba was the cause of the closure, as well as another rumor that it was a state regulation dictating that water parks could not use natural bodies of water as their source. Also, because of the popularity of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, the park was lacking many tourists in comparison. The final nail in the coffin, though, was the September 11 terrorist attacks, which caused a major downturn in tourism to the resort, forcing Disney to take drastic measures to cut down on spending to match attendance levels. It ceased operations in November 2001 and was scheduled for an annual refurbishment until the summer of 2002. The Walt Disney Company later extended the refurbishment without noting when it would reopen. The refurbishment lasted until January 20, 2005, when they announced that it would remain closed permanently. They never got the demolition permits for it, and still have not until today.
The abandoned River Country is still noticeable from the ferry ride from the Magic Kingdom to Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. This is where the remains of the part of it that was open to Bay Lake (and the dock to Discovery Island) can be found. The only way to get into it is through a fence. Since its closure, security cameras and guards monitor it, and trespassers may get banned from Walt Disney World.
In 2018, it was announced that River Country would be demolished for a new nature-inspired Disney Vacation Club resort named "Reflections - A Disney Lakeside Lodge", originally set to open in 2022. However, plans for its construction are rumored to have been cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attractions in the former water park include
- 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 lazy 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.
- It was seen in The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World.
- "Rumor: Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge Canceled?". dvcfan.com.