"A Full Day Of Water Fun! - Rapids! Falls! Slides!"
The first themed water park in the world, River Country opened on June 20, 1976, and closed on September 1, 2001. Disney announced its permanent closure in early 2005. It was located within Fort Wilderness on the shore of Bay Lake. Its theme was that of the old fashion swimmin' hole from the days of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
The success and popularity of River Country led to the opening of Typhoon Lagoon in 1989 and Blizzard Beach in 1995.
River Country was officially opened (June 20, 1976) when Susan Ford (President Gerald R. Ford's daughter) took the first trip down Whoop 'n Holler Hollow.
To keep the water in River Country fresh, Imagineers built a giant flexible intake/filter tube which was placed at the mouth of River Country's Bay Cove, opening up into Bay Lake. The tube was filled with water and monitoring equipment to allow it to expand and contract to maintain the water level.
The water from Bay Lake would be pumped through this tube to the top of the water slides at a rate of 8,500 gallons per minute. The excess water in River Country would spill out over the "bladder," back into Bay Lake.
The bladder was a large rubber wall that separated River Country from Bay Lake. It was inflated 6 inches above the surface of Bay Lake so River Country's water level was higher, allowing gravity to spill the water back into Bay Lake.
The rocks surrounding the water slides at River Country use the same design (by Disney rock man Fred Joerger) as the rocks found at Big Thunder, the caves of Tom Sawyer's Island, and Schweitzer Falls of the Jungle Cruise.
The rocks at River Country may have been fake, but they were scattered with real pebbles from streambeds in Georgia and the Carolinas.
River Country's mascot was Goofy. The Goof would often be seen in his swimsuit going down slides and swinging across the boom. Seen on most of the River Country merchandise, Goofy would also be accompanied by Chip and Dale.
In the late '90s, a rumor went around that River Country would receive an alligator mascot to match Lagoonagator (Typhoon Lagoon) and Ice Gator (Blizzard Beach). However, the River Gator never saw any sort of light due to River Country's closing in 2001.
In the '90s, River Country began celebrating its "All-American Water Party" to help boost its popularity. Goofy would make more frequent visits (often arriving by boat or horseback), along with Chip, Dale, Pluto, and Minnie, all dressed in American getups. During the summertime celebration, buttons were handed out. Other fun and games surrounded the celebration, including a banjo band.
There have been many theories (unconfirmed by Disney) on why exactly River Country was closed:
Since its closure, Disney has basically let the area rot. Still visible when traveling by boat on Bay Lake, the bridges and infrastructures seem to be falling apart, allowing the foliage to take over.
The future of the site remains a mystery. For awhile, one rumor speculated that River Country would became an exclusive pool area for Fort Wilderness guests. Unfortunately, the only thing currently stirring in the area have been the ibises and cranes wondering what happened to all the guests who would drop goodies for them to snack on.