The Disney Waterpark That Sank

The waterpark in its heyday, and how it looks today.The waterpark in its heyday, and how it looks today.

The Disney conglomerate is so successful and well-run, it's hard to imagine one of its parks sinking into the Florida swamps, but that is exactly what has happened to River Country, a down-home-themed waterpark built outside Orlando in 1976, shortly after Disney World.

The park was a little bit hillbilly, a little bit backwoods fun, meant to appeal to a market segment yearning for rides such as the Whoop 'n Holler waterslide, a 260-foot streak of wild delight that emptied into a splash pool.

Sadly, that market segment, though persistent enough to keep River Country in business for 25 years, was never quite as large as the company anticipated, and after closing in the fall of 2001, the park simply never reopened. The dip in amusement travel caused by 9/11 was the final straw out of the straw hat.

On April 11, 2002, the Orlando Sentinel's story about the closing ended with a hollow, but hopeful line: "Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said that River Country could be reopened if 'there's enough guest demand.'"

The company is still waiting for that rustic passion to reawaken. Until that day arrives, River Country Resort has been left to slowly sink into the marsh not far from bustling Walt Disney World Resort. The abandoned waterpark's once-popular beaches have disappeared beneath wild grass, and its rides continue to crumble. The cries of joyful children have been replaced by the mournful call of the Egret and the sigh of tropical breezes through the palms.

According to reports, curious explorers continue to visit the ghost park, but only stealthily, as Disney monitors the site to discourage trespassers.

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