Disney World

Why did Disney close River Country?

Q. Can you clarify why Disney closed River Country Theme Park and left abandoned? I was told by my parents that we visited when I was younger but have recently seen pictures of a completely abandoned theme park. This just doesn’t seem like Disney to let this happen and let just sit.

A.  In August of 1980, a young boy passed away from amoebic meningoencephalitis. Which is a free-living amoeba, that attacks the nervous system and brain..

His parents said that he contracted the amoeba while swimming at Walt Disney World’s River Country. Though health officials stated that there was no reason to blame Disney World for the tragedy, because the amoeba can breed in almost any freshwater lake during hot weather.

River Country stayed open, even after the boys death.. and remained open for another 21 years!  No other cases were ever linked to River Country.

River Country had its normal seasonal closing at the end of the 2001 season. And when the time came for River Country to reopen for the 2002 season, sadly, it never did.

“Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said that River Country could be reopened if ‘there’s enough guest demand.’” The attraction may also have been affected by a change in Florida laws, which prohibited unchlorinated natural water bodies from being used for water park attractions. River Country never reopened and remains abandoned as a forgotten Disney relic as of today. Disney employees monitor the area for trespassers.

There are also rumors that it remained closed, due to cut backs after the 9/11 attacks and low guest attendance. (Which seems more likely to me)

For a map and pictures of how River Country looked then and now click here

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  • I heard a rumor that Disney Vacation Club was interested in the land that River Country was on. They are putting DVC sections on some of the “older” Disney hotels…so why not a DVC section for Fort Wilderness

    • Yes, this has been rumored many times. I’m not sure how successful this would be since it is so close and would be similar to the Wilderness Lodge Villas.

  • I was a WDW water parks manager the year this decision was made. We were told that it had more to do with the cost of repairing the facilities. I do know for a fact that our guests had 3 water park choices, but if both Blizzard and Typhoon were full on a day, they didn’t make that 3rd choice to go to River Country, they went somewhere else. While it may have had its fan base, the attendance numbers were bad. It was costing more to keep it open and run it than it was worth, and the necessary repairs and maintenance were putting too far in the red.