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Hardly A Hoop, Not Yet A Holler

"Your bathing suit might catch on something on the way down..."

In February of 1976, River Country was hardly a water jamboree. It was still under construction, as we see from this picture which was published on February 27th.

Well, “thar’s bin aplenty goin’ up” in River Country since our last status report. The photo below may look like the skeleton structure from the “Wild Mouse” at amusement parks or some kind of strange staircase … but it’s actually the initial construction on the “belly slides” at River Country.

River Country would go on to open June 20, 1976 (with a guest appearance by presidential daughter Susan Ford!) and, sadly, would close forever in November of 2001. It continues to sit there, disused and overgrown, today. And, weirdly, just a few months after River Country’s closure, Walt Disney World would get one of those “amusement park” Wild Mouse coasters in the form of Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom. Coincidence? Believe it… or not!

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9 comments to Hardly A Hoop, Not Yet A Holler

  • I miss River Country…but I don’t miss swimming in Bay Lake. I was always hoping they would refurb River Country, and find a way to make the slides empty into treated pools, but alas, I guess that was too costly. Rumors have run wild about what the Mouse plans to do with River Country, but thus far…nothing. I do miss the pool there, and the slides that went off the rocks into it. The water there was DEEP, unlike anything you find at modern water parks, mostly due to insurance. It’s amazing, if you judge things by modern standards, how any of us survived the 70’s and 80’s :)

    • TRUTH! Do you remember the slides they had that went into the treated, cement pool? They were further to the back. Those always seemed freaking dangerous to me! They basically dropped people off 20 feet in the air above a swimming pool haha…

      Good times. And agreed, it was cool because it was so deep. I miss places like that. They didn’t hold your hand. Maybe they can have a park that safe within reason but still a real environment. We can all sign waivers haha…

      But yeah, the best part were the slides winding through the rocks that dumped you into the lake – into a huge pile of people! Wonder what they’ll do with it all…

  • Do you know how the upcoming Fort Wilderness DVC project will (if) affect River Country?

    • This is a big mystery. The rumors have always been that part and parcel of a DVC at FW would be converting the old River Country area to a huge feature pool for the resort. But the infrastructure over there is so far gone, I can’t imagine they’d do anything but demolish it all, pave it over, and start again. Besides, they can’t use the lake water anymore.

      My main hope is that it somehow revives the railway…

  • Andrew Horberry

    Best. Water. Park. Ever.

    You could feel deep sand beneath your feet. Despite the Disney Rocks, the theming felt natural and understated (and how often can you say that, Value Resorts?). I don’t often yearn for the good old (sorry, ol’) days, but River Country does that to me.

  • Professional Dreamer

    Having been involved with the design of River Country and it’s being Disney’s first themed water park, I’m disapointed in what has happened or not happened to it. Also the loss of the old steam trains in the Fort Wilderness developement. PD

    • I totally agree with you. River Country had a rustic, “hand-made” charm that the other water parks lack. Those low, winding slides were a lot of fun. The use of wood and rock really gave the whole thing a great texture.

      What’s even more embarrassing is that it’s just sat there, becoming something of an open sump, for ten years. Rotting in plain sight.

      And doubly agreed on the Fort Wilderness steam trains. Unfortunately I was never able to see those, but I would have *loved* them if they were around when I was a kid. Heck, I’d love them today. They seemed like such a natural thing for that area, and far more fun and theme-appropriate than the constant rotation of buses.

  • Professional Dreamer

    I have a great movie treatment or TV pilot concept for River Country as it sits today, based on it’s closeing shortly after 9-11-2001. PD

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