Forty-six years ago this week, a brand-new called River Country opened at the .
It was , located at behind Disney’s and Campground. It opened on June 20, 1976. Throughout the , there was the theme of an old-fashioned “swimmin’ hole,” complete with Disney character theming that featured Goofy and his many misadventures.‘s first-ever
Disney’s River Country was home to several different water-themed attractions. They included Upstream Plunge, Slippery Slide Falls, Kiddie Cove, Barrel Bridge, White Water Rapids–a 330-foot long lazy river, Bay Cove (which featured a tire swing, a boom swing, and a cable ride), Whoop ‘n’ Holler Hollow, Bay Bridge, Indian Springs, and the Cypress Point Nature Trail.
According to the Daily Mail, when River Country first opened in 1976, it did so with an opening ceremony that was attended by more than 700 newspaper reporters and their families. In the first year the park was open, it saw enormous success–averaging more than 4,700 Guests a day.
For all its glory, tragedy befell Disney’s first water park in 1980 when an 11-year-old boy contracted amebic meningoencephalitis, an infection of the brain and nervous system caused by amoeba found in water at River Country. Later in 1982, a 14-year-old boy drowned in the park, and in 1989, a 13-year-old boy drowned. But despite the three deaths, River Country continued to operate.
That is, until 2001, when the water park welcomed its last Guest. It was to undergo scheduled maintenance and repairs and reopen to the public in 2002, but that never happened. Instead, Disney’s River Country stood still, as if frozen in time, for three years before Disney finally made a formal announcement about the park’s official closing in 2005.
Beyond 2005, the once-busy family was rendered permanently silent. No sunblock-laden Guests visited. The sound of running was gone. The lazy river became so lazy, it died, and no lifeguards sat atop their usual perches.
Disney’s had not only closed; it had become a dingy, dilapidated museum to the that once was–the of days gone by.
No matter the reason for an attraction or structure’s closing at , the closing is usually preceded or followed by news of a new attraction or structure to take the place of the former one. And under normal circumstances, is known for upkeep, for cleanliness, and for its more hygienic practices.
But the state of ruin found at Disney’s the and to the general public, over the years, so-called “urban explorers” have made their way into the barren and desolate areas that once hosted sunkissed Guests who were looking for a family-friendly way to beat the heat. They’ve returned from their journeys with photos of what was once a family water park, teeming with Guests, with music, with lines for attractions, and with moving water. shocked and confused Guests. While the now-defunct has long been a restricted area to Guests of
about the exact reason it closed and whether there were plans for the to ever be reimagined–and plenty of rumor fodder for those who love a good story. has stayed in an ever-worsening state of disrepair since its last Guest left in 2001, with no official word from
That is, until 2017.
That year, at the D23 Expo, plans for a brand-new Disney’s on the site of the former & Campground . Plans called for the opening of the new DVC Resort to take place sometime in 2022. Club Resort were unveiled, complete with detailed artist’s renderings. Reflections – A was to be located between Disney’s and
Then, two years later, at the 2019 D23 Expo, more plans were unveiled. This time, the plans called for a restaurant to be constructed inside the new Reflections Resort. According to the D23 Expo announcement, the new restaurant would be one inspired by Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.
But almost as quickly as plans for the new resort were announced, they were seemingly scrapped, albeit with little official word from Disney. Plans were even removed from the 2017 D23 Expo announcements webpage, leaving Guests to once again wonder whether would actually be reimagined or if it would stay a barren space of wasted opportunity and murky-colored memories.
NEW: Disney has updated its 2019 D23 Expo announcements blog post and removed Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge. BEFORE and AFTER screenshots attached.
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) August 10, 2020
Then, on March 15, 2022, the officially announced plans for new Club villas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Along with that announcement came the news that plans for the Reflections Resort had been formally canceled, according to Disney Fandom, but even that is up for debate. Fans have searched high and low online for exact, specific wording from Disney, confirming the scrapping of the new Reflections Resort, and most have come away with little more than an inkling.
According to DVCFan, however, plans for Reflections were indeed canceled in 2021:
As a further indication that Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge has been permanently canceled, construction permits have emerged today for the removal of several “office trailers” from the surrounding property. This removal further validates the cancellation or long-term delay of this project, although we will likely never receive an official confirmation from Disney on the subject.
Earlier this week, aerial photographer extraordinaire Bioreconstruct tweeted photos from his journey high above the location where Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge was to be constructed.
Aerial look at site of what was planned as Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge.
At right, Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue resumes in a few days. June 23.
Bottom right is Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
Two years ago the island at top was rated as a "Tropical paradise". pic.twitter.com/fnNMv4g1gv
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) June 19, 2022
According to The Street, Disney has been completely mum about plans for its new lakeside lodge since the pandemic first became a reality in the U. S.
“The Reflections hotel site has been cleared, but it does not appear that the project is currently moving forward,” reads a post at TheStreet.com. “It makes it clear [Reflections Resort is] not being worked on actively.”
So, whatever happened to Disney’s plans to replace and reimagine River Country? At the time of this publication, your guess is every bit as good as ours.