Several months back, I wrote a #TBT post about our visit to Nara Dreamland, which was a theme park in Nara, Japan that opened in the 1960s. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Disneyland should have been very flattered, because Nara Dreamland was an obvious knockoff of (or shall we say “was very much inspired by”) the famous park in Anaheim, CA. As the story goes, the people who were going to build Nara Dreamland were in negotiations with Disney and then…weren’t. But they still kept the Disneyesque look of the park.
Thanks to the building and growth of Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea and Universal Studios Japan, the years hadn’t been kind to Nara Dreamland and by the time we got there in April 2005, it was obviously on its last legs. The park closed in August of 2006 and after sitting abandoned for more than a decade, demolition of the property began in October, 2016.
I had mentioned in my #TBT report that Joe was positive we had video footage of our visit. Well, guess what? We found it!
Between 1974 and 1999, Discovery Island was an island (duh!) that was open as a hard ticket attraction in Walt Disney World’s Bay Lake, located roughly between the Contemporary Resort Hotel and the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness. The highlight of the island was that guests could observe its many species of animals and birds. After 25 years of success, it closed to guests shortly after Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened and, a few months later, was virtually abandoned after all the resident animals has been transferred to Animal Kingdom.
I visited Discovery Island as a kid in the 1970s. My memories of it are pretty vague,
partially because it was more years ago than I care to think about, but also because, well,
Disney’s River Country opened in June 1976. Fashioned with an “ol’ swimmin’ hole” theme, it was Walt Disney World’s (WDW’s) first water park. Housed at the far end of Fort Wilderness, not far from Pioneer Hall and just steps away from the current-day Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, it featured a lake with a sandy bottom and a unique water filtering system that used confluent water from the adjacent Bay Lake (which was dammed off), creating a natural-looking man-made lagoon. The park’s water was at a higher level than the lake’s, which was an effort to prevent lake water from going directly into the park.
River Country had 12 attractions:
Upstream Plunge, a kidney shaped clean-water pool.
Slippery Slide Falls, two water slides that emptied into Upstream Plunge.
Kiddie Cove, a kids zone with two large water slides and a cove. This area was targeted toward preteens.
Barrel Bridge, a bumpy bridge with barrels under it, similar to the one at Tom Sawyer Island.
White Water Rapids, a 330-foot (100 m) long inner tube ride.
Bay Cove, a half-acre (2,000 m²) sand-bottom lake which featured a tire swing, boom swing, rope climb, and T-bar drop.
Whoop ‘n’ Holler Hollow, two water slides, 260 ft (79 m) and 160 ft (49 m) long, that emptied into Bay Cove.
Indian Springs, a very small splash zone with fountains that sprayed kids. This area was mainly designed for guests under age 8.
Cypress Point Nature Trail, a trail among trees beside Bay Lake.
Mercury WaterMouse Rental
With the advent of the opening of two larger, more modern water parks at WDW, Typhoon Lagoon in 1989 and Blizzard Beach in 1995, River Country’s days were surely numbered and indeed, after the closing of the 2001 season (WDW’s water parks traditionally close in the wintertime, one at a time, to allow for maintenance and refurbishment), the park never reopened. They simply fenced it off and put up No Trespassing signs.