Disney’s River Country Water Park
On the shore of Bay Lake, Walt Disney World Florida
River Country, Disney World’s first water park, was opened on June 20, 1976. On Thursday, August 28, 1980 a sad story of a young boy’s death was reported in newspapers. A rare but deadly disease caused by an amoeba found in Florida’s fresh-water lakes took an 11 year old boy’s life after he spent his vacation at River Country. At this time, this boy was the fourth victim of this disease in Florida, but the only one linked to River Country. The disease attacks the nervous system and the brain. Officials reported in the article that Disney World was not to blame due to the fact that the amoeba can bread in any freshwater lake during hot weather. Photos and maps of River Country showed that the park had two bodies of water. The smaller one was chlorinated swimming pool water, and the larger half seemed to be a natural cove, connected to Bay Lake, Disney’s largest natural lake on property. There was never another disease related death in River Country due to Disney doing everything they possibly could to not have a repeat of the tragedy.
In the 1990’s, Disney banned all swimming in its lakes. The park closed at the end of the season, as it usually did, in 2001. When the time came in 2002 to reopen, it didn’t. It is said that the reasoning behind Disney’s decision to not reopen was due to a new Florida law prohibiting the use of natural water bodies and requiring chlorination in all water parks. River Country never reopened.