When this park opened, thousands of joyous families flocked to it every day. Now it’s an abandoned wasteland — with a chilling backstory.
One of the world’s creepiest abandoned amusement parks is set to undergo a $350 million revamp.
The first water park at Florida’s Walt Disney World, River Country once teemed with excited children and their families, but was closed and left to rot in 2002.
According to news.com.au, the Walt Disney Company has reportedly hired contractors for a large new themed hotel and timeshare resort on the former River Country side and construction is expected to start next year.
However, the eerie park has seen its share of tragedies – and its current state is something Disney doesn’t want you to see.
One photographer found this out when he rented a boat and filmed the property legally with a robotic drone.
‘What’s Disney trying to hide?’
Operating under a pseudonym, Seph Lawless has captured haunting images of the ruins of River Country, as well as many other abandoned sites in the United States and around the world.
His images show the theme park being taken back by nature, with moss and vines growing over old slides and other attractions. Offices sit empty, cluttered with dirt, papers and plastic containers.
You’d never guess it was once part of the “Happiest Place of Earth”, welcoming families to frolic in the pools that are now filled with dirty water.
Two years before his visit, Disney issued a statement saying: “While we appreciate the enthusiasm of our fans, undeveloped areas of Walt Disney World are off limits to guests. As a private property owner, we have the right to trespass guests who deliberately enter unauthorised areas.”
Despite this, Lawless published his photographs and described his experiences in an article for the Huffington Post – which led to legal threats from Disney.
It also faced stiff competition from other parks — by the same corporation. In 1989, Disney opened its second water park, Typhoon Lagoon, which was larger than the first, had a more convenient location and boasted more attractions.
In 1995, Blizzard Beach opened. It could facilitate more guests, was larger than River Country and proved more profitable.
Disney’s ambitious plans for the water park
The wasteland won’t remain this way forever.
Walt Disney World Resort is reportedly building a new hotel with more than 900 beds where the park was once located.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the unnamed deluxe resort is set to open in 2022 and will have a “nature-inspired theme”.
“Walt Disney World is in the midst of our most significant expansion in the last two decades,” George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement.
He said the new hotel rooms “create thousands of new construction and permanent jobs and will drive economic opportunity and incremental revenue for Central Florida”.
The company is also adding a range of new rides to its existing theme parks, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019.
In other words, if you want to see the remains of River Country, in its eerie, fractured state, this might be your last chance.
Just don’t let Disney catch you there.
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