Disney's River Country was the first water park to be built at Walt Disney World. It was located at Bay Lake and behind Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. It opened to the public on June 20, 1976, known as the first water park in the world to have a theme. It theme was an "Ol' Fashioned Swimmin' Hole" and was based off the character of Goofy and his adventures. When including Discovery Island, it is only one of two Disney parks to have closed.
An event that might have led to the closing of River Country happened in 1980, when a family from New York, visited the park, and their 11-year-old son later died of brain eating amoeba. They linked the cause to River Country because most of the park was open to Bay Lake, a natural body of water that contained this type of bacteria. They soon sued the Walt Disney Company for this. Yesterland.com, though, has debunked the rumor that the amoeba was the cause of the closure, as well as another rumor that the closure was caused by a state regulation dictating that water parks could not use natural bodies of water as their source. Also, because of the popularity of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, River Country was lacking many tourists in comparison. The final nail in the coffin, though, was the September 11 terrorist attacks, which caused a major downturn in tourism to the resort, forcing Disney to take drastic measures to cut down on spending to match attendance levels. It ceased operations in November 2001 and was scheduled for an annual refurbishment until the summer of 2002. The Walt Disney Company later extended the refurbishment without noting when it would reopen. The refurbishment lasted until January 20, 2005, when they announced that it would remain closed permanently. They never got the demolition permits for it, and still have not until today.
The abandoned River Country is still noticeable from the ferry ride from the Magic Kingdom to Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. This is where the remains of the part of it that was open to Bay Lake (and the dock to Discovery Island) can be found. The only way to get into it is through a fence. Since its closure, security cameras and guards monitor the place, and trespassers may get banned from Walt Disney World.
River Country fans and water park goers have sparked rumors of it reopening, either as a Disney Vacation Club Resort, or just a water park. These are just rumors, as the Walt Disney Company has not confirmed any of this and has not brought it up in any type of announcement since its closing of 2005. However, demolition may have started up again because as of April 2017, Upstream Plunge has been drained and filled with sand.