Disney's River Country was the first water park to be built at Walt Disney World. It is located at Bay Lake and behind Disney's Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. River Country opened to the public on June 20, 1976, known as the first water park in the world to have a theme. The theme for River Country was an "Ol' Fashioned Swimmin' Hole" and was based off the character of Goofy and his adventures.
An event that might have led to the closing of River Country happened in 1980, when a family from New York visited the water park, and the 11 year old boy of the family later died of brain eating amoeba. The family linked the cause to River Country because most of the water park was open to Bay Lake, a natural body of water that contained this type of bacteria. The family 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 attendence 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 renovation lasted until January 20, 2005, when the Walt Disney Company announced that River Country would remain closed permanently. The Walt Disney Company never got the demolition permits for River Country, and still has 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 Campgrounds, this is where the remains of the part of the water park that was open to Bay Lake (and the dock to Discovery Island) can be found. The only way to get into the water park is through a fence. Since the closure of the park, 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 River Country reopening, either as a Disney Vacation Club Resort, or just reopening as a water park. These are just rumors, as The Walt Disney Company has not confirmed any of this and has not brought up River Country in any type of announcement since the closing of 2005. However, demolition may have started up again because as of April 2017, the upstream plunge pool has been drained and filled with cement.