‘Explorers’ invade Disney’s abandoned Discovery Island and River Country water park

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

urban-explorers

Tucked away in plain sight in the middle of Disney’s Bay Lake lies the 11.5-acre abandoned piece of property formerly known as Discovery Island. The now off-limits Disney attraction was once home to birds and other wildlife and can be thought of as a precursor to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park (which now also contains a section called “Discovery Island”).

Although Discovery Island has been closed to the public since 1999, a group referring to themselves as “urban explorers” decided to swim through Bay Lake and walk around (read: trespass) on the island. While their actions took place several months years ago in December 2009 [see comments for edit explanation], local WKMG Orlando reporter Mike DeForest recently reported about it, sparking conversation online. (Update: And perhaps earlier online conversation sparked the WKMG report…)

In walking through Discovery Island at night, blogger Shane Perez and his friends found that the lights were still running and a few vultures had made their home there. They also found old photos of Disney cast members:

Similarly, a few weeks earlier, a post was made on the DIS discussion forum showing off pictures recently taken throughout Disney’s abandoned River Country water park, adjacent to Discovery Island:

River Country closed its doors in 2001 and is now home to waterless slides and overgrown foliage. Like Discovery Island, it is off-limits to guests visiting Walt Disney World.

It seems that abandoned attractions encourage a certain sense of adventure and intrigue in some courageous types. I personally don’t recommend breaking Disney’s rules and venturing into the once-beaten paths of gone-but-not-forgotten attractions, but I do still find it interesting to see what has become of these areas. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone documents an unauthorized trip into the never-completed “Legendary Years” half of Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Oh wait

Sources: ClickOrlando, The Photography of Shane Perez

52 Comments

  1. Clay Matthews

    I don’t know if I think this is cool or not – it’s certainly against the rules and probably not very safe or smart. Mostly I think it’s just sad, really. It also drives home the tremendous scope of Walt Disney World when entertainment properties like Discovery Island and River Country can just be left to decay.

  2. justin

    Hey Ricky,
    As someone who used to work for Watercraft at wdw, I used to drive past discovery island many times a day. I’m just glad they’re OK after swimming in bay lake. As some may know, bay lake, like all other bodies of water in Florida is infested with gators. I know this from seeing many of them myself. Some of which were up to 9 ft. In length.

  3. Nick

    “WKMG Orlando reporter Mike DeForest recently reported about it, sparking conversation online.” Try the other way around Ricky. I under my username over at wdwmagic (Next Big Thing) posted the blog in this thread (http://bit.ly/ctHuFS) on 4/18/10. It is about the 4th or 5th post down. I posted it b/c it was relevant to the topic. I don’t think it is any coincidence, that 4 months or so after this blog was posted (and it had died down big time), once I bring it up in a thread there and all of a sudden 3 days later on 4/21 it is all over local news.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Thanks for pointing that out. I hadn’t seen the thread you linked to, but I did see a number of people linking to the WKMG story (including the Orlando Sentinel), so additional conversation was certainly sparked by their report as well. But it does seem you may have been the one to kick off the whole thing (though I did not see WDWMAGIC cited as a source anywhere).

      I’ve edited the post above to include the link you supplied.

      1. Nick

        Thanks, Rick. Yeah, I think, if that is what started it all (which I think is highly likely), that WKMG stumbled upon it somehow and wrote and article on it and also it found it’s way onto the news as well (seen here: http://www.clickorlando.com/video/23213132/index.html) and they probably didn’t see the need to cite WDWMAGIC as a source since the main source of information in the whole thing is Shane Perez’s blog. Since WKMG posted that, the sentinel also wrote an article and it’s been going around the internet ever since.

  4. Melissa Ankers

    Just like these urban explorers, I have been intrigued by the island and river country. I would LOVE to explore these Disney “ghost towns”. I think that Disney could make some money taking people on tours of these places. I would definately sign up!

    1. Devon lewis

      Well these ” urban explorers” broke a very very big law that walter disney made himself that secret island was his little hide away from the world so he could just do what he wanted and well it was a theme park but never really opend be couse of a bacteria found in the water used to create the flow for the water slide it would almost destroy the human inside and was always resulting in death.

      1. UnusualGuy

        What the absolute fuck are you on about?

        1. Captain of Moo

          I believe this guy is crazy

      2. Carol Martin

        Your post is a complete lie.

        1. TurretX

          I believe the amoeba that contributed to River Country’s closure may have infected Devon. Its known for destroying the human mind and that post looks like there was no brains to it at all. Tragic, I know..

    2. Carol Martin

      Melissa, I use to work on Discovery Island, back in 1978. It was the best job I ever had and the most wonderful place to work. I did trash pick up first thing when I got there by boat, then cleaned the cages that were all along the walking trails that covered the island. Then I had to prepare all the food for all the animals and then feed them. I gave the bird show guy his break and did the show for him while he went on break or lunch until he came back. It was my dream job. I trained 2 ring necked doves for a Disney commercial for what was called Lake Buena Vista shopping Village. Best time of my life ever. So sad to know it is now abandoned. It deserves so much better.

  5. Nick

    Ricky, Just wanted to let you know that it was NOT in December that they went on their exploration. Yes, it was posted on the blog in december. I emailed Mr. Perez and he told me that it was 5 years ago That they went before he had posted it to his blog. Id assume the main reason for this is b/c the statute of limitations for trespassing in FL is 5 years, so Disney now cant charge him with that. If you look at the pics, look at the one of the RC water tower. That has since been removed from RC before december to the FW pool area.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Thanks for the follow-up! I’ll update the post above.

      1. patrick

        The only thing that led me to this website was looking up more about a creeepypasta called abandon by disney. You should look it up its an interesting story.

    2. Everything is very open with a precise description of the issues.
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      extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  6. I remember seeing his blog linked over at the DIS at least a year ago when I was browsing around. Definitely gutsy. Would I do it? Definitely NOT Discovery Island, that’s for sure. In that lovely link you posted though of Pop’s Legendary Years… one of the explorers looks eerily like me.. :)

  7. Nick Boyle

    SO when i was like seven i learned to swim here. i remember how fun and beautiful it was and to see it so decrepped is kind of sad to me.

  8. andy

    If they did I have a name for it: Lost Disney or Forgotten Disney. Didn’t Disney produce the TV series “LOST”?

    I also have always been intrigued with structures & parks that were either abandoned or closed for the off season. The first abandoned building I saw was a catholic church that within a year of abandonment peeled every inch of its painted ceiling. All of that eerie texture and the dark smell. . …. Anyway this site is spectacular.

  9. Sir Scooter

    I was wondering why I never saw this article. I was at Disney when it was published!

  10. Gina

    I have always wondered what happened to Discovery Island. I would never do anything to mess with the set out rules at the parks but I would love to see the Island today. :) I would love to explore!! 😀

  11. What shame all of that is just sitting there wasting away.

  12. michael a. bimonte

    as a Disney Vacation Club member who has visited WDW more than 30
    times, I too miss RC. I liked the fact that it was slightly time-consuming
    and inconvenient to get to-the reason being if you needed a little time
    away from the huge crowds this was the place to go. Unfortunately, the lack
    of big crowds are probably what led to its demise.

  13. chris

    I’m just curious WHY there would be regular ferrie service (every 5 to 10 minutes??) from the mainland to an island that is abandoned??

    1. Jan

      The ferrie ran BETWEEN the island and mainland as in not to the island

  14. Shannon Gates

    I really want to go here now its very interesting. of course id never go alone. but I really want to gather some friends and venture there to see what’s become of it.

  15. MysteriousMessenger

    If anyone would like to find out things, youtube “Abandoned By Disney”

    1. patrick

      i did not see your commment if i had i would not have posted my other comment

      1. RWBYRubyRose

        There is actually a scarey story about this place. Its about a man who goes inside and meets a possessed micky mouse mascot suit. Name of it is Abandoned By Disney.

        1. Andy

          The cree

        2. Kinsey

          That one isn’t at River Country, that’s at Mowgli’s Palace in the Bahamas.

  16. Andy

    Sorry my comment got cut short I meant to say don’t listen to anything creepy pasta writes it’s all fiction

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  18. Jackie Moss

    And to think…some of us are missing all the fun because we will NEVER be able to afford all the money it cost to go to the Disney theme parks.

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  22. Kinsey

    I am a young urban explorer who lives near the park, and I am intrigued by the mysteries behind it’s closing. I plan on visiting the park soon, and honestly can’t wait. This seems like the perfect place to explore, and don’t see why people make such a big deal about it. Hundreds of people like me have been after the closing, and no harm has been done. All people want is a personal look at the mystery.

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  26. Ryan Scott

    You know what someone should do. Someone should buy discovery island and turn it into a Disney creepypasta park, like building a huge water slide attraction like it’s a small world and have the photo negative mickey in it. The creepypastas have already done the marketing

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