When you think of Disney and the company’s theme parks, you don’t often think of abandoned, creepy places, do you? And there’s a good reason for that.
In its entire history, Disney has only permanently closed two parks. One of those parks was in Bay Lake, Florida, and it was called River Country. Since 2001, the property has become overgrown in its abandonment. When photographer and urban explorer Seph Lawless discovered it during one of his recent travels, he shed light on the park’s beautiful decay.
River Country first opened back in 1976, and it managed to do pretty consistent business up until the end of 2001.
The park closed for the last time on November 2, 2001. In April of 2002, it was announced that River Country would not reopen for summer. Its days had finally come to an end.
According to news articles from the time, the decision to close River Country was based on the park’s financial troubles.
In the years before 9/11, Disney had opened several larger, more modern water parks in the region, which slowly took business away from River Country.
The post-9/11 social climate saw a decline in attendance at all Disney parks, which was the final nail in the coffin for this doomed attraction.
With nature now slowly reclaiming the former rides and exhibits, Lawless calls it a “real-life Dismaland.”
He is right about that. The decaying structures somehow strike the perfect balance between being beautiful and being downright creepy.
“Let’s face it: there are places in this world that most of us could never imagine being abandoned, and Disney World tops that list,” Lawless explained to PetaPixel.
“Next month will mark 40 years after the opening day of River Country, and I wanted to capture powerful images that wouldn’t just showcase this eerie, abandoned Disney park. I wanted it to be absolutely beautiful at the same time,” he continued.
Judging by these images, his mission was a success.