River Country was Disney World’s first water park. It opened in Orlando, Florida, in 1976 and officially closed its doors in 2005. #RIP.
At its peak, River Country boasted four water slides, a sand-bottom lake, an white water rapids, and a tubing river.
The park was not without its problems: In 1980, an 11-year-old died from a bacterial disease he picked up while swimming in the park’s lake.
River County was left to languish and deteriorate naturally for the last 11 years, and photographer Seph Lawless was able to gain access and shoot some creepy but mega compelling photos of the park’s lost grandeur.
Next month marks the park’s 40th anniversary, and Lawless wanted to chronicle the once great park’s slow return to nature.
The images evoke an eerie, swampy, almost prehistoric vibe.
“Being inside the abandoned park felt like a creepy real-life Disney ride,” Lawless told of his visit to the abandoned park. “It was surreal and really beautiful.”
Here’s what a washed out waterslide looks like:
The waterslides were especially moving for Lawless. “They were completely covered in vines and flowers. I think it was just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed on any project I’ve done.”
An faux waterfall stands empty now.
Somebody left a top hat in the middle of one of the park’s rope bridges.
The Upstream Plunge Pool is covered with algae now.
And now the park’s diving bridges and platforms are still.
It’s hard to believe that at one time, this place was teeming with thousands of tourists.
“I think Disney World symbolizes an ugly side of capitalism in America, and I think because of that some people would enjoy seeing it crumble to the ground”
“I think that’s why I want people to see the beauty in these images above all else.”