This abandoned Disney water park has been rotting for over 15 years — now it’s turning into a resort

A photo from Seph Lawless' series

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A photo from Seph Lawless’ series “Dismaland.”
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Seph Lawless

When Disney River Country opened in 1976, visitors flocked to Orange County, Florida, to ride the winding slides and traverse the wooden bridges.

The park closed down 25 years later, and today, it lies abandoned.

In 2016, A Cleveland-based photographer who works under the pseudonym Seph Lawless documented ghostly portraits of the once busy attraction in his photo series “Dismaland.” (This is also the name of Banksy’s 2015 art exhibition, a fake apocalyptic theme park near Bristol, England.)

But River Country will not stay abandoned for much longer. Disney is planning to demolish the decaying park and turn it into a timeshare resort and hotel, GrowthSpotter reports.

Check out Lawless’ photo project below:


River Country in Orange County, Florida was Walt Disney World’s first water park.

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Seph Lawless

It is one of just two Disney parks, along with Discovery Island in Orange County, to close permanently. Both parks were left to deteriorate.

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Seph Lawless

Lawless took about 150 photos of the decaying park, he told Business Insider.

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Seph Lawless

Almost everything is covered in water and moss.

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Seph Lawless

Vines and weeds overrun this slide, one of five in the park.

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Seph Lawless

This is the 330,000-gallon Upstream Plunge pool, which Disney drained and filled in 2016.

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Seph Lawless

As the Orlando Sentinel reported, the pool was filled in because standing water can attract mosquitoes – a growing concern due to the Zika virus. Disney said that the work was not related to Zika.


Leaves, paperwork, and ripped cardboard boxes fill the manager’s office. Much of the wallpaper is peeling off.

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Seph Lawless

A mysterious top hat rests on this bridge.

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Seph Lawless

“I want the viewer to feel like they’re completely alone while looking at my images,” Lawless said. “I want to bring that sense of abandonment to the viewer on a very intimate level.”

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Seph Lawless

Lawless, who considers himself an activist before an artist, travels around the US to photograph abandoned locations.

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Seph Lawless

When he began the project, he hoped that Disney would take notice and continue to renovate the park at least for the wildlife living there.

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Seph Lawless

“I have no problem asking that of a multibillion-dollar enterprise such as Disney,” he said “No corporation should be powerful enough to hide the truth and not clean up their mess.”

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Seph Lawless

“It’s always a surreal feeling shooting anything abandoned,” he continued. “It was also very beautiful — like witnessing something out of this world.”

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Seph Lawless

Construction on the hotel and timeshares is set to begin in 2019, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

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Seph Lawless