Return to River Country . . . And More! A New TCD Trip Report- April 2010


<font color=peach>Throwing some love to TCD<br><fo
Nov 29, 2004
It’s been a while.

Since the TCD gang has visited the Fort, that is.

Normally, the TCD gang visits on MLK and Presidents’ Day weekend, and Spring Break, too.

But not in 2010.

I believe the TCD gang enjoyed 8 stays at the Fort in 2009. But except for a couple of days carry over after New Years’ Eve, the TCD gang has not stayed at the Fort in 2010. TCD has been boycotting the Fort to protest the constant price increases. Fat lot of good that has done.

We would have stayed away longer, too.

But, fate stepped in, and the stars aligned, and we were able to make a weekend visit from April 16 to 19, 2010.

You might not care about any of this. Maybe you are only here because you saw River Country in the title.

It seems like more than a few people share my interest in River Country.

And, not to worry, there will be some pretty good River Country photos coming right up.

But, this will be an orderly trip report. And, as the title says, there is more. Much more. In addition to the River Country photos, you won’t want to miss:

  • TCD’s search for the lost Wilderness Swamp Trail.
  • TCD’s search for relics from the Fort Wilderness Railroad. I have photos of a genuine FWRR car. And, of track. Yes, I said track, not just ties.
  • An update on the missing River Country tank wagon, and the Lawnmower Tree.
  • TCD solves at least two mysteries.
  • A new construction project now underway at the horse barn.

And there is still more!

Remember, even the greatest journey starts with the first step, and so it shall be with this trip report.

Many months ago, the TCD twins asked if they could go to a concert on April 18th at the House of Blues. This was a stop on something called the AP Tour. I had never heard of any of the bands, but the girls had seen one of the bands, and one of their friends has a cousin who is the manager for one of the bands. I had taken the girls to a concert from this band (it’s called Hey Monday in case, unlike TCD, you are hip and in the know about these things) and they got backstage passes, and had much fun. So, we bought tickets for this concert. One detail that was downplayed was that the concert was on a Sunday night. Which happens to be a school night. After some very good report cards and behavior, Mrs. TCD and I agreed that the girls could skip school on Monday, and that we would try to find a hotel room to spend the night of the concert in before returning home on Monday. One of the DD’s suggested that we camp for the weekend. I thought about it for about 5 seconds, and had the site booked for three nights before anyone could object or make another suggestion.

So, we left home right after school on Friday, April 16th, and arrived at the Fort right at about 5 pm. I had booked a partial hook up site, and ended up being assigned to site 1504. We have camped on this site before. I love it. It is one of my favorite sites in the campground. It is the first outside site past the sidewalk to the comfort station. It has a ton of room on both sides. The only problem is that it does get swampy when it rains. But, it was nice and sunny and dry when we arrived.

I got things set up, and here is how we were looking in no time at all:

As soon as we were set up, it was time to hop on the bikes and go explore:

First stop was River Country!

As you may remember, there was a bit of a popular thread around here it the past few months relating to some photos taken by my cousin Yuri while he was visiting this country illegally, He left his camera with me by mistake, when he was deported, and I found the photos and posted them here on the Disboards. Boy, cousin Yuri would sure be surprised to see how popular his River Country photos were.

After the River Country thread was going, there were posts here on the Disboards telling us that there was a new construction fence up at River Country, and that work was being done on some of the old buildings there. But, as far as I know, we haven’t heard or seen any details.

Until now.

Here are some shots from April 16.

First, as far as I can tell, nothing has changed in the decaying area:

But, something has definitely changed in the area where Pop’s Place used to be:

Now, unless you know what used to be here, this may not seem like much to you.

So, let’s take a look at what used to be here:

From the time River Country closed in 2001, up until the Fall of 2008, all of River Country was off limits to Fort Wilderness guests. But, in the Fall of 2008, the barricades near the old entrance were removed, and guests could walk back into the area that used to serve as the entrance area of the park. To the left as you walked in, there was a cluster of buildings. This is where the a restaurant called Pop’s Place used to operate. The building was still there. Also, there were old-fashioned looking buildings that were adjacent to the Pop’s Place building. These buildings connect to the old Pop's Place restaurant counter service restaurant, which is just to the left in this photo:

The doorway that you see in the red building leads to Men's and Women's restrooms. These obviously had been rehabbed, and were kind of industrial looking. I remember that the River Country restrooms used to be much bigger, and there were showers in there. There are no showers in these new restrooms:

Here is a closer shot of the restroom entrance. The sign must be an original from when River Country was open:

Here is a photo of the area taken from further back. You see the buildings that we have just been looking at on the right, and the Pop's Place restaurant building on the left:

The sign had been painted over, but you could read that it used to say Pop's Place in larger lettering, and then below it says, Snacks & Refreshments As You Like 'em.

This is what it used to look like when entering this area and looking toward Pop's Place:

Now, as I said, the photos we were just looking at were taken in October, 2008.

I found some older photos on line. These appear to be from when River Country was in operation:

As you can see, this building has the date 1869 on it. If you look carefully at the 2008 photo of this building, above, you will see that the date was still on the building:

Here is a close up of the Pop’s Place sign:

And a shot of Pop’s place:

And, here are some shots of the area from someone who snuck in in 2005:

Now, sadly, the Pop’s place building is gone!

And so is the building with the 1869.

All that remains is the part that housed the restrooms.

Coming up- more River Country before and after comparisons.



<font color=peach>Throwing some love to TCD<br><fo
Nov 29, 2004
So, here are a few more shots of this area of River Country from 2005. River Country had been closed for about four years then, but as you can see things were still more or less intact:

The menu from Pop’s Place was even still up. Funny, the prices don’t seem that much cheaper than what they charge at WDW today. Also, the way I remember things, there used to be many more choices at the WDW restaurants back in the day, but this sign does not support my memory:

And, this is what this area looks like now:

Now, here’s something interesting.

Well, to me anyway.

Back in 2008, I remember going into the men’s room here.

It was small, and temporary looking, with modern fixtures. It wasn’t the old River Country restroom at all.

But, now, when I looked in the men’s room it looked like the knocked out a wall into the old River Country men’s room space. It no longer looks new and temporary. It looks old, and dated:

The area that you see off to the left in this photo, across from all the hooks, is where the showers used to be. These are now walled-off, but I bet they are right there behind the walls:

So, you think that men’s room looks rough?

Check out the ladies’ room.

Yes, I went in the ladies’ room.

I knocked first.

And, none of you can be surprised by that by now.

So here’s what the ladies get:

What the heck is that thing there on the wall?

Look at this! It’s a hair dryer!

Now that I am looking at these photos, I realized that I didn’t try that mother out. I wonder if it still works?

Well, I have reached the 25 photo limit.

And there’s still more River Country to come . . .

So, be sure to check back . . .


liv luvs disney

DIS Veteran
Mar 25, 2009
Thank you, thank you, thank you TCD, I'll be able to sleep tonight after all.

Your pics and commentary are, as always, wonderful. That hair dryer? Wow! Cousin Yuri? :rotfl2: Oh and the fact that you didn't photo-shop (or what ever it's called) the hammock out of your camp site. You little rebel you. You know there are those who don't approve of that around here.:rolleyes1

I'm so looking forward to the rest of this trip report.


DIS Veteran
May 12, 2009
Thanks for all the great pictures and info. I'm patiently waiting for the rest of your report. We will be at The Fort in August, so it will be interesting to see if anything else has been done.:earsboy::earsboy:


I'm Not The Castle Guy
Jan 20, 2008
As always, fascinating stuff! Pretty sad to see Pop's Place many of us could picture a CS place re-opening there some day. But, that will never come to be. Guess they figured it was too far off the beaten path.

Well, I'll patiently wait for the next installment. popcorn::


<font color=peach>Throwing some love to TCD<br><fo
Nov 29, 2004
Thank you, thank you, thank you TCD, I'll be able to sleep tonight after all.

Your pics and commentary are, as always, wonderful. That hair dryer? Wow! Cousin Yuri? :rotfl2: Oh and the fact that you didn't photo-shop (or what ever it's called) the hammock out of your camp site. You little rebel you. You know there are those who don't approve of that around here.:rolleyes1

I'm so looking forward to the rest of this trip report.
I read the thread about clotheslines and hammocks. I will have some more to say about that later.

Cool!! I took some very similar pictures back in March of this year, but didn't go into the restrooms cause somebody was cleaning, but I do remember seeing that hairdryer when I wandered back there a year or so ago.
Well, I'll be darned. Good job, Carol. You scooped me on some of this, but I didn't know about it. But, I think I posted the first photo of the ladies' room hair dryer.

Thanks for all the great pictures and info. I'm patiently waiting for the rest of your report. We will be at The Fort in August, so it will be interesting to see if anything else has been done.:earsboy::earsboy:
More is on the way!

  • Tri-circle-D

    <font color=peach>Throwing some love to TCD<br><fo
    Nov 29, 2004
    We are still in the ladies room.

    Story of my life.

    Check out the tile work in the ladies’ room:

    And here’s another hair dryer:

    OK, now we are out of the ladies' room. Luckily, no ladies visited while I was in there.

    When I looked up at the top of this building, I could see the outline of something that used to be painted there. I think I see the word Hot. Call me crazy, but I'll bet it used to say Hot Showers:

    This is looking back to the Fort Wilderness pavilion. This is where they host Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue:

    There used to be signs like this all around River Country. This one is still here:

    So what about the area that is fenced off?

    Well, you are not allowed to go back there.

    I know my cousin Yuri did. But, he is not from this land, and he does not understand our ways.

    So, I just have photos taken through openings in the fence, or over the fence. Here’s what I have for you:

    So whatever it is the workers have been doing back here the past few months, it hasn’t been to clean up the old slides and such.

    I took this next batch of photos using a newly developed technique which incorporates the use of duct tape and a broom stick to raise your camera above the fence. In these next shots, we are looking toward Bay Lake. The Gazebo and Nature Walk are out past the tree line here. It looks like there has been some clearing here, and there is something constructed out of what looks like PVC pipe and blue fabric sitting out there. Almost like some kind of tanks to hold something:

    Some more shots of the general area:

    Coming up . . .

    More River Country.

    And then we will move on to some of the other things.



    <font color=peach>Throwing some love to TCD<br><fo
    Nov 29, 2004
    I am about done with the River Country pics.

    Just a few more of the general area that was created by removing Pop’s Place:

    One thing’s for sure, you get a good view of the Fort Wilderness Pavilion’s weather vane from over here now:

    This area is now more open. I guess the Backyard Barbecue guests can hang out here and smoke and such:

    Before we leave River Country, and finish the comparisons in this trip report, let’s look at the old River Country Water Tower:

    This is how it looked in October, 2008:

    And this is how it looked back when River Country was open:

    And here it is today:

    In case you have been under a rock for the last year, the water tower (well, the tank anyway) was relocated to the Meadow Pool at Fort Wilderness.

    On our first night, after checking out River Country, we stopped at the beach to see how things looked. They looked fine:

    From the beach, we headed over to the horse barn. I believe it was clkelly who alerted us to the fact that there was a construction permit pulled for something called a Calliope Display at the horse barn. So, TCD needed to check this out.

    This is what I saw:

    I guess this is where I should mention that I find it very embarrassing that they named this whole area of the Fort after me. I mean, I know I am a loyal fan, and I help solve crimes and mysteries at the Fort with my superpowers, but they really didn’t need to honor me in this way. What’s next? The DaveinTN lawnmower tree? The Shanman Hoop-Dee-Doo Review? The Des1954 Otter Preserve? The Stacktester comfort station?

    But I digress, we are here to find out about this Calliope Display.

    Do you think this could be it?

    I think it must be. But, having never seen a Calliope Display, I can’t be too sure. As a matter of fact, to be completely honest, I am not 100% certain that I would know a Calliope from a hole in the ground.

    So, there is only one way to be sure.

    I need to inspect the permit to make sure everything is in order:

    Yep- it says right on there Calliope Display.

    But, just to be sure, let’s check the plans:

    Alrighty, then, I think this is going to be the Calliope Display. But, that still doesn’t tell us what a Calliope is, or why it is going here. Being the investigative reporter that I am, I did some extensive google research ,and came across this article on the Disney website:D23 Tri-Circle-D Article

    In case that link doesn’t work, or in case you don’t want to go there, here is the text of the article, which was published in January, 2010. I have highlighted a couple of areas of interest:

    01.29.10 - It's widely known that the boyhood life of Walt Disney, in the small town of Marceline, Missouri, provided inspiration for the Main Street, U.S.A. "lands" in several Disney Parks, although they vary in size and design. But there is a corner of Walt Disney World Resort that captures both the country farm atmosphere experienced by young Walt and the film and TV images that left an indelible mark on many of us: Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
    The campground welcomed Guests a month after the Walt Disney World Grand Opening in 1971 and today feature tree-lined campsites and fully furnished Wilderness Cabins. But the heart and soul of this idyllic complex are its rustic recreation areas at the center and near Bay Lake, the lake Walt himself spotted while flying to scout for land in Florida.

    The ranch housing the Disneyland horses in California was given the name "Circle-D." For the Florida ranch, the name "Tri-Circle-D," is derived from two fondly remembered Disney memories. The summer camp immortalized on the The Adventures of Spin and Marty serials on the Mickey Mouse Club was the "Triple R" (check out Andy's T-shirt in Toy Story for the Pixar tribute). And the girls' camp in The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty — where Annette and Darlene bunked — was called "Circle H." Of course, the "D" is for Disney with an obvious reference to Mickey's iconic head and ears.

    The "Spin and Marty" episodes were filmed in California, particularly at the legendary Golden Oak Ranch, but there's no denying the visual influence the TV ranch had on the look of both Tri-Circle-D locations; especially at the horseback trail ride area near the Disney's Fort Wilderness entrance and at the Wilderness recreation area near Bay Lake.

    It is the latter area that sustains the greatest "classic aura," looking very much like a setting from a Disney film or TV show. It includes Crockett's Tavern, decked out in Davy Crockett memorabilia and artwork and the Pioneer Hall Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, which was chronicled in a D23 story from last year. It's the longest continuously running stage show in America, and it conjures up memories of the "Diamond Horseshoe Revue" broadcast starring Annette and Ed Wynn. If you find yourself singing "How Will I Know My Love" on the Fort Wilderness wagon ride, it's because it reminds you of the "Annette" serial on Mickey Mouse Club.

    In addition to the pony rides and blacksmith shop, there exists one of the most bizarre landmarks in all of Walt Disney World Resort: the Lawnmower Tree. Though no one knows how or when it happened, a manual lawnmower was left at the base of a tree, which eventually grew around it. As the years pass, less and less of the mower can be seen, so get your glimpse soon. It's located between the Wilderness Trading Post and the Marina.

    Across the lake from the Marina, look for the island that once held the names "Treasure" and "Discovery." The dock is still there, which might look familiar to Disney movie buffs who remember the 1976 adventure Treasure of Matecumbe, starring Robert Foxworth and Peter Ustinov. Some filming was done along the beaches and swamps of Bay Lake, which look much the same today as they did in the film.

    The strongest Tri-Circle-D Ranch ties to Walt's life and interests are in the stables, where you can get to know the horses — by name — that make appearances in the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Wedding Pavilion and other locations. Walt's equestrian fondness is commemorated at a small museum where he and many horses of note can be seen in a display of archival photos.

    Across from the display, depending on when you visit, you might even be able to see and hear the famous "Dragon Calliope." This calliope, discovered in disrepair, was included with the nine wagons Walt Disney purchased from the Bradley and Kaye Amusement Park for possible use at Disneyland. According to the article "The Disney Circus Wagons" by John Kenworthy in Paul Anderson's Persistence of Vision magazine, a new wagon was designed to resemble the others in the collection, at a cost of $50,000 in order to house the refurbished steam-powered musical instrument.

    The calliope was part of the short-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade in 1955, but its biggest show business role of all came in 1960. It appeared right after the opening credits of Walt Disney's meticulously detailed portrait of circus life, Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus — a beloved classic that D23 will celebrate on March 27, 2010 as part of its new "50 and Fabulous" screening series.

    Starring Kevin "Moochie" Corcoran in the title role with wonderful Zorro co-stars Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon, Toby Tyler, like So Dear to My Heart (1949), is a film that conjures up Walt Disney as a youth. Toby is a farm boy whose dreams are stirred up by the arrival of the circus in his small town. A stern, no-nonsense uncle perhaps suggests Walt's father, Elias; a compassionate, sympathetic aunt, might have been his mother. Toby sells candy to circus patrons; as a young man, Walt sold candy to train travelers.

    It is this very calliope that is Toby's pied piper. As the credits end, the boy walks alongside it, steam billowing out as the music plays. The calliope went on to amble through Disneyland up until its 25th Anniversary, and then it was relocated for the Walt Disney World Tencennial in 1981, where it was seen in numerous parades including several Christmas broadcasts.
    It was in these early '80s TV broadcasts that the history of the Dragon Calliope (which was seen in the TV parade) was confused with that of the "Ken Maynard Calliope" (which was not). Disney also purchased the Maynard in the 1950s but it dated back to London, circa 1907. It was seen in early Disneyland parades, but according to Kenworthy research, did not appear in any films or TV shows.

    To add to all this Walt-ness, Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground even once started its own steam train in 1973. You can't ride it today because it didn't quite work out — Michael Broggie, founder of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Society (named for Walt's backyard train) detailed the Fort Wilderness Railroad history in his book Walt Disney's Railroad Story — but you can still see existing tracks. And at "the Fort's" sister Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, there's a display from Walt's very own train, in — fittingly — the Carolwood Pacific Room.

    The Cast Members of Tri-Circle-D Ranch enjoy reveling in all this Disney legend and lore. There's even a Segway tour throughout the campground, in which you can roll around and hear stories, learn facts and guess trivia questions.

    In 1956, Walt and Roy Disney made a heartfelt return to their boyhood surroundings in Marceline, Missouri — the town said to have inspired Main Street, U.S.A. Walt planned to create "Walt Disney's Boyhood Farm" in Marceline with livestock, farmland and a swimming hole. It never happened, at least in Marceline, but the Tri-Circle-D Ranch — and to an extent, Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground — come within a horse's tail of fulfilling his dream.

    The author forgets to mention that the lawnmower tree is really a lawnmower stump. I don’t think there is too much risk of anymore of the lawnmower getting grown over.

    And, what’s up with this article being written as if the Calliope is already in the barn? As you just saw, it ain’t.

    Journalists! Sheez!

    Next Up, some more shots of the barn, and more . . .

  • datgrt@fw

    Mar 24, 2009
    Hello TCD .......... As always, I really enjoy reading your trip reports with all of the great pictures and your one of a kind comments! With your talent you should write a book! I know there would be many of us here on the 'Disboard' that would be happy to purchase a copy if you ever did!

    Thanks again for sharing your 'Outstanding' trip reports with us! I look forward to one day maybe seeing you again at the Fort!

    Doug / datgrt@fw


    Jan 10, 2008
    As always great pictures. Missed them for a while. Glad you're back but totally understand why you were gone. We talk about the prices going up and the quality going down all the time--especially the meals. It is however still the best place there is. Especially when you're from central Illinois.


    1340.63 miles too far from the Fort
    Sep 12, 2008
    TCD is back and in fine FW Scoop Reporter form indeed! I for one, think it's absolutely fitting they named the entire TCD Ranch after you. :worship: :worship: :worship:

    Thanks for solving the mystery of the camera on a broom. For a minute there I was envisioning you with 5' long arms. ;)

    So glad to see you back on the job and thanks for another FANtastic TR!! :goodvibes


    Told that I need DA meetings - Disney Anonymous
    Feb 10, 2005
    So happy to finally have a new TCD Fort report!! popcorn::


    DIS Veteran
    Mar 5, 2010
    And just when I was beginning to wonder how I could use that old broomstick and duct tape for photography purposes....seriously, great TR. Seeing RC in such a state of disrepair brings tears to my eyes. Gotta lotta good memories there! Thanks for going to such great lengths to give us a look. :goodvibes


    <font color=peach>Throwing some love to TCD<br><fo
    Nov 29, 2004
    Before we leave the barn, I have a few more shots:

    Let me share my thoughts about this Calliope Display: I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s a good idea. What did the poor horses do to deserve this? And, as far as location, this is not the easiest place to get to. One of the reasons why I like the horse barn is that it is always serene and peaceful around there. Now, I guess they are going to be blasting that Calliope. Good luck with that, Disney.

    After checking out River Country and the Horse Barn, it was time to eat.

    We stopped by Trail’s End and ordered a Giddy-Yap-And-Go chicken dinner. We debated whether to eat there on the Trail’s End porch, or go back to the campsite. We elected to go back to the site. The sun had set by now, so I turned on our spot light. I went in the camper to get some things, and when I came back, the girls were under attack. By a swarm of mosquitoes! There had to be a million! I have never seen such a thing at the Fort! Seriously, we have camped at this time of year before, and at all other times of the year, and I have rarely seen even a single mosquito. But, on this trip, we were under attack. I guess it is because the winter was so cold, and the weather has been warming up, and the mosquitoes are currently ahead of the pest control team.

    So, we had to abandon our picnic table, and we ate our dinner in the camper.

    Our first evening ended with an armadillo sighting:

    And, we saw a hoodlum driving a golf cart over the bridge behind the Meadow Trading Post:

    That’s about it for our first night at the Fort.

    But Saturday would turn out to be a big day.

    TCD has a mission.

    Over a year ago TCD vowed to break through the thorns and brush covering the old Wilderness Swamp Trail, and to discover whether or not the boardwalk is still there. Nobody has been able to verify its removal. Would Disney have spent the money to remove it, or just let it rot ala River Country? Thanks to TCD, we will soon find out for sure!

    So, bright and early on Saturday morning, I headed down to the Settlement to begin my quest.

    Before heading out to the old Wilderness Swamp Trail, there was a small matter I had to attend to.

    I needed to check on the old River Country Tank Wagon.

    This is the one I am talking about:

    For as long as I have been going to the Fort, this old wagon has sat next to the playground by the Marina:

    As you can see, it used to be painted to promote River Country. Notice the Musket Mickey logo on the end?

    For as long as I have been visiting the Fort, the wagon has been in the same spot, but was no longer painted with any reference to River Country:

    Well, last month, Disboarder DaveinTN reported that the wagon was missing! He reported seeing castmembers moving it away to the fenced in area behind the Settlement Trading Post. This sparked some speculation and discussion about whether it was being permanently removed, or just being taken away for refurbishment.

    Well, I am here to tell you that it is still missing from where it is supposed to be!:

    But, it is still sitting behind the Settlement Trading Post:

    In case you were wondering, this is also where they keep the little tractor that they use to groom the beach. No joyriding please.

    Also, while we are back here, let me share a tidbit you might want to know.

    Have you ever bought milk first thing in the morning from the Settlement Trading Post, and found it to be a bit on the warm side? Wait, let me correct that. You can’t buy anything first thing in the morning from the Settlement Trading Post, because it doesn’t open until 10 AM. But, the milk gets delivered before 8 AM. See?:

    Be careful when purchasing your dairy products from the Settlement Trading Post.

    Now, about the wagon. I consulted with one of my confidential sources. I have it on good authority that the wagon was removed for renovation, and that it will be replaced. This source has provided me with accurate information before, so we will see. The only concern I have is that the source told me that he/she had seen the wagon in a shop being restored. Well, it clearly is not in the shop. I wonder if there is another wagon? Time will tell.

    What about the Lawnmower Tree you ask?

    You mean the Lawnmower stump, right?

    It is still here, slowly rotting away:

    Do you see those little pieces of Lawnmower Stump bark on the ground? Do you think anyone would buy those on eBay?

    Well, enough with this kid stuff.

    It is time to go look for the Wilderness Swamp Trail!