On this day sixty years ago, Walt Disney and his wife, Lillian, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary with a special party aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat at the soon-to-open Disneyland park. In the sixty years since, thousands of Disneyland park guests have made the journey around the Rivers of America aboard the sternwheel steamboat and its sister ship, the Sailing Ship Columbia, touring four very different iconic American rivers along the way.
There are four sections to the Rivers of America, each featuring trees, plants and wildlife indigenous to a different American river. The first section that guests experience on their tour is the Mississippi River, which stretches from the riverboat landing past New Orleans Square, to Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country. Like the Mississippi, this section features hanging vegetation in grays and greens, such as willows and bald cypress.
The ship then enters the second section: the Columbia River, located in the Pacific Northwest. This section features firs, pines and redwoods as well as a rich ground cover of violets and ferns, and elk can be spotted along the banks of the river.
Once guests pass Mike Fink’s cabin, you enter the Potomac River – the great waterway of the mid-Atlantic. Here, the trees are birches and other deciduous varieties, and deer are seen drinking from a creek. After the Indian Village, guests can spot eagles, beavers, moose, raccoons and a skunk.
Signs of civilization begin to reappear as the ship rounds a bend and Frontier Landing comes into view; at this point guests enter the Rio Grande, where a family of mountain lions can be seen in the low grass next to the river. With Big Thunder Mountain as the backdrop, the landscape takes on the character of a high desert with fiery colored rocks, boulders and outcroppings, and a landscape of grasses and manzanita.
Next time you take a journey around the Rivers of America at Disneyland park, keep a sharp eye out and see if you can spot the point where you’ve left one river system for another!