The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Rivers of America at Disneyland Park

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

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!


  • Hi Erin,

    So glad you shared this! Many folks are unaware that the beautiful body of water in Frontierland is called the RIVERS (plural) of America for this very reason … and it would be appropriate for you to do a follow-up article on the RIVERS (plural) of the WORLD found on the Jungle Cruise!

    Keep up the good work with your Storytelling articles!

  • Erin,

    How many times have I ridden that cruise admiring its flora and fauna in all its diversity, only to miss the fact it has 4 distinct regions of the US it is representing.

    This was a great article and reminds us we can look upon something over and over and not realize its true meaning.


  • Thanks for the post Erin! I’ve never ridden these boats before, but after this description (didn’t know there were four rivers!), I’m definitely going to try next time. The Storytelling blog series has been a favorite of mine, and this is just one more excellent addition.

    • Thank you, Dustin. And yes, you must take a trip on the Rivers of America soon!

  • I am hoping to see it covered in fog at Mickeys Halloween Party-if we get the dates with enough notice to be able to plan a trip for it that is.

  • Taking a trip around the Rivers of America is a great way to take a break in the middle of the day! One of my favorite sights on the Rivers of America is during Mickey’s Halloween party when it’s covered in fog and the Cadaver Dans go floating by. It’s always a must see for my group when we go to the party each year!

  • My favorite thing about the Rivers of America is watching The Cadaver Dans perform on the raft during the HALLOWEEN PARTY!

  • Now, just set that cabin on fire!

  • Love the Rivers of America area, especially on Mickey’s Halloween Party nights when the fog is rolled out and it is all spooky! Waiting impatiently for party dates and info Erin:)

    • I’ll have that for you soon, Lisa!

  • Really enjoy these attractions. Though it took a long time (40 years!) to set sail on Sailing Ship Columbia. It was always closed during our visits starting in 1971. In 2011, we finally set sail.

  • The cabin needs to be restored to it’s fiery glory.

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