In 1974, Treasure Island was opened in Walt Disney World, Florida, giving guests a chance to observe the island’s many species of birds and animals. It was later given a name change to Discovery Island however with the opening of Animal Kingdom in 1999, the decision was taken to close Discovery Island. Plans to create an attraction based around the computer game Myst fell by the wayside and the island has remained abandoned, just like the nearby River Country.
The island was originally called Raz Island, named for a family which lived there and was purchased for $800 in the 1930s and renamed to Idle Bay Isle. The island was sold to Walt Disney in 1965, now going by the name of Riles Island, and was a part of his secretive plans to buy land to build the Walt Disney World Resort.
Issues surrounding the safety of the water within Bay Lake in which Discovery Island is located have been debated over the years although no problems arose when the park was open. A Florida state law banning unchlorinated water for use in Water Parks was one reason Discovery Island and River Country closed.
In the middle of Bay Lake, deep within the heart of the Walt Disney World property, lies Discovery Island. It is a former wildlife attraction/sanctuary that was closed in 1999 and has been left to run wild since. This is the story of my trip there quite a few years ago when I lived in FL. In the time since, I’ve learned a few disturbing facts about the lake and as such would not recommend that anyone attempt to re-trace our footsteps. I’ve heard from more than a few people that there are actually alligators that live in the lake, something I hadn’t even thought of, assuming this was just some other Disney attraction. Even more alarming, I’ve also heard that the main reason Disney closed the adjacent water park is because of the presence of Naegleria Fowleri bacteria in the water which can infect human nervous systems and nearly always results in death.
I’d heard about the island from some Orlando locals. They told us that there were rumors that there were bunches of animals still left running wild on the island. They hadn’t visited it themselves but told us that it was about 100 feet off the shore of the also abandoned River Country water park and that boat traffic was infrequent on the lake. We arrived with a plan involving an inflatable boat, 150 feet of clothesline(to pull the boat back across for other people), a large hand pump, and a few oars. After an ordeal smuggling the suspicious supplies into the Fort Wilderness campground via the Disney Shuttle buses, we finally made our way through the abandoned Water Park and got to the shore. To our dismay, we discovered that the island was in fact at least 300 feet away and that passenger ferries crossed between the island and shore every 5-10 minutes. It would make paddling across virtually impossible. We left defeated and I vowed to return and conquer the island some day.
Location: Orlando, Florida, USA
Category: Theme Park
Video of Disney’s Discovery Island from 1986