Walt Disney’s official speech on Disneyland’s opening day is memorialized at the flag pole on Main Street, U.S.A.. It reads, “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Disneyland has provided many opportunities to remember the dreams and facts that have created America. The gas lamps on Main Street, U.S.A., the steam locomotive and riverboat, and the details of the American frontier are only a few examples. Disneyland is truly a great way to experience history! The park is similar to a living museum, with details and facts that make history come alive.
One area that is most packed with “the hard facts that created America” is Rivers of America in Disneyland. We’ve gathered some of our favorite facts about Rivers of America that most people don’t know. So climb aboard as we explore a new adventure, full of challenge, promise and several connections to both America and Disneyland’s history.
12 Facts You Didn’t Know About Rivers of America in Disneyland
- The new bridge pays homage to the Golden Spike. Disneyland recently finished refurbishments on Rivers of America in preparation for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. (Read our article about Star Wars Land in Disneyland for more information). A new bridge over the river and theming was included in this renovation. When riding on the Disneyland Railroad, look close for a plaque on the bridge. The plaque pays homage to the day the Golden Spike was driven down, bringing together the nation.
- Rivers of America in Disneyland showcases different rivers. Major rivers from all four corners of the country are represented at Rivers of America in Disneyland. The plant life, soil and wildlife of each geographic region change to represent the different parts of the country. Look for the different foliage and try to guess which river is being represented: the Mississippi River, Columbia River, Potomac River or Rio Grande River.
- Past attractions are honored throughout. Disney Imagineers almost always leave a small part of earlier attractions to remember by-gone attractions. Look close for remnants on the river banks, including:
- The Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland: A tunnel and track can still be found on the banks of Rivers of America in Disneyland. Other references can also be found on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
- Mike Fink Keel Boats: Once a flat boat attraction, a replica boat and cabin with Mike Fink’s name can still be found.
- The Indian Village: Originally, Disneyland featured native dancers and drummers in this scene along the Disneyland Railroad. The scene has now been moved and features animatronics with a focus on the Shaman. Look closely to figure out the story the Shaman is sharing with the children of the tribe.
- Mark Twain is not who, or what, you think. Prior to Samuel Clemens taking on the name to identify himself as an author, the term Mark Twain was actually a steamboat term. It meant that the river was two fathoms, or 12 feet, deep. A deck hand would shout “Mark Twain!” so the captain would know the water was deep enough and the boat could move “full steam ahead.”
- Take a turn piloting the Mark Twain Riverboat. On occasion, Cast Members will arrange for guests to visit the wheel house to pilot the Mark Twain Riverboat. Ring the bell and pull the steam whistle while you sail around the Rivers of America in Disneyland. The Mark Twain Riverboat was actually the first attraction used at Disneyland as Walt and Lillian celebrated their 30-year anniversary there on July 13, 1955 – just four days before the park opened to the public.
- The Sailing Ship Columbia surely has no boat tracks. The Sailing Ship Columbia is a replica of a ship that once sailed around the globe and discovered the Columbia River. You can jump on deck for a history lesson in sailing or embrace your inner pirate instead. Young sailors especially love exploring the cannons and sails. Ask a cast member if the boat run on tracks and you’ll usually be greeted with a fun answer like, “I have seen dog tracks, cow tracks, even elephant tracks, but I have never seen boat tracks!”
- You can meet “Chief Waves-a-Lot.” The Native American chief welcomes guests to native lands on the banks of Rivers of America in Disneyland. Previously unnamed, the chief is now known as “Chief Waves-a-Lot” and promises safe travels. Look close for all kinds of details, including a medicine man that is a high-tech animatronic similar to the auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean and the President in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
- Travel to Fowler’s Harbor. Joe Fowler, a former Navy Admiral, was responsible for the excavation and creation of Rivers of America in Disneyland. Cast Members still tell the stories of early issues with keeping water in the river and how Fowler fixed it. Today, the Fish and Chowder House across from the Haunted Mansion are called “Fowler’s Harbor” in his honor.
- Try to recognize the flags. Look close for the flags at the dock of Rivers of America in Disneyland. They tell the story of America and its many flags, including:
- The John Cabot Flag, which was the first flag to fly over mainland America.
- The Kings Colors Flag that flew over America during 100 years of English colonization.
- The Grand Union Flag first raised in 1776 by George Washington.
- The Betsy Ross Flag that was one of the early designs of the flag, featuring 13 stars in a circle and 13 stripes.
- The Star-Spangled Banner features another early design with 15 stripes and 15 stars.
- The current American flag flies alongside the Disneyland flag.
- Explore on the Davy Crocket Explorer Canoes. Paddle your way around Rivers of America in Disneyland. Frontier men and women will be there to guide you and tell a yarn or two about their own adventures on the river.
- Be dazzled by Fantasmic! You can’t miss the nighttime spectacular, especially since it’s refurbishment this past year. Find out more about how the new Fantasmic! is different from the old one here. Did you know that the show has been delighting audiences since May 13, 1992? The highlight of the show is when Mickey’s imagination wins the day. Pay close attention as the Mark Twain Riverboat comes sailing by with all your Disney friends – you may just notice that Mickey is in all black and white, paying homage to his early days of Steam Boat Willie.
- Watch the nightly fireworks here. Rivers of America in Disneyland is a great place to watch the fireworks, especially since they recently added projected images on cascading water to match the show. If you watch the early Fantasmic! show, it’s the perfect opportunity to stay where you are and watch the magical fireworks, too.
Great vacations take an excellent navigator to ensure that all the details result in smooth sailing. Get Away Today can navigate you to a trip fit for every member of your family with discount Disneyland tickets, affordable hotel accommodations, and the best tips and tricks. Book online or give our Disney experts a call at 855-GET-AWAY.
Chris Dallin is a Disneyland fanatic. He travels to Disney parks several times a year and continues to find hidden gems, adventure, joy and magic in the Happiest Place on Earth. Tune into future blogs for additional ways to experience the magic of Disney Parks.