Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Empty Rivers of America from Lou and Sue

Here are three snapshots from 1984, courtesy of Lou and Sue! All three feature the Rivers of America when it was drained - always fascinating to look at as far as I'm concerned.

For one thing, you can see just how shallow the river is... it appears that there would be no more than about 4 feet of water, maybe 5 or 6 in the deepest parts. We get a good look at the track that guided the Mark Twain in this first image.

After looking at the first photo, I thought that the river had been lined with cement at this point, but that muddy tire track says otherwise. Fantasmic wouldn't come along for another 8 years, but I'm not sure what that structure is in the upper left. Just a landing for the rafts?

There's Cascade Peak, which would continue to grace the riverbank until 1998. I tried to see if any major Frontierland projects were under way in 1984, but as far as I can tell, there really wasn't much that would warrant a complete draining of the river. So this must have just been routine maintenance.

Thank you, Lou and Sue!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Since TokyoMagic! mentioned the Rollin' River Revue, I thought I would do a late addition - Mike Cozart has graciously shared some photos from the Rollin' River Revue, circa 1981 (he mentioned it in the comments of THIS POST). I'd never heard of that Revue before - or, more likely, I had and forgot about it. 

Why, there are some of the sparkliest cowboys and cowgals you ever saw! Are they doing the "Electric Slide"? At first I thought they were aboard a Tom Sawyer Island raft that was slowly passing by, but...

...the raft seems to be in the same position in this next picture. So I guess it was being used as a floating, non-moving stage somehow. Anyway, here are three enthusiastic banjo players, all dressed in sherbet ice cream colors. I'm assuming that they were miming along to a pre-recorded track.

And finally, here's a general shot of the stage that was added to the end of the island, way before the "Fantasmic!" monstrosity was built. There's about a dozen singers (give or take). Right after this photo was taken, they all dove into the water and performed a water ballet a lá Busby Berkely.

MANY THANKS to Mike Cozart for sharing these rare photos!


TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I believe that's the stage that was used for the "Rollin' River Revue" and other performances "on the river." Although, I think there was another part to that stage that actually did float out in front of the part that we can see. Perhaps it was removed because of the draining of the river? That is the stage where I saw Pearl Bailey perform. It's also the stage where I saw Sister Sledge perform on my Grad Nite.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I know that I posted a link here last Wednesday, to an entertainment guide showing Pearl Bailey performing on the "River Stage" during the "Rollin' River Revue."

Here is a link to the entertainment guide for my Grad Nite, listing Sister Sledge as performing on the "River Stage."

Grad Nite Entertainment Schedule - Show Listings

Andrew said...

I've seen pictures like this before, but these are still cool to see! The maintenance workers should've built a little Monorail train and used the Mark Twain rail to their advantage for transport...

stu29573 said...

Ah yes, the great drought of '84. No water for miles. The dry river did allow them to remove most of the U-boats. However, they respawned a couple of years later (u-boats multiply like rabbits!). You can see them lob an occasional torpedo during Fantasmic. It's true!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Some of the best photos I've seen of the drained river, and ones that clearly show that the river was never "10 or 15 feet deep," as posters on other sites have frequently stated.

K. Martinez said...

I would've loved to have been able to walk through the entire Rivers of America when it was drained and empty like this. Thanks, Lou and Sue for the great pics. And thanks to you too, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, thanks for your comment - I decided to add some photos that Mike Cozart recently sent to me - rare views of the Rollin’ River Revue. Maybe they should have gotten their own post, but it seemed so perfect to add them today. It’s weird to think that when you saw Sister Sledge, “We Are Family” wasn’t even that old!

TokyoMagic!, thank you for the link to the scan of your Grad Nite entertainment guide!

Penna. Andrew, they should just build a little Monorail, one that you sit on top of (but it otherwise looks just like the 1959 iteration). I want that ride now.

stu29573, as the river level got lower and lower, an entire town that had been flooded years ago was revealed. I had no idea that U-boats respawned… Nature is so amazing!

Steve DeGaetano, it does not surprise me that folks have said that the river is 10 or 15 feet deep, but where do they get those “facts”, I always wonder. And why do they believe them so deeply? It says something about human nature, I’d say.

K. Martinez, it would be an odd sensation to walk through the River path, since you would be much lower than usual; maybe your eyeline would be even with the riverbank much of the time, instead of 20 feet above it while on the Mark Twain. But that would make it cool!

JG said...

Dry me a River (of America).

I'm always in the market for dry river pics. I remember one childhood visit where the river was drained, based on the GDB photos in a long-ago post, it must have been 1971. I was very disappointed, no Tom Sawyer, no steam boat rides.

I'm always amazed to read the numbers of cameras, sunglasses, baby shoes and other jetsam, now including cell phones, that are recovered in these operations.

That tire track is informative, Major. Like you, I assumed a concrete bottom, somewhat like a swimming pool, by this late date. But it appears to be plain old clay dirt. I read somewhere that initially the river leaked due to percolation into the native soil. This required draining and installation of a cap layer to keep the water in the basin. Concrete is one way to do it, but heavy clay soil with the correct properties can be used too. Looks like WED used the dirt method, at least up to this date. I've always wondered if there was a way to get heavy equipment onto the island without draining the river, maybe there isn't. Perhaps the maintenance department has a Bailey Bridge hidden in the fort.

Thanks to Mike Cozart for those rare pics of the River Revue, undoubtedly the forerunner of the much-lamented Fantasmic, but still fun to see. And to Lou and Sue for an entertaining glimpse "below-stage".


JC Shannon said...

You gotta admit that the river illusion is so good, that it didn't need to be very deep. I am amazed every time I see a photo of ROA drained. I also do not remember a show on the river. I guess I was too busy doing kid stuff to notice. Thanks to Lou and Sue and Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Thanks, Mike Cozart (& Major), for sharing these pictures!

Those outfits are interesting and colorful! Because of the colors, I instantly thought of Dunkin' Donuts . . . and then did an internet search to see if folks in California even have Dunkin' Donuts (before I added this comment). The internet told me that, yes, they are in California - but are called "Dunkin'" - just "Dunkin'". They sell donuts in their California stores - but the word "donuts" scares folks away?? In the midwest, it draws us in! :)

Seeing how shallow that river is, anyone can easily put a Mark Twain in their own backyard. ;)
Everything practically floats on a giant puddle. (It truly is amazing how realistic this area looks when you add the water!)


K. Martinez said...

I remember this show. Thanks for sharing the pics, Mike Cozart. It definitely brings up great memories of when Disneyland's west side had entertainment, but still relatively quiet evenings. Now I can't stand Disneyland at night when all the evening shows are running.

TokyoMagic! said...

I wonder if a performer every fell off of that stage and into the water!

Major, I remember asking one of the Tom Sawyer Island raft pilots, how deep the Rivers of America were. He said just what you had estimated....that at it's deepest point in the middle, it's about 6 ft.

Is that first photo showing us that there was some concrete on the river bed? It looks like there is a path of cement underneath the track. Although, it doesn't appear to show up in the second photo and in the third photo, it appears to end just past the boat dock. Maybe there was just a concrete "pad" at the docking area, for some reason?

Also, whenever they do a job like this, in addition to all the lost items that are removed, like JG mentioned, I believe there is some silt that is also removed from the bottom of the river bed.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, the dry river is similar to the dry sub lagoon - there’s just something about being able to see something that’s normally obscured by water! I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the park when the river was dry, but I have seen the lagoon when it was empty. I would love to know what truly unexpected items have been found in the muck. False teeth? Underwear? FabergĂ© Easter eggs? I have read that at some point early on, the riverbed was sprayed with a layer of clay that rendered it more or less waterproof, but of course it is now cement, like the largest swimming pool.

Jonathan, yes, the river illusion IS good. Or great! Whatever they added to make it look muddy and opaque really worked. I’m not as crazy about the blue/green dye used now, but it’s a minor gripe.

Lou and Sue, Dunkin’ Donuts? I used to go to Dunkin’ Donuts when I was a kid (on the east coast). We only just got them in SoCal fairly recently. I think I read that they removed the name “Donuts” because they also sell sandwiches and other junk. They used to have a whipped-cream filled donut that was my favorite thing in the world, so sad they did away with those. And the chocoloate whipped cream filled donuts? Whoo-eee!

K. Martinez, did you see the “Rollin’ Revue”? I know I didn’t, although the early 80’s dates mean that I theoretically could have (having moved back to California from Pennsylvania). And Amen to what the evening shows have done to Frontierland.

TokyoMagic!, it MUST have happened! I mean, rock singers and Broadway actors fall off stages from time to time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the track for the boats was anchored to something more solid like a “sidewalk” of concrete. I wonder how deep it had to go into the earth to be stable with large vessels like those? I would think it would have to be along the entire route, but I’m just talking out of my hat. I’m sure lots of silt has to be removed, my mom’s barrels for gathering rain water get an inch or two of stinky mud in just one season.

Dean Finder said...

I'm impressed that the MT only needs a few feet of draft even even fully loaded with passengers. Then again, I guide at a canal museum and the boats there only needed a few feet of water to support a hundred ton load. I'd have guessed the 3 decks would be less stable, but I'm no Joe Fowler, and that man knew his business

JG said...

@Tokyo, the concrete piers visible under the track are undoubtedly a foundation supporting the track.

I'm not sure what magnitude of loads are transferred to the track rail by the ride vehicles, but they are probably substantial at the turns.

Photo 1 and 3 show what looks like a slab extending out on each side of the rail, this is approximately equal to the location of the boats at the dock. The slab looks like it starts about at the turn. The rail or track has extra supports and the concrete piers are closer together than we see in photo 2.

Photo 2 is somewhat downstream of the dock, looks like the rail or track is now supported every few feet on a concrete pier, no slab. I think we see the same thing in Photo 1 upstream of the dock.

I'm going to guess that the concrete piers supporting the track are drilled into the soil some distance, may 6 feet or so. This design uses the soil pressure on the drilled pier to resist lateral loads imposed from the turning ride vehicle. On the straight runs of track, the piers might be shallower, or farther apart, or both.

I think the slabs are provided at the dock area to stabilize the bottom in an area with a lot of activity, keeping the soil from getting churned up by equipment as we see happening in photo 2.

Major, you are right, there is tremendous fascination with seeing these hidden "below-stage" areas. I was looking at some of the photos of the submarine lagoon yesterday after reading this post, the Sub track is quite different from the River track and seems to have a continuous concrete curb under the rail. By the time the subs came on-line, WED had plenty of experience with boats on tracks, so there are undoubtedly refinements. I would not be surprised if the subs transferred higher structural loads to their tracks since the turns are tighter, but I have no idea how the sub vehicles compare in size, length or weight/displacement to those on the River. Mark Twain is probably the biggest and heaviest.

Thanks again for this interesting post.