One of my favorite ways to take a step back, enjoy the scenery, and relax while in the Magic Kingdom Park can be found majestically floating through the Rivers of America. The Liberty Square Riverboat takes guests on a scenic tour along the river and offers unique glimpses of the park along the way.
The attraction opened one day after the Magic Kingdom Park on October 2, 1971, and originally featured two different riverboats- the Richard F. Irvine and the Admiral Joe Fowler. Both men were instrumental in helping with the construction and completion of the Magic Kingdom Park and were honored in Liberty Square. In fact, Irvine is the former Vice-president and Director of Design for WED. However while being refurbished at one point, the Admiral Joe Fowler was damaged in dry dock and never returned to the Rivers of America. In 1996, the Richard F. Irvine was renamed the Liberty Belle. While the two men are no longer honored with riverboats named after them, they are honored with two of the three ferries that run from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom Park.
While the Liberty Belle travels throughout the Magic Kingdom Park, various versions can be found around the world. The Disneyland attraction is named the Mark Twain Riverboat and fell short of funding while it was originally being built. In order to complete the project, Walt Disney paid out of pocket, allowing construction to finish on time. In Disneyland Paris the attraction is named the Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing and features two riverboats- the Mark Twain and the Molly Brown. Finally, guests can also find the attraction in Tokyo Disneyland where it is named the Mark Twain Riverboat.
The Magic Kingdom Park version of the Liberty Square Riverboat was inspired by colonial American styles and was built in the Walt Disney World Central Shops. It is an actual steam powered boat that is an impressive forty seven feet tall with four tiers to hold up to 450 guests at a time. The first tier is the Main Deck where guests can find the broiler and the pistons that power the paddlewheel. One level up is the Texas Deck, or Sun Deck, which allows for some of the best views along the Rivers of America. The third tier is the Promenade Deck where guests can view a salon, photos, and maps. Finally, the top tier features the wheelhouse and the Captain’s quarters.
Once on board, guests can look forward to a scenic seventeen minute ride which covers about a half mile in the Rivers of America. Along the way, the sights are narrated by Mark Twain who tells of the inventions of transportation and offers some witty advice including to not lean over the railings as the “river doesn’t take too kindly to strangers.” Once the riverboat is moving, guests can look down and try to spot the track which it runs along. It can be hard to find as the Rivers of America are colored to be a dark brown to both look authentic and to camouflage the track.
Once the journey is under way, guests are first treated to sweeping views of Liberty Square and Frontierland along with an ever-present view of Tom Sawyer Island. There are some great photo opportunities of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; however, some of the best views come once the riverboat passes Big Thunder and curves around the Rivers of America to a spot most guests can’t see from the main paths of the parks. Here guests can take in such sights as a small dock with a man relaxing in his rocking chair, a Native American settlement, Wilson’s Cave, and some wildlife scattered in the grass and trees. One of the best views of the entire journey comes at the very end with an up close and sweeping view of the Haunted Mansion.
While the Liberty Square Riverboat might sometimes be overlooked by guests in favor of bigger attractions such as Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, it offers a great chance to take a step back and enjoy unique views of the park in a relaxing setting. If you haven’t gone for a cruise on the Rivers of America before, I highly recommend stopping by on your next visit to the Magic Kingdom Park!
(Photo from the author’s personal collection.)
Do you enjoy riding on the Liberty Square Riverboat? Have a favorite view or place to stand on the boat? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.