History, Walt Disney World

Today in Disney History: Liberty Square Riverboat Opened at Walt Disney World 

On October 2, 1971, the Liberty Square Riverboat attraction shuttled its first riders along the Rivers of America waterway inside the Magic Kingdom. 

Based on the Mark Twain Riverboat attraction at Disneyland, you can find the Florida version of this three-tiered paddlewheel steamship between Liberty Square and Frontierland. Your journey along the river will take around Tom Sawyer Island and provides scenic park views you can’t get anywhere else. For example, it’s a great way to get a unique shot of The Haunted Mansion.


The original ship, the Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat ran from 1971 through 1980. This ship was named after a Disneyland and WDW construction manager.It was accidentally destroyed in 1980 when it fell from a crane into a dry dock.

The sister ship, the Richard F. Irvine Riverboat – named after a WED supervisor – ran from 1973 until 1996. After an extensive refurbishment, the Richard F. Irvine reopened as the Liberty Belle, which continues to this day.

5 Fun Facts About the Liberty Square Riverboat

  1. Guided through the river on a track hidden under the water.
  2. River water is dyed green and brown to better hide the track.
  3. Draws only 18 inches of water to move around the river.
  4. Burns biodiesel fuel. 
  5. Continuously heats water to create steam, which generates the power needed to turn the paddle wheel.

Other Parks

Riverboat attractions can be found in other Disney parks around the world.

In Disneyland you’ll find the Mark Twain Riverboat, Disneyland Paris has the Thunder Mesa riverboats, and Tokyo Disneyland has a Mark Twain Riverboat. The Tokyo version is so large, it’s required to be registered by law.

Should You Ride It?

The Liberty Square Riverboat is great for a break from the crowds at Walt Disney World. The line is generally short and it can hold approximately 450 guests, so you’re almost sure to make it on. If you see a long line, wait about 30 minutes and come back.

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