Explore the Refurbished Rivers of America at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom


Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom recently refilled its Rivers of America after an extensive refurbishment, so we’re taking you on a Liberty Belle riverboat cruise around Tom Sawyer Island to welcome the return of these classic attractions.

The attractions around the Magic Kingdom’s Rivers of America are back from an extended refurbishment and looking better than ever. (Photos/videos by Seth Kubersky)

Last October, Disney completely drained the Rivers of America—which connect the Liberty Square and Frontierland areas in the Magic Kingdom’s northwest corner—for the first time in 25 years.

Removing the water allowed workers to replace the railing that guides the Liberty Square Riverboat, known as the Liberty Belle, as well as clean and reinforce the riverbed. However, the refurbishment created a bit of an eyesore for four months and took two all-ages attractions out of operation.

In early February, the Rivers of America were finally refilled, and the Liberty Belle returned to her rightful place in an elaborate overnight operation.

Now that the Rivers of America are rolling again, let’s start by taking a cruise on the Liberty Square Riverboat, which we captured from the bow of the Liberty Belle in 4K HDR for this POV video:

As you can see, the Liberty Belle received a fresh coat of paint and polish and is looking better than ever. It’s only notable new adornments are the omnipresent social distancing markers directing parties to remain at least 6 feet apart while onboard.

Sailings depart from the Liberty Square dock on the hour and half hour throughout the day. Although in pre-pandemic times it was usually possible to board until moments before departure, due to social distancing you should arrive 10 to 15 minutes prior to embarkation, especially if you want a spot along the front rail.

Also keep in mind that guests needing special assistance board on the boat’s bottom level, while all others enter at the middle deck; everybody disembarks at the lowest deck.

Since seeing Tom Sawyer Island from the riverboat probably made you eager to explore that freshly reopened attraction, let’s now take a raft across the river and enjoy this complete POV tour:

Few major changes are noticeable on the newly refurbished Tom Sawyer Island, with the exception of Harper’s Mill, which got a thorough exterior refurbishment to replace rotted wood.

The Harper’s Mill name is currently missing from the side of the building, but we were happy to see that the owl is still roosting inside!

One significant element of Tom Sawyer Island remains absent. The famous floating barrel bridge, which guests have enjoyed bouncing on for nearly 50 years, has been removed for the time being, and pathways leading towards it are blocked off. Additionally, the small tree fort playground at the island’s highest peak remains off-limits, similar to other high-touch features around the theme parks.

Fortunately, the rest of the island is available for exploration, including Fort Langhorn and all three of the dark tunnels.

Finally, a word of warning: Capacity on the rafts required to reach Tom Sawyer Island has been slashed from 55 guests per trip to a dozen or less. While this attraction rarely created long lines in the past, plan on waiting at least 20 minutes each for the outbound and return voyages.

If the queue extends along this bridge, bet on at least a 30-minute wait, if not longer.

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


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