“Look, they’re refilling it,” said one mother to her daughter as they peeked through the temporary fence Disneyland set up in front of New Orleans Square around the famous waterway surrounding Tom Sawyer Island.
The hose, set on the dock of the Mark Twain Riverboat, had by the afternoon raised the water level to near the top of the paddlewheeler’s guide rail at the river’s bottom.
While some Disneyland guests peeked through the cracks of the fence, others caught a view of the slow-moving process from atop the bridge near the entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
“The ducks are already swimming in it,” said a daughter to her father from the bridge.
Rivers of America had been empty for four months so that workers could make improvements, including the replacement of the entire track that guides the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia on their trips around the river. Read more about the Disneyland river refilling in a previous story.
Crews turned on the water shortly after 9 a.m., said Betsy Sanchez, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman. The river is scheduled to re-open for visitors on Saturday.
When emptied over seven days, the Rivers of America’s 6 million gallons of water went to a recycling facility instead of being dumped into the ocean, as Disney used to do. The last draining of the rivers was in 2003. This time, most of the water was sent to holding ponds, where it seeped into the groundwater for future use.
“They are theoretically getting some of this water back,” said Mike Markus, general manager of the Orange County Water District. “There’s a certain cycle to it. They drained it, we treated it, it became part of (the) groundwater basin, and they are extracting it.”
(Disney first used the recycling process when it emptied Paradise Bay in Disney’s California Adventure for the installation of the upcoming World of Color show.)
While the riverbed was dry, crews replaced the boat tracks, rehabilitated attractions and added a few features to the shoreline. Blue construction walls obstructed most of the view for visitors.
One of the new features is a keel boat near the settler’s cabin on Tom Sawyer’s Island. The keel boat will belong to Mike Fink, a character from Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett television series. Fink is supposed to take up residence in the cabin that used to be known as the Burning Settler’s Cabin.
“It’s good that he purchased that old burned-out property and fixed it up,” said Werner Weiss of Yesterland.com, a website devoted to past Disneyland attractions, playing along with the tale.
The river will also get some new deer and Indian figures, as well as new landscaping depicting areas of four American waterways: the Mississippi, Columbia, Rio Grande and Potomac.
The following attractions have been closed since January: Mark Twain Riverboat, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer’s Island, Sailing Ship Columbia and Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes. All attractions, except for the riverboat, are scheduled to resume Saturday. Visitors are expected to go back on the riverboat May 21.
Check back later in the week for more details about what will be added to the river.
Sarah Tully helped report and write this story.
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