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Disneyland river to run again

Rivers of America was drained in January for maintenance, depriving visitors of access to Tom Sawyer Island.

May 05, 2010|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

For months, the rafts that ferry Disneyland guests across the waterway to Tom Sawyer Island have been idle. No children have explored the island's caves, scaled its climbing rocks or run across its bridges.

But the island won't be lonely much longer. Park employees will refill the Rivers of America, drained in January for maintenance, this week. The draining took almost a week, at the end of which this question was answered: What do you find at the bottom of an amusement park basin after seven years?

The answer: a computer tower, hundreds of cellphones, countless pacifiers and half a canoe, said Disneyland Resort spokesman John McClintock.

While it was empty, employees repainted, replaced and cleaned park features along the shore, basin and island. In the past, the drained water went into the ocean. To minimize the environmental impact this time, the park collaborated with the Orange County Water District and drained the water through a valve, purified it and added it to the county's reserve.

"You bank the water and get the water back," said Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Betsy Sanchez.

That's about 6 million gallons of water saved, park officials figured. The island and the waterway, which used to be stocked with fish, are as old as Disneyland itself. The park opened in 1955, and photos show Walt Disney on the bank of the island with a fishing pole in hand, McClintock said.

The Mark Twain riverboat, which navigates the waterway along with the sailing ship Columbia, was one of the park's earliest attractions. Among the structures due for maintenance were the ship's tracks — something Disney officials were reluctant to admit.

"Because of the illusion, we don't really talk about the tracks," McClintock said.

In the wake of the success of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, Tom Sawyer Island has been revamped to include references to treasure hunts and other buccaneer exploits, alongside references to Mark Twain's classic characters.

River-related attractions, including the ships and rafts, will be back up and running in coming days, Sanchez said — just in time for the park's warm-weather rush.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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