Abandoned Disney World

Let’s face it, there are places in this world that most of us could never imagine being abandoned, and Disney World tops that list.

Disney River Country opened as Walt Disney World’s first water park in 1976 and would cease operations in 2001. It was announced shortly after that the park would be closed permanently. Along with Discovery Island, it is one of only two Disney parks in Disney’s history to ever close permanently. Both of the parks were left to slowly decay and to succumb to Mother Nature, leaving behind a beautiful apocalyptic landscape. Abandoned places always fascinated me, especially abandoned amusement parks.


Next month will mark 40 years since the opening day of River Country. I wanted to capture powerful images that would show this eerie, abandoned Disney park, but I wanted it to be absolutely beautiful at the same time.

Seph Lawless Disney

Seph Lawless Disney

Over the years, I have created apocalyptic imagery of abandoned places all across America, many of which shocked people who never thought these places ever existed. Most of these images are depressing but thought provoking, nonetheless. They are like the twisted car wreck on the side of a freeway that we all slow down as we pass and find ourselves staring at the scene before accelerating back to work. People just can’t seem to avoid looking at my images, even though they may not want to look. It isn’t just a morbid fascination, either. For most, my images bring back personal memories in ways words could never do. Other times, my images spark political debate and even awareness to various social issues that America faces.


Not all of my photo projects have a deep underlying message, but, undoubtedly, Disney World symbolizes a powerful company, so why not repurpose this land into something helping the environment instead of just slowly decaying?



I rented a boat on Bay Lake and it was a beautiful experience being able to legally photograph these places. Using a high powered lens you can really zoom in and feel like you are on the island or slipping down a water slide. I also used a new robotic drone from Autel Robotics that allows me to connect my GoPro to it and get even more amazing images.

You cannot trespass on Disney properties that are restricted and we encourage you to rent Disney boats and legally take images if you wish to take photographs similar to these.

To view Full Gallery Click Here

Update: Seph has, in fact, been banned from Disney World Properties after releasing images of two abandoned sections of Disney World in Florida. Lawless’ lawyers were sent a cease and desist letter asking Lawless to halt purportedly illegal activity involving the property and images he took of the property itself. Lawless’ legal team has responded to the letter and plan on challenging the Disney Corporation stronghold in what Lawless describes as a deliberate sabotage of ones true artistic freedom.

Until, that matter is resolved no images will be for sale individually, but will be in his book here called Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks by Seph Lawless Available Now on Amazon

There are 14 comments

  1. Cheryl Frischkorn

    You captured a shattered Dream. It is amazing to imagine it be that spit shine of the parks 1st dream, then nothing is forever is the reality. You capture magic Seph.

  2. Toni Stroud

    I think the overgrown flume with the beautiful flowers growing here and there is my favorite. It really reminds us that in everything there is beauty if you just look for it. Thanks again for sharing your amazing work.

  3. Lisa Jonsson

    Absolutely beautiful. Very well written and the photo’s…I hope to always see your work out there, reminding us of who we are and the we in fact are very human. Thanks Seph!

  4. Britney

    You brought so much beauty to something we’ve watched the earth almost completely swallow over the last 15 years. As kids we enjoyed every minute of our time at both River Country & Discovery Island, and we’ve been watching (from a safe distance in our water-mice on Bay Lake) as these attractions continue to go untouched. We’ve asked a number of Cast Members and Park Officials over the years why both of these parks were closed (so suddenly) and what their plans are for these properties, and we continue to receive the exact same blanket answer from everyone – there was no longer a need for these out of date attractions. That response would be believable, if they didn’t continue to let the properties simultaneously deteriorate for 15 years. Thank you for bringing back so many fond memories from a land that we truly thought was lost, and we are so very sorry to hear the price you had to pay to share these hauntingly beautiful images with the world.

  5. Ada

    Rather than put these places , I would go with backpack and ropes. No modern machinery !!!.
    Please: not modernize these places !!!.

  6. Adrián

    Están increibles, tus trabajos son épicos!
    They are incredible, your works are epic!

  7. Sherry

    I was SAD seeing such BEAUTY turned into a abandoned place now. The beauty you captured is truly amazing, like a secret place in fairytale land that the lost boys would be. Too bad someone didn’t buy some of the stuff to make a home out of. Now it’s all rotted or taken over by nature ?

  8. phyllis wilding

    That mess needs to be cleaned up in Disney World that’s how all the alligators get in it’s disgusting that they don’t block that off is it in the legal that they don’t have it blocked off being that the alligators and crocodiles love to live in the swamp water like that

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