A ride on the Liberty Belle sternwheeler around the Rivers of America is a trip through time. Not only are you transported back to the days of Mark Twain when mighty river boats were the engines of commerce for much of America, but you literally slow down your visit and experience 15 minutes of doing nothing but watching the world go by until you return to Liberty Square to debark.
This is part of the magic of theme parks that Walt Disney understood. Right from the beginning of his ideas that became Disneyland, you could see a ride on a paddleboat as a key part of the experience.
Like the rest of the Magic Kingdom, the Liberty Belle was built 50 years ago. That means it needs frequent maintenance to keep it in show ready condition.
Disney World recently took advantage of low attendance at the Magic Kingdom’s due to the pandemic to do a little work around the Rivers of America. That involved draining the mighty river. But before they could do that, the Liberty Belle would have to be sailed on an unusual journey outside of the Magic Kingdom for its own refurbishment.
Repairs like the ones just finished have to be done in a dry dock. Disney, as it turns out, owns just such a dry dock. The only hitch is, it’s located on Bay Lake (the original Central Florida lake Walt chose to build his theme park next to).
To get there, the riverboat is tugged from the Rivers of America, through a special canal, out into the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon, over the water bridge and behind The Contemporary Resort into Bay Lake and the watercraft facility toward the west end of the lake.
Then when the repairs were done, this delicate process was reversed. Watch a fun time-lapse video of the Liberty Belle’s journey right here:
The ship came back to the Rivers of America a few days ago and it looks great. All the wood work is freshly treated and the engines are purring like kittens as they pump the sternwheeler and propel the Liberty Belle around the waterway.
We visited the Magic Kingdom for the first time since the Liberty Belle returned and couldn’t resist hopping onboard for an adventure. At the time we livestreamed it to our Facebook page, but you can rewatch it here:
If you want to channel your inner Mark Twain, then take a ride on Disney’s 47-foot sternwheeler, we can’t recommend it enough.