01 March 2011

Fire canoe

Once upon a time, there were two ships that sailed the waterways of the Rivers of America. The remarkable craft cost a single D-ticket to board and take a slow float downriver.

The first riverboat, which made port in Liberty Square on October 2, 1971, a day after the Magic Kingdom opened, was given the moniker of Admiral Joe Fowler. The ship was named Joe Fowler, who was found by Walt Disney himself when he was searching for someone to build a steamboat for Disneyland. Instead Fowler would go on to take part in the construction of both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Project. The Magic Kingdom vessel named for Fowler would only sail until 1980, when a dry dock incident irreparably damaged the hull.

The second ship began plying the canals between Liberty Square and Frontierland on May 20, 1973. Known as the Richard F. Irvine, the riverboat was named for an art director turned Imagineer. The boat sailed as the Richard F. Irvine, as seen in this 1985 photograph, until 1996 when the ship was rechristened the Liberty Belle and continues to sail on the Rivers of America to this day.

While there is only a solitary ship plying the rivers of the Magic Kingdom these days, the names of these graceful craft live on. The Admiral Joe Fowler and the Richard F. Irvine currently sail to and fro across the Seven Seas Lagoon alongside the General Joe Potter as the renamed Magic Kingdom I, II, and III ferryboats.

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