Water at Walt Disney World — Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead

Last Monday I wrote how the Walt Disney World property was crisscrossed with canals and levees to help maintain water integrity. I also discussed the many water features found in the Magic Kingdom and how these help add atmosphere to the park. Today I’m going to take a look at Epcot.

Unlike the Magic Kingdom, Epcot does not have a beautiful lake at its front doorstep. However, it does have one of the flood canals running through its parking lot. It’s not particularly inviting, but Disney has lined it with grassy slopes and oak and pine trees.

Epcot Parking Lot

Epcot Parking Lot

In front of Spaceship Earth is a large fountain. For many years, a Lucite piece of art graced the top of this structure. In later years it was removed and the fountain’s smooth tile surface was replaced with textured stones and rocks.

Entrance Fountain

Entrance Fountain

Entrance Fountain

Entrance Fountain

In Innoventions Courtyard is a large fountain. On EPCOT Center’s opening day, representatives from 22 countries each poured a gallon of water from their homeland into the fountain. On Epcot’s 25th Anniversary, cast members from the eleven World Showcase countries repeated this symbolic act.

Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain

The original fountain was refurbished in 1993. At that time, 304 nozzles and water cannons were added with the ability to propel water over 150 feet in the air. It took three months of computer programing to design the water ballets that run every 15 minutes. At night, the fountain comes alive with 1,068 colored lights that are also synchronized with the water cannons and music. The fountain measures 180 x 120 foot oval and holds over 108,000 gallons of water.

Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain

At “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” we see waves crash against jagged rocks while seagulls call out “Mine, mine, mine.” Over at the Land Pavilion, water flows behind the letters on the marquee and a small river meanders beneath lush foliage. (Both were dry when I took these pictures.)

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion

When the Land Pavilion opened, a large fountain graced the food court seating area. It was removed a few years ago to enlarge the Sunshine Seasons dining room. I know by today’s standards this fountain was dated, but I miss it.

Old Land Fountain

Although not a “water feature” as such, water is described in the “Living with the Land” attraction. We are told how rainfall and erosion shape and nourish the land.

Living with the Land

Living with the Land

The Imagineers wanted guests visiting the Imagination Pavilion to open their minds to new inventive ideas. To that end, they created three water features to spark our imaginations. The first is the upside-down waterfall. Where else can you see water flow up?

upside-down waterfall

upside-down waterfall

The next is an artistic fountain.

Imagination Fountain

And finally, there are the Leap Fountains.

Leap Fountains

Leap Fountains

Leap Fountains

Meandering through the west side of Future World are a number of ponds. In the early years, these ponds looked more like shallow swimming pools with concrete bottoms painted pale blue. Approximately 13-14 years ago, the Imagineers lined the bottoms of the ponds with river rocks. This gave the pools a natural, more relaxed feel and helped move Future World away from the “concrete era” futurists once predicted. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any ‘before’ pictures to share with you.)

Future World West Ponds

Future World West Ponds

The east side of Future World has very few water features. One of these is located just beyond Mouse Gear as you enter this section of the park. Here we find a splash and play area for the kids.

Splash and Play Area

Over at the Energy Pavilion we find a reflection pool that bounces light off of the adjacent mirrored tiles.

Energy Pavilion

And behind Test Track we find Cool Wash. This Coca-Cola concession stand spritzes a refreshing mist on hot and tired guests when the weather is warm.

Cool Wash

Cool Wash

Cool Wash

The bridge that connects Future World with World Showcase crosses a small lake. To my knowledge, this body of water has no official name. Although I cannot substantiate this, I have read that the Imagineers discovered a sinkhole in this area when designing the park so they opted to put a lake here as the area was unsuitable for building.

During the annual Flower and Garden show, the gardeners line the banks of this lake with colorful flowers and float more blooms in the water.

Transition between Future World and World Showcase

Transition between Future World and World Showcase

On the bridge is another splash and play area for the kids.

Splash and Play Area

Of course, the biggest water feature at Epcot is the World Showcase Lagoon.

World Showcase Lagoon

If you’ve pay attention, you might notice that every World Showcase country extends to World Showcase Lagoon and takes advantage of this water. Let’s start with the Canada Pavilion.

Reference material tells us that this area was designed to resemble the rugged Canadian eastern seaboard. And it certainly does. However, I’ve often wondered if the Imagineers might also have been trying to suggest the Bay of Fundy as seen in the O’Canada movie.

Canada Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

Canada Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

Canada Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

As we venture into the upper levels of the Canada Pavilion, we find an observation deck. “Pull-outs” like these are common on mountain roads in the U.S. and Canada and provide travelers with a way to “slow down and smell the roses.” At the Canada Pavilion, this observation deck provides guests with a panoramic view of Disney’s version of the Rocky Mountains and Salmon Island.

It’s interesting to note, the waterfall’s intensity varies from day to day and season to season. The Imagineers would tell you it depends on the snow melt, but the truth is, Disney is concerned with your comfort. When the falls are at peak capacity, guests will get damp as mist and droplets splash them as they pass by. This is all and good during most of the year in Florida. But we do have some cooler times and when the temperatures drop, so does the water flow. Here we see pictures of both the wet and dry season.

Rocky Mountains Dry

Rocky Mountains Wet

This waterfall feeds a roaring stream and two ponds. One pond is near the Maple Leaf Mine, the other in the middle of Victoria Gardens.

Canada Stream

Maple Leaf Mine

Victoria Gardens

Next door to the Canada Pavilion, the United Kingdom Pavilion uses the World Showcase Lagoon to recreate one of the locks of the Grand Union Canal. The Grand Union Canal stretches 137 miles from London to Birmingham with branches that reach Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton. Along its route are 166 locks. This canal was used for the transport of goods (primarily coal and building materials) between communities.

Grand Union Canal

There is only one water feature within the UK Pavilion. This is a small fountain found outside the restrooms.

UK Fountain

At the France Pavilion, the World Showcase Lagoon represents the banks of the Seine. Here you can see an easel and painting. If you study the painting carefully, you’ll notice a budding artist is creating an impressionistic interpretation of International Gateway across the river.

Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine

For me, one of the most beautiful fountains at Walt Disney World can be found in the France Pavilion. I love to sit on the edge of this structure and people watch.

France Pavilion Fountain

At the Morocco Pavilion, an old water wheel once brought water from World Showcase Lagoon to feed the Chahar Bagh (Persian for four gardens). The classic design of a Chahar Bagh has a fountain or holding trough at the center of the garden which flows into four channels at right angles to each other. The four channels are often associated with the four rivers of Paradise as described in the Koran. These waters flow to the four quarters of Heaven.

Old Water Wheel

Chahar Bagh

Chahar Bagh

Recently, the Chahar Bagh was removed to make way for the new Spice Road Table. However, the Imagineers left the waterwheel. Although, without the nearby Chahar Bagh, it has no logical reason to exist. But don’t despair. The waterwheel may not be useful anymore, but it is still a distinctive part of the Morocco Pavilion. When seated at the bar within Spice Road Table, it serves as a lovely moving backdrop behind the colorful bottles.

Waterwheel Exterior

Waterwheel Exterior

Waterwheel Interior

In the Ville Nouvelle (new city) portion of the Morocco Pavilion is a lovely “town square” fountain. In the Medina, or old city, a replica of the Nejjarine Fountain can be found. This second fountain would be used by the townspeople to fill their pales with drinking water.

Morocco Fountain

Morocco Fountain

Fez House is a recreation of a traditional Moroccan home built around a central courtyard. From the courtyard are a number of rooms which can be opened and closed depending on the need for privacy. In the main room is another fountain.

Fez House Fountain

A beautiful torii gate graces the shores of the World Showcase Lagoon in front of the Japan Pavilion. This Shinto icon is fashioned after the one found off the rocky coast of Itsukushima Island in southern Japan.

Torii Gate

Notice the barnacles at the base of the torii gate. This is a realistic representation as the original sits in the salty Inland Sea.


A typical Japanese garden contains a number of elements in its design. These include water, rocks & sand, bridges, architecture, lanterns, fences, trees & flowers, and fish. At the Japan Pavilion, we see the beginnings of this meticulous garden near the outdoor seating area of Katsura Grill. Here we find cascading water adds a tranquil sound for diners as it gathers in a pond then begins its journey downhill and beneath several bridges.

Japan Pavilion Water Feature

Japan Pavilion Water Feature

Japan Pavilion Water Feature

As the water continues, it tumbles over more falls and ends up in a serene koi pond.

Koi Pond

The last water feature in the Japan Pavilion can be found surrounding the castle. Here, a mote protects this mighty structure from invaders.

Castle Mote

At the American Adventure we see the Golden Dream sailing ship anchored on the shores of World Showcase Lagoon.

Golden Dream

The only water feature within the pavilion is a simple fountain. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that the fountain is turned off when any shows or presentations are staged nearby. This reduces the background noise greatly. During the holiday season, this fountain is often covered and replaced with a Christmas tree.

American Adventure Fountain

American Adventure Fountain

The World Showcase Lagoon plays host to Venice at the Italy Pavilion. A canal, arched bridges, and a gondola can be seen here.

Venice Canal

Also in the Venetian section of the pavilion is an unassuming fountain.

Venetian Fountain

But if you venture further into the Italy Pavilion you’ll come to perhaps the most recognizable fountain in all of Epcot, the Neptune Fountain. This landmark often has a line of people waiting to take their turn getting a picture with this Roman god in the background. The fountain is based on two sculptures, the original Neptune Fountain in Florence by Bartolomeo Ammannatin and Trevi Fountain located in Rome by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Neptune Fountain

At the Germany Pavilion, a stone wall and garden line World Showcase Lagoon. This design would be typically seen on the many rivers that crisscross Germany.

Germany Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

In the center of the platz is a fountain and a statue of Saint George and the Dragon. Fountains like these were common in villages during the Middle Ages. The everyday use of indoor plumbing was still centuries away and a central water source was the spot for townsfolk to fill their pails. This statue of Saint George slaying the dragon is modeled after a sculpture found in Rothenburg, Germany. Saint George is the patron saint of soldiers and references to him can be found throughout Europe.

Saint George Fountain

In the Biergarten Restaurant, a waterwheel can be found at the far right of this beer hall.

Biergarten Restaurant Waterwheel

Although African Outpost isn’t a “real” country of World Showcase, the Imagineers still included a presence for this spot on the lagoon. Here we see tribal canoes drying on a sandy beach, ready for a fishing expedition.

African Outpost on World Showcase Lagoon

At the China Pavilion, manicured lawns and bushes line the banks of World Showcase Lagoon. This style of gardening would be similar to those you might find at the Emperor’s Summer Palace or a high ranking official’s home.

China Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

Also on the shore are three large rocks and several stone benches. Centuries ago, the Chinese believed that contemplation of unusual rock forms brought inner peace and serenity. So profound was this practice that ancient rulers would spend considerable amounts of money and engage hundreds of men to search for and transport a particularly interesting rock back to the palace. Some of these expeditions could last up to three years.

China Pavilion Rock

The main water feature of the China Pavilion can be found just past the Gate of the Golden Sun. This lovely lotus pool is surrounded by a typical Chinese garden and was inspired by those in Suzhou, a large city located adjacent to Shanghai.

China Pavilion Pond

China Pavilion Pond

The Norway Pavilion has perhaps the simplest of the World Showcase Lagoon waterfronts. All that is offered here is a basic stone retaining wall and shrubbery.

Norway Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

But inside the Norway Pavilion guests find a tantalizing water feature which is part of the popular attraction, Maelstrom. This waterfall gives wannabe Vikings a glimpse of what’s in store for them if they dare to ride.



The Mexico Pavilion’s presence on World Showcase Lagoon was that of a small, fishing village. A rocky coast and a small boat invited guests to visit our neighbor to the south. Although this rocky coast still exists, it was greatly decreased with the addition of La Hacienda de San Angel a few years ago.

Old View of Mexico Pavilion

New View of Mexico Pavilion

Inside the Mexico Pavilion guests will find two fountains. The cute guy in the picture is me – a long time ago. LOL

Mexico Pavilion Fountain

Mexico Pavilion Fountain

Of course, the biggest water feature in the Mexico Pavilion can be seen from the San Angel Inn. Tables in this restaurant overlook a river that meanders past a Mayan pyramid and active volcano.

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

Today we’ve seen how water adds atmosphere, history, relaxation, and excitement to Epcot. Check back Monday when I will finish this series with a look at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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18 Replies to “Water at Walt Disney World — Part Two”

  1. These are fascinating articles. My question, is the Showcase Lagoo. Man made like the Magic Kingdom Seven Seas Lagoon? Thank you fir your fabulous reports

  2. Hi Jack!

    I wanted to let you know that Marty Sklar did indeed substantiate that the World Showcase lagoon is a sinkhole and is the reason for the size and shape of that area of EPCOT in his latest book, Dream It! Do It! Another fascinating story of how the existing landscape drove some of the WDW features we love today.

    BTW, I finally met you at Deb Wills meet up in April at the Yacht & Beach Club. I have a picture!

  3. I recall in the 1980s, there were large pools of water on both sides of the Epcot main plaza between the pavement and the Communicore buildings. I believe these gradually went away as restaurants were expanded on both sides.

  4. Hi Jack!
    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog! Water is such a huge part of the parks and yet is often taken for granted. Many times the water is more than 50% of the story.
    Just a little amusing tale about the Restroom fountain at the UK: One day as I walked past the fountain on my way to the restroom, I notice a guy leaning over it to take a drink! When he’s done he wipes his mouth and I hear him say “ugh…! water tastes funny.” I just shook my head and went in to do my business.

    Take care & See ya’ real soon!

  5. Jack:
    Thanks for all of the information. It was a real trip down memory lane. I still think you need to document all of this information that you have. Say, in the form of a book.

  6. Excellent time with this….always love the trip around Epcot, usually with another form of liquid though.
    On of the newsletters a couple months back had a recommendation….it said to get a picture in front of all of the fountains in Epcot. I loved the idea, going to do it with my 2 daughters in July.

  7. Hey Jack
    Epcot sure has its fair share of water elements. My favorite is the jumping water fountains and the water show that is in front of Spaceship Earth. Can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  8. I’m surprised you didn’t go into detail about how the lagoon came about. Not too many people know that it was a totally accident. They were drilling for a monorail tower and hit a sink hole. They dug and dug and could never find the bottom, so they had no choice but to fill it with water. Super fascinating to read about, but totally terrifying at the same time! Every time I go now it freaks me out a little…and I’ll NEVER get on a lagoon boat. lol

  9. Hi Jack,
    Great article as ever!

    The little loch next to the Rose & Crown pub used to have a largish amount of cutlery and crockery at the bottom as cast members were known to throw dirty plates etc from the lower deck area in there at the end of the night instead of having to walk them back to the kitchens. V naughty, but it happened.

    Jack’s Comment:

    And thanks for the story. I love it. And I’m sure it’s 100% true. LOL

  10. Jack, fascinating series as always! I miss the fountain inside the Land pavilion as it helped drown out people noise during busy times. It’s so loud in there it drives me crazy.

    This article included 2 of my favorite spots in all of WDW to unwind. The patio behind is great when its not too busy. The waterfall drowns out the park noise and the lanterns are pretty and you can just pretend you’re in another place. The same is true of the big fountain inside the Mexico pavilion. I love sitting on ledge and people watching or just reading my book for a few minutes. It’s always nice and cool in there as well as fairly dark (which is a break from the grueling Florida sun), and again the fountain helps drown out the people noise. (Can you tell I have noise issues?)

  11. Jack,

    Excellent article, as always.

    I was fortunate enough to be at Epcot for the 30th Anniversary on 10/1/12, and saw Marty Sklar speak that day. He told the story of the sink hole under the lake next to the Odyssey restaurant, so that fact is confirmed.

  12. Once again Jack you show me things that I have not seen myself. I don’t know how you do it. Every time I go back to Disney, I have a list of things to see and do. Thank you! Continue to love your blog and you are my favorite Disney fanatic:~)

  13. Hi Jack! Wow! There sure are a lot of water features in Epcot. I love the waterfalls in the Canada Pavilion (I find this area of Epcot gorgeous anyway) and the Koi pond in the Japan Pavilion is beautiful.
    Now, I have been to Epcot and WDW 30 times in my life, and I can’t EVER remember seeing the Leap Fountains. I feel a little cheated now… 🙁

  14. I forgot the reason I was going to comment in the first place!

    One other great thing about the Japan pavilion’s torii gate is that it is placed perfectly to line up Spaceship Earth right behind it. It makes for a fantastic photo. Especially, for photobugs who know their cameras fairly well, at night.

    (The detailed you reveal about the Japan pavilion here are fantastic, too. I can’t believe that I’ve never really explored the area up behind the koi pond!)

  15. When you first started a series talking about water at Walt Disney World, I assumed it would be about the taste of central Florida drinking water! As someone who grew up near Marceline, MO, I was ready to defend it as an accurate representation of how bad drinking water in Main Street USA actually tastes! Fortunately, you’ve done something a LOT more interesting.

    I love, love, love the stuff about the waterfronts at Epcot. I have a shelf in my personal library dedicated specifically to books on the creation and maintenance of Walt Disney World. Friends and relatives misunderstand my obsession and occasionally give me books on Disney movies or Disney history, but only books about WDW, its design, its art, its architecture, find places in my collection. As such I could read blog entries about the little details at Walt Disney World for days and days. (Let me say, Disney is missing the boat with WDW nerds like me by not having any books that focus on the details at their hotels! The detail at places like DAKL and Riverside are as intricate as Epcot or Magic Kingdom!)

    Reading about how each pavilion in the World Showcase uses their waterfront was fascinating. Obviously I’d noticed the more obvious details, such as the gondolas in Italy, but I’d never put together the meaning of the wheel in Morocco or Canada’s beautiful fronting.

    I figure you’ll be doing Disney Studios next, but I can’t wait for part 4. For my money Animal Kingdom could be WDW’s most elaborate and beautifully detailed park, and I’ll never pass up on the chance to read about some of its hidden mysteries.

    (I hope you can spend a little time on the resorts, too. It would be a pity not to mention Silver Creek Falls, the beautiful waterfall at Saratoga Springs’ pool or the all of the amazingly themed pools at the Boardwalk, the Polynesia and the Grand Floridian! I’m sure talking about the water features at the water parks is out of the question, though. That would be a dozen blogs for each one!)

    Thanks, once again, for bringing a bit of the magic alive for a guy who won’t be getting back to WDW for 19 months!

  16. Hi Jack, thanks so much for your excellent research and writing! I’ve really been enjoying this series. The jumping fountains at Epcot are one of my favourite memories of my first trip to Disney, I was very pleased to see them here.

  17. I’m enjoying reading this blog series Jack! Thanks for researching and writing it! I love seeing your vintage pictures of WDW. My first visit to WDW was in 1986 and my second was in 1995. I only vaguely remember the smaller details from these visits. I’ve been many times since 2001 so am very aware of the big and small changes in the parks since then but seeing your vintage pictures is a fascinating glimpse into what once “was” at my favorite place on earth.

  18. I am loving your photos that accompany your articles about water in the World.

    I too miss the fountain in the Land pavilion. I have a lovely photo of my eldest niece and my mother sitting on its edge back when my niece was two years old.

    I look forward to your next article.