Located in the middle of Bay Lake, there is an island known today as Discovery Island, which is owned by Walt Disney World. The island though, has a long history going as far as the early-1900s when the island was called Raz Island.

The Raz family owned the island, using the land for farming up until the late-1930s when the land was purchased by Delmar “Radio Nick” Nicholson for $800, renaming the island to Isles Bay Island. He lived on the island with his wife and pet crane for 20 years before selling the property which would be used as a hunting retreat and again renamed, Riles Island. The property was finally purchased by Disney in 1965.

The island was renamed Blackbeard’s Island, but remained undeveloped until 1974. The Buena Vista Construction Company added nearly 15,000 cubic yards of soil, increasing the island to 11 acres. Over 1000 tons of boulders and trees were exported from other countries such as China, South Africa and the Himalayas, to be used in creating an entirely new landscape for Disney’s new attraction, Treasure Island.

On April 8, 1974, Treasure Island opened. It was accessed by either taking a direct trip from a resort dock or as part the “Walt Disney World Cruise,” a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake that stopped at the Island. Though the island was named after the 1950 film of the same name, the island’s loose pirate theme was largely overlooked by the dozens of animal exhibits.

In 1978, Disney renamed the park, Discovery Island, losing any references to pirates and focused more on the island’s rich, botanical settings. Charles Cook was the park’s head curator and was often seen posing with birds in Disney publications and also on various TV broadcasts when the island’s conservation efforts were discussed. As an extension of other responsible environmental practices on the part of the company, the animal care on Discovery Island was a very public and important component.

Disney’s conservation efforts were recognized in 1981, when it was made an accredited zoological park by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. The park was also widely known for housing the last Dusky Seaside Sparrow before it died in 1987, and then officially declared extinct in 1990.

In September 1989, the Orange-Osceola state attorney and a U.S. attorney in Orlando filed 16 charges against Cook and four other Discovery Island employees with a large number of allegations included the mishandling of vultures and other wild birds, the destruction of ibis and egret nests and the shooting of hawks and falcons.

According to Disney employees, the vultures attacked animals and defecated on a boardwalk, the hawks, falcons and owls attacked show pigeons and the egrets and ibises were noisy. Investigators found a metal shed measuring 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 7 feet high with no windows, ventilation, water or perches. Old food, feces and feathers were on the floor. 19 vultures were in the shed at the time, one of them dead, though Cook told investigators that as many as 72 vultures have been kept in the shed at once. Jim Found, the manager of Discovery Island, told investigators that they even had discussed destroying the vultures before.

Even though it was a major blow to Disney’s public reputation, they were able to keep the park open in a respectable manner.

Disney had decided to close the park soon after Animal Kingdom debuted. On April 8, 1999, 25 years after the park had opened, Discovery Island closed.

In 2009, knowledge of Disney’s abandonment of Discovery Island became widespread when photographer Shane Perez posted a story on his blog of when him and and few of his friends ventured out onto the now-defunct island. The story explains how they made their way through River Country, another abandoned Disney park, as it provided the closest shore-to-shore access to the island. Utilizing waterproof bag to hold dry clothing and their camera equipment, they swam across the lake to the island. You can read the full story on his blog here.

The blog post became viral, appearing on hundreds of news outlets, blogs, and websites. With the statute of limitations here in Florida being 4 years, Disney could not press any charges and instead, banned Shane Perez from their parks forever.


  1. OMG how can they leave a whole island just like that, never even knew about it

    • it was a haunted island by the original owner

    • They found a brain eating virus on the island that’s why the island was abandond

    • I had the misfortune of visiting this island once while it was open. It had many birds and animals in cages that were too small and largely empty except for the animals imprisoned there . The final straw was when I went to an area where several endangered Golden Tamarinds were being held in a large parrot cage.At the bottom of the cage one tamarind lay prosrate arms and legs splayed while it gasped and gurgled . i immediately located staff who told me they were aware of the situation and it was in hand. After continual pleading on my part someone went with me to the cage saw the simian laying now with it;s head to the side and it’s lounge hanging out. and was told that this was not serious and tamarinds ” do this behavior all the time.”I waited horrified by the dock until I could get away from this atrocity.

      • Did you see them “tend” to the animal? See anything strange about it? I’m asking because me and some guy friends and my boyfriend are all debating on going to visit the island, try to find out the REAL reason they wanted to shut it down. I think most of us found out about this island because of the creepy pasta that’s based on it, I never would have thought it would be based on a real place, but still very interesting….

      • I as well had been in 1997. Never even knew it was there until Disney staff at the hotel we were at asked if we wanted to check it out at a discounted rate. The way they kept the animals the discounted rate should have been free.

      • I had the same experience seeing the primates. I was transferred there as part of a college program and also refused to participate.

  2. These are some great photos, is that the hospital they had built just before the park closed?

  3. You went here but not River Country??

  4. Hey. This site is awesome and than you for making it. So I had a question about eating here. Where is it located? And how do I get in? I really want to see this.

  5. Around 1996 I dated a girl who worked on the island. There were Galapagos turtles, birds, really neat stuff. In the evenings, she would take two small animals, one dangerous, one not, and do a show for guests at the wilderness lodge. I would watch the show and ride back with her. Usually she had a bird in a cage, and a snake or alligator in a bag. It was pretty creepy to go there in the evening. The guest area was closed at dusk, so we would park the pontoon boat and return the animals. It was typically dark, and the bird activity was tremendous.

    • I worked there in 1978. It was an awesome place to work. Great bunch of people I worked with, like family. I cleaned cages on the walking trails, prepared the food and fed the animals, and gave the bird show guy his break and did the show for him until he got back. I even got to train 2 ring neck doves for a Lake Buena Vista shopping Village commercial. Such a shame it is left to ruins like this. It breaks my heart.

  6. Wait, if its close to the public, how did you guys get in?

    • Nomeus “borrowed” a boat from the Fort Wilderness shoreline, went on over in the dead of night, took pictures and brought the boat the boat back.

  7. That makes me sick, what they did with the vultures. Funny thing is that is shows they weren’t interested in any of the animals’ sakes. (theirs or the natural ones) They were just worried about what the vultures did to their profit. All the conservations and stuff? To make them look good for profit. Relocate the things… but abusing them like that? God… if I was a judge…

  8. i got here from th creepypasta on SOG

  9. The island was one of my favorite places in Disney. Being close to the animals was great. My sister worked for years at Disney and she was the one who helped us find this delightful place to spend an afternoon. We are returning to Orlando, Florida again next week and sorry to hear that the island is closed.

  10. Disney still lights the place up, And the island is still viewable from Disney’s contemporary resort, and Disney’s fort wilderness resort and campground. There are also boat rides that run between the two resorts, where you can also see, Discovery island.

  11. Wait I know it was a creepypasta but what about the Mickey suit?……….oh well

  12. Who knows. but I think I belive the creepy pasta now because the island actually exists

  13. Omg I was on YouTube listening to a creepy pasta about this island and there was a link to this and I thought “WOW I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S A REAL ISLAND”. I thought it was just a figment of someone’s imagination.

  14. vials and specimans in a cooling vac no no no somethingg illegal was goin on there some clone or mutant shit u dont just have fucking specimans and vials hanging around on islands of theme parks no

    • I mean, there’s a chance you’re right, but they probably kept that stuff for the health care of the birds, etc.

    • Sir have you heard of mowglis palace? If not look it up i am a 14 year old girl and i know and have seen every secret of disney. You are correct about cloning and mutant stuff but not about the illegal stuff. What they were doing on the island was COMPLETELY legal. Well anyway, mowglis palace is abondoned by disney and i have been there. I have seen a giant 80 foot python (out of the cage)and 3 eared mice and scarier things. All of the things i saw had tags of where they were from all of the mutant animals were from discovery island but there is one myth: The creepy negative mickey mouse that people thought they saw all i saw in the mascot room was mascot costumes there was no mickey mouse i even started saying “mickey where are you i wanna see your head come off” but i never got to see it. You must tell people what i have told you so disney may be revealed for what it is- the most saddistic place in the world (btw walt disneys body is frozen and is underneath the statue of him and mickey mouse) please help me expose this horrible company thank you for your time

      • And yes it was a yellow striped door and there was a broken padlock on the door and i did look in the donald duck head no skull

  15. What’s the chances of bumping into some one out there ?

  16. I wonder if disney still use it for something. Maybe It’s up for sale?

    • Nope, it’s still there and Disney isn’t in the market of selling land, only buying.

      • Is there anyway to get to the island now? My bucket list for my high school years (I am a sophomore now) is to visit all of the still standing locations on your site lol

    • Yes, it is being used, but Disney doesn’t want anyone there. When it closed for the season in the fall of 2010, Disney pooled a ton of construction equipment there, only transporting it in the dead of night so as to not attract attention. The workers were mostly illegals because Disney knew they’d keep their mouths shut. I was a foreman of one of the crews. They build some major subterranean facilities under the island, some real James Bond kind of stuff, with acres of labs and other facilities. There was one off limits area where they built something with a bunch of cryogenic piping…I bet Walt’s head is down there, still being served by an army of Disney drones, plotting his return to life. They could send their hit team against me for even mentioning it here. But think about it…keeping it overgrown and nasty and off limits keeps people away. Most of them, obviously. Keep up the explorations, and if you’re on the island again look for the side entrance…it’s in the men’s room up in the northernmost building, in the last stall on the left. You have to feel around the walls for the fake panel, it’s up high so it wouldn’t be accidentally hit by anyone. Good luck and God bless your explorations.

  17. Lol My last name is disney

  18. The surrounding water of the island apparently has bacteria that can kill you. Disney is not in the business of its customers dieing

    • Yep. Amoebic meningoencephalitis, it’s one of the reasons River Country closed down.

    • Sorry that isnt true and it is a rumor..I live in orlando, been here my whole life and swam in those waters many times…Theres bacteria every where but never on that could kill you…

  19. Why doesn’t it say anything about the water if that’s true?

  20. I would like to go there and actually visit it, the same with the other Disney facilities that are abandone

  21. Damn! I had completely forgotten about this! I worked at Fort Wilderness in 1973-75 as a lifeguard and a sailing instructor. At that time, there were only 75 campsites at Fort Wilderness and a small number of staff. We used to take one of our boats over to the island for lunch, or when we just had to get away from looney guests.

    Nobody at WDW could ever figure out what to do with that little island. When they came up with this “Treasure Island” idea, they decided to have all kinds of weird animals on the island. One day I went over there with a friend and we saw OSTRICHES running around. They were young ones and still relatively small, but they were still about 5 foot tall. My friend and I decided to try to catch one. We ran like the Road Runner all over the place, but we never got anywhere near the birds. We couldn’t believe how incredibly fast the birds are and it all seemed so effortless for them. Like taking a short jog for fun.

    Damn! I haven’t thought about the island and those birds for at least 30 years! Thanks for the memory bump!

    • Those were not small ostriches but rather rheas a small ostrich looking bird that is smaller than both an emu and the the ostrich. I worked in the Discovery Island education team for over 16 years and we did tours for school groups and kids of hotel guests as well as merit badges for girl and boy scouts. Did about 8 different types of tours for age groups pre school through high school and covering everything from the rainforest, ranch tours, etc. for over 20,00 kids per year.

  22. that place creeps me out

  23. The actual reason for closing it was a financial one. Bay Lake has an Amoeba that eats away at brain tissue, the place is sick with them.

    • The Amoeba issue was very minor, as it caused only ONE death at River Country. The place continued to operate for many years afterwards as well. The Amoeba problem has nothing to do with Discovery Island.

  24. The park closed due to dangerous levels of deadly bacteria, Naegleria Floweri – a free-living, single-celled organism better known as the “brain-eating amoeba.” Commonly found in warm bodies of fesh water including lakes, ponds, rivers and hot springs. It was the only chocie Disney had, they had to shut down the park for the safety of all.

    • Naegleria fowleri is a parasite not a bacteria

    • The Amoeba had NOTHING to do with Discovery Island. That incident happened in River Country. Plus it caused only ONE death, out of ALL the people that visited it.

  25. Great story! I just relocated back to Orlando after many years. I went here with a friend back in 1994. I loved the place, especially the Galapagos turtles. I always wondered what happened to it. I understand them closing it after Animal Kingdom opening. They should redevelop the island as a nature trail or something, it’s beautiful.

  26. I’m currently staying at the Fort Wilderness resort and have passed this place three times now on a boat. It is taking everything in my power to not go over there and explore..especially to check out that comment about the secret lab accessible from the mens washroom!

    • Those were not small ostriches but rather rheas a small ostrich looking bird that is smaller than both an emu and the the ostrich. I worked in the Discovery Island education team for over 16 years and we did tours for school groups and kids of hotel guests as well as merit badges for girl and boy scouts. Did about 8 different types of tours for age groups pre school through high school and covering everything from the rainforest, ranch tours, etc. for over 20,00 kids per year.

  27. I hear they have their own SWAT team that will fuck you up if you go to the island is this true?

    • I doubt it. If they did find you on the park, you would likely be banned for life from all Disney Parks, rather than attacked by a SWAT force.