Walt Disney World has been on edge for the past few weeks after a child was killed by an Alligator in the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon. The company has replaced the “No Swimming” signs with signs that warn of snakes and alligators in the waters on the property. In order to properly understand why there are gators in the man made bodies of water around Walt Disney World, you have to go back in time a bit.
When the site was chosen for phase one of Walt Disney World, the location of the Magic Kingdom was chosen because of it’s proximity to Bay Lake. The ground near the lake was not suitable for the park, so the site plan was shifted to the west, and plans began for an artificial lake, or lagoon, to be excavated.
This was accomplished by first building Magic Kingdom’s Utilidors, the “underground” tunnels that run under the park. They were built at ground level, then covered with earth from the pit that would become the Seven Seas Lagoon. The park was then built on the second floor of the site and the new lagoon was filled with water from nearby Bay Lake.
The land that would become Walt Disney World was mostly swampland, a very fragile Floridian ecosystem that had to be maintained. The solution the Disney came up with was a series of channels built all over the property along the natural topography that allow water to flow around the developed areas. It’s actually quite brilliant.
With an overabundance of water nearby, Disney managed to connect a majority of the waterways on the property to each other for an almost seamless water system in and out of the parks. The downside, which just reared it’s ugly head, is that local aquatic wildlife can move in and out of the parks too.
But how exactly can an alligator get into a man made lake, and even worse, into the Magic Kingdom?
Bay Lake (as it is now called) is the only truly natural lake in the image above. The Seven Seas Lagoon is connected by a small water bridge south of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and north of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. That is where our imaginary alligator’s adventure begins.
Our gator migrates into (or is born on) Walt Disney World property in any one of the hundreds of waterways scattered around the resort’s 47 square miles. At some point, he makes his way to what is now known as Bay Lake, the only truly natural lake in the image above.
The Seven Seas Lagoon is connected by a small water bridge south of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and north of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. That is where our imaginary alligator’s adventure begins. He ventures across the water bridge and into Seven Seas Lagoon, which has an abundance of food. Why? Because Disney stocks the lagoon with fish. Yes, you can fish at Walt Disney World. Our alligator is now in food heaven. But he gets curious one day, finds an opening in the waterway and heads north toward Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
You’ll notice in the above image, it is completely reasonable for our gator to make his way north, behind the utility buildings that line the west side of the park, around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and into Rivers of America. We know this has happened, it has even been caught on camera before, as shown in this video from Inside Edition:
The video they sourced was shot in 2009. For those of you keeping score, that is 7 years ago. For (at least 7 years) Disney has known that alligators can get into the park. Thankfully, today WDWNT is reporting that in addition to the signage placed along Seven Seas Lagoon, Disney has finally placed warning signs inside the park every few yards along the shores of Rivers of America. The first time such a sign has ever been placed in a Disney park.
Placing the signage is the right move and I applaud Disney for it’s choice, but my only question is…what took so long?