Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the Magic Kingdom while learning a little bit about American history? Then welcome aboard the Liberty Square Riverboat!
You’ll ride the majestic Liberty Belle riverboat for a half-mile tour around Tom Sawyer Island.
On this 17-minute trip, you’ll hear the voice of iconic American author and humorist, Mark Twain, sharing some of his memories of life on the Mississippi. You’ll also encounter a rarely-seen side of the Magic Kingdom.
It’s full steam ahead for our complete guide to the Liberty Square Riverboat.
Liberty Square Riverboat Quick Facts
Liberty Square Riverboat is located in Liberty Square, across from Liberty Square Market and down the way from The Hall of Presidents.
How to Ride Liberty Square Riverboat
Liberty Square Riverboat has a Standby Line. There is no Single Rider Line.
Do I need to use Genie+ at Liberty Square Riverboat?
Genie+ is not available at Liberty Square Riverboat.
Rider Switch/Child Swap
As there is no height requirement for Liberty Square Riverboat, this attraction does not offer Rider Switch.
Rider Switch is Disney’s system that allows guests with small children to take turns riding bigger rides, while another person/people wait with the little one.
You can learn more about Rider Switch via our helpful guide.
What to Expect When You Ride
The queue to ride the Liberty Square Riverboat is shaded with some benches. The loading dock is also covered.
The ride leaves twice an hour on the hour and the half-hour so if you don’t make the boat, you’ll be waiting quite a bit for the next one.
The Liberty Square Riverboat is a 47-foot-tall working steamship called The Liberty Belle. It is propelled by the paddle wheel that is itself propelled by the steam engine.
It is a reproduction of the historic vessels that ferried people up and down the Mississippi River.
While it is fully functioning, it is actually guided on an “I-beam” track that is hidden by the green and brown-dyed water of the Rivers of America.
The Riverboat has a maximum capacity of 450 people.
Guests enter the ship on the middle deck. This area features a sitting room, an outside wheelhouse, and the captain’s quarters.
On the bottom deck of the boat, you can see the ship’s boiler and pistons and you can visit the viewing platform which has great views of all the attraction’s scenes.
On the top deck, guests get the best perspective of the Magic Kingdom from the water.
Guests in wheelchairs and ECVs may remain in them to ride The Liberty Square Riverboat.
If you are in a wheelchair or ECV, ask a Cast Member for help and they will assist you in boarding the ride up the exit ramp. There is actually a sign at the main entrance to the attraction that points those that require wheelchair or ECV access to enter to the left.
Those in wheelchairs and ECVs must remain on the middle deck of the riverboat as there is no handicap access for other levels.
On the Ride
If you prefer to keep your ride aboard The Liberty Square Riverboat a surprise, you may want to skip this part to avoid any spoilers.
The Liberty Square Riverboat begins with its captain, Horace Bixby, welcoming guests aboard The Liberty Belle as well as introducing his pilot, Samuel Clemens (known to future generations as the author, Mark Twain). You are currently on Clemens’ 100th journey aboard the Liberty Belle.
Before the Liberty Belle leaves port, Sam sets the scene for the ride ahead by warning guests to stay behind the railings, as river pirates are known to frequent the area.
As you sail down the river, you’ll see the sights of Frontierland, which for the purpose of the ride was once just a boom town but is well on its way to becoming a big city. Over the announcement system, Sam mentions that the large peak in Frontierland is known as Chick-A-Pin Hill (also known to Disney guests as the former Splash Mountain and future Tiana’s Bayou Adventure).
Continuing on, the boat passes Sam’s “old stomping ground”, Tom Sawyer Island.
Next, he points out Big Thunder Mountain where the water gets so hot that geysers erupt. Sam explains that Native Americans used to think that the geysers were spirits and that’s why they named the mountain “Big Thunder Mountain” and the moniker stuck.
As your boat ride continues, you’ll see Beacon Joe and his dog Rufus in front of his bait shop.
You’ll then see Powhatan Native Americans gathering and pass by an unidentified Indian village. Down the river, the Liberty Belle reaches Cutthroat Corner where riders are told they are most likely to find river pirates.
Before returning to port in Liberty Square, the Liberty Belle passes The Haunted Mansion. Sam informs guests that rumor has it that the mansion was built on a Native American burial ground, and now 999 ghosts haunt it.
Finally, the Liberty Belle reaches port and Sam and Captain Bixby say goodbye as the boat docks and guests are directed to disembark.
One thing to note about taking a ride on The Liberty Square Riverboat: on top of the sights you see on the attraction, you will also get a unique view of Magic Kingdom. You might even be able to spot the parade or a cavalcade during your ride!
Is Liberty Square Riverboat Kid-Friendly?
This is a great ride for the whole family to take a break from the crowds of Magic Kingdom.
Strollers are not allowed in most queues at Walt Disney World. Instead, you’ll need to leave your stroller in the designated stroller parking area near the entrance to the queue.
The Liberty Square Riverboat is one of the few attractions that can trace its history back to before Disneyland or Walt Disney World even opened.
Walt Disney initially came up with the idea for a Mississippi steamboat attraction for the Disney Studio in Burbank, California. However, the Burbank Studio did not have the land to build the attraction so Walt decided to transfer the concept to Disneyland.
In order to create the attraction, Disney had to construct the first American-made, working steamboat in 50 years. Admiral Joe Fowler oversaw the construction of what would become The Mark Twain Riverboat in Disneyland.
The Mark Twain was built in two separate pieces. The hull was constructed in San Pedro, California and the deck was built at the Disney Studios in Burbank. The ship was assembled in Disneyland and The Mark Twin Riverboat debuted on July 17, 1955, for Disneyland’s opening day.
When Walt Disney World was in development, the riverboat was one of the attractions Imagineers decided to include in the opening day plans, however, it wasn’t quite ready.
The Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat opened one day after the park, on October 2, 1971. It was named in tribute to the man who had helped to create Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as the Riverboat attractions.
When the riverboat first debuted, live entertainment could often be found on deck because there wasn’t much else for guests to see on the Rivers of America at the time.
Since Walt Disney World did not yet have enough attractions to meet demand, in 1973 a second steamboat was built. The Richard F. Irvine Riverboat entered into service on May 20, 1973. It was named after the late Disney executive, Richard F. Irvine, who oversaw the planning and construction of Walt Disney World.
The only difference between the two steamboats was that The Admiral Joe Fowler had two smokestacks, while The Richard F. Irvine only had one.
In fall of 1980, The Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat was destroyed in a drydock accident. Disney decided not to repair it, and the bell from the riverboat was added to the #4 engine known as the Roy O. Disney on the Walt Disney World Railroad.
In 1996, The Richard F. Irvine was completely refurbished and returned to service as The Liberty Belle Riverboat.
The attraction itself was renamed the Liberty Square Riverboat to make it easier to remember and to tie the boat in with Liberty Square.
With one ship gone and the other one renamed, Disney decided to pay homage to Admiral Fowler and Richard Irvine by naming two ferries that run from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom after them in 1999.
The narration aboard the Liberty Belle has expanded as more rides have been added to Frontierland. References to Tom Sawyer Island, Splash Mountain (the future Tiana’s Bayou Adventure), and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad have all been added to the script.
In 1992, the Powhatan Native Americans were added to the attraction after the release of the Disney-animated film, Pocahontas.
The Liberty Belle underwent extensive rehab from September 2005 to September 2006, and then in 2018 it was completely overhauled with a new boiler.
Other Fun Details
- Captain Horace Bixby, the name given to the Liberty Belle’s captain, was a real steamboat captain on the Mississippi. Horace Bixby and Sam Clemens met aboard a steamboat called The Paul Jones. Bixby agreed to take Sam on as his apprentice. About 21 years later, the now-famous Mark Twain reunited with Captain Bixby in St. Louis. The captain even makes an appearance in Twain’s book, Life on the Mississippi.
- Inside The Liberty Belle’s Salon, there is a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.
- Watch the Audio-Animatronic dog outside of Beaker Joe’s. Every once and a while he will turn his head as a fish jumps by.
- To pay homage to the Samuel Clemens connection, in Disneyland the attraction is known as the Mark Twain Riverboat.
- Crates located on the banks of Frontierland are imprinted with “Tell City Tool Co.” Tell City is a real town located in Indiana on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was one of the United States’ first “planned cities.” Another crate has “71” on it to honor the year the Magic Kingdom opened and another says “Russel’s Falls” after Davy Crockett’s sidekick, George E. Russel.
- The attraction’s landing building is one of the few in the Magic Kingdom that does not employ forced perspective. This may be to hide the riverboat from guests in Liberty Square where a steam-powered riverboat would not fit the land’s theming.
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