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The Secret History of Disney Rides: Tom Sawyer Island

by Tad on November 14, 2016
3 Video

The Secret History of Disney Rides: Tom Sawyer Island - Secret History of Tom Sawyer Island

Let's leap into the world of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn! During this secret history of Tom Sawyer Island, we'll take an adventure much like Tom and Huck took in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Disney's Tom Sawyer Island is filled with mysteries and quests to be uncovered from the youngest of tadpoles to the eldest of frogs. So jump on your raft and let's get hoppin'!

The Secret History of Disney Rides: Tom Sawyer Island - Pirate's Lair

The Secret History of Tom Sawyer Island

Tom Sawyer Island first opened at Disneyland Park in 1956, which was one year after the park actually opened. When the island opened, guests could hop onto a river raft, travel to the island and explore its many features, including caves, bridges, tree houses and Fort Wilderness. According to, Walt Disney had always envisioned an island smack dab in the middle of the Rivers of America. He threw around several ideas of what this island would consist of, including naming it "Treasure Island" or "Mickey Mouse Island."

After brainstorming what the island would be, Disney finally landed on Tom Sawyer Island. The island's design would be "fun and fancy free" and would be an island for kids. Marc David was assigned to create the map of the island. However, Disney was never completely in love with any of Davis' designs, so he decided to create his own, and therefore, this attraction is the only one completely designed by Walt himself!

The Secret History of Disney Rides: Tom Sawyer Island - Tom Sawyer Island

Unfortunately, many of the fun features of Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island closed throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Via, because of the popularity of Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, the island went through some huge changes in 2007 and reopened as Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. New experiences added to the island included Dead Man's Grotto and Smuggler's Cove!

Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer Island was open for adventures on May 20, 1973. The island has the same concept as Disneyland's version; guests board a free floating river raft and travel to the island. Guests of all ages, but especially young tadpoles, can still explore caves, bridges, Harper's Mill, Potter's Mill, Fort Langhorn and more! Unlike Disneyland's island, it is much unchanged since it originally opened and still holds many of its secrets. You can have adventures inspired by Tom and Huck at Tokyo Disneyland's version, as well!

Tom Sawyer Island Fun Facts

  • Potter's Mill at Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer Island is named after Huck and Tom's friend, Muff Potter.
  • Cast members used to leave paintbrushes around Tom Sawyer Island for guests to find; guests could turn in the paintbrush and receive a prize!
  • According to The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, the water flowing at the base of the crystal wall inside the Ambush Cave seems to be running uphill. This is an optical illusion, of course!
  • The Settler's Cabin found on Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island used to be on fire! No one is 100% sure on why the fire was put out for good. It's been said there was pipe corrosion!
  • Via, Fort Langhorn used to be known as Fort Sam Clemens!
  • Ask what the rafts' names are! They are each named after a character from the book.

What's your favorite thing about Tom Sawyer Island? Let us know in the comments below! I'm hoppin' away to read "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" once more!

Stay cool!

Keep hopping, Tad!
View Comments


Oct 5, 2018 at 12:44 a.m.

I went to Tom Sawyer's island in Disneyland as a kid of 4. Went with a friend from college (Thanks, Bobo), to Disney World in its second year. Yes, we had 5 books of tickets. Again, off to Tom Sawyer' s. Been back a number of times as an adult (?, not at Disney). Still, back to the island. I still marvel over how long the tunnels and caves seem. You think, "I must be off the island by now." And they were ALWAYS so much cooler than the sidewalks! One of my best Disney memories???? !

Jan 4, 2019 at 3:29 p.m.
Amy Says...

The barrel bridge. So simple yet thrilling.

Nov 14, 2016 at 8:57 p.m.
Carlos Medina Says...

I like Tom Sawyer Island because you can paint those paintbrushes before you get a prize


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