Raft to Tom Sawyer Island
June 1956 - June 2007
In its heyday, Tom Sawyer Island was Disneyland's biggest (in terms of square footage) attraction, and the only one largely formed by nature. When the park opened in 1955, the island was inaccessible to guests, and cast members could only reach it by canoe or via the Mark Twain to a dock on the far side of the island. The island remained a pristine preserver until 1956, when it was decided that an area needed to be created to siphon off some of the rambunctious children who were overwhelming other areas of the park. At that time, the Raft to Tom Sawyer Island attraction was opened.
The Raft attraction -- misleadingly named in the singular, since there were once two docks and sometimes more than one raft operating -- ferried guests from Frontierland to the Tom Sawyer Island dock. The rafts themselves were flat, free-floating affairs, capable of speeds of up to 60 knots.
If you look at the boundaries of Frontierland on a Disneyland map, you'll see that they are as regular as a those of a gerrymandered voting district. A little finger of Frontierland separates New Orleans Square from the Rivers of America. This is because when New Orleans Square opened in 1967, it attempted to claim all of the land up to the river bank as its own. Unfortunately, this territory included the Raft to Tom Sawyer Island attraction. On maps from the Square's opening day, you can see that the rafts are considered to be in New Orleans Square, while the island proper still belonged to Frontierland.
There was great concern that New Orleans Square would use this piece of territory as a stepping off point to claim all of Tom Sawyer Island for its own. Relations immediately cooled between the Square and Frontierland, with neutral Adventureland caught in the middle. The situation came to a head two days later, when Frontierland cast members seized the rafts and reclaimed a strip of land across the riverbank. The battle was bloodless -- Frontierland cast members were the only ones with guns.
Soon after the "battle," New Orleans Square released a statement stating, "In the course of recent events, it has been decided that in as much as neither Tom Sawyer's [sic] Island nor the rafts there to are truly in keeping with the beloved theme of New Orleans Square, this land has no interest in including them within the sacred borders of our territory." Since then, relations between the two lands have largely normalized.
In 2007, Tom Sawyer Island became Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Disneyland has a long-standing policy that every time a new attraction opens, an old one must be shuttered to help mitigate personnel costs. Around the time Pirate's Lair opened, the new Finding Nemo submarine attraction came on line, so the long-running Raft to Tom Sawyer Island was eliminated in the name of saving expenses. A sad end to a long tradition.
Trivia: With the Raft to Tom Sawyer Island closed, guests wishing to visit Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island must travel there on small, square pirate ships of dubious seaworthiness.
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