September 1997
The Jungle Cruise Boathouse

A Backstory

originally found on

I mentioned in my September 1997 WDW trip report that the boathouse of the Jungle Cruise at WDW was undergoing some work on it while I was visiting there, I had a link to a web site that gave the backstory of the JC boathouse at Disneyland and said that perhaps it would be something along those lines, the page that I originally linked to dissapeared so I've provided the backstory here.


1911 Riverfront Outpost Built

A Victorian house is built in a remote section of the jungle as a colonial outpost. As the last outpost of civilization, it provides a welcome relief from the harsh and hostile jungle, offering weary travelers a hot cup of tea and a place to rest. It is here that missionaries, scientists, and European travelers have one last opportunity to post and receive messages and supplies.

1928 The Last Station Master Leaves

Taken seriously ill with malaria, the Colonial stationmaster leaves. There are no volunteers to replace him, and the foreign office finds no need to maintain the outpost. The house is offered for sale, but there are no quick takers...Who would want a place this deep in the jungle?

1930 The Jungle Cruise Trading Company Begins

A loose-knit group of enterprising expatriates buy the Victorian house, intending to make a quick buck. They decide it will serve as home base for their new jungle transport and trading company. After a few jungle launches are purchased, they begin business. None have had any experience in their new enterprise, but they manage to scrape by through hard work and sweat.

1930 House Additions

As the volume of business increases, the house receives additions. A skipper's lounge is built, along with more storage spaces for cargo and supplies. The second level of the house provides a storage area as well as a high vantage point over the river; not only can they see up and down the river, but the roof is high enough that visitors on the river can see it clearly. An advertisement is painted on the roof to entice passerby. Because of the number of vessels arriving and departing, an observation patio is added to the dock. The owners obtain a short wave radio, which links the company to the outside world. Business picks up, and trading is good.

1932 Depression hits the Jungle Cruise

The depression affecting the whole world finally reaches the trading company deep in the jungle. Business dries up; shipping executives who once paid well for cargo transport can no longer afford to do business. The skippers of the Jungle Cruise Trading Co. keep busy delivering freight, medicines and mail, but there's no money in it because no one pays.

1932 Fire and Accidents

A crewmember accidentally ignites a stove fire on the shipping dock. Fortunately, the blaze is extinguished with water from the river. Unable to afford proper repairs, the skippers leave the fire-scarred roof as a constant reminder of the Accident. Though it is just over 20 years old, the Victorian mansion is quickly deteriorating in the damp jungle air. Makeshift solutions with existing supplies are sought/ railings from one section are removed and added to sections that need them more. The formerly grand house takes on a rag-tag look as repairs are hastily and poorly done. Later one night, after way too much trading and too little navigating, a young skipper crashes his launch directly into the dock by the residential annex. The annex, already weakened by slipshod construction, begins to collapse, leaning precariously towards the river. The Trading Company staff removes the launch but cannot find an easy way to fix the dock. Instead they just leave it as it is.

1933 The first tour

Traffic on the river continues to decline and the outlook is bleak for the Jungle Cruise Trading Company. Just as the skippers consider giving up, an American film director shows up and asks anyone familiar with the rivers can take him to see the jungle wildlife. As a wad of bill flashes before their eyes, the owners of the Trading Company are inspired to a new line of business--tourism.

After a face-lift and a fancy ad campaign, they are in business again. Success comes quickly and word spreads throughout the civilized world about the tours through the jungle. In fact, many new skippers travel to the jungle at their own expense, lured by the mystery and danger of the jungle. Soon novelists, movie stars, politicians, and blue bloods follow.

1935 The popular Solution: Cut Rate Tours, Low Cost Guides

The Jungle Cruise has become a jungle staple, offering low-cost, one-of-a-kind tours. Tour guides provide and maintain their own boats; many of the skippers even live on their launches, taking on cargo or paying tourists whenever the opportunity arises. Although the tour company gets the better part of the ticket price, skippers make handsome tips (hint, hint) (I'm joking of course) and are allowed to keep anything left on board. Local entrepreneurs are also drawn to the scene; setting up makeshift booths where they sell everything from live snakes and bugs to mosquito netting. The colorful awnings that shade the vendors are painted with bold advertisements extolling the virtues of their wares. Fortunately, the tours are getting a fashionable notoriety among the well to do, and more and more tourists are showing up every day.

Part 3 Saturday, September 13

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September 1997 trip report index (on trip reports index page)

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Last modified by Brian K Martsolf at 24-Sep-2006 10:21 PM