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The Disney Water Ride That No One Talks About

Most Guests know and love Disney Park water rides like the beloved Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom, Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Frozen Ever After at EPCOT, but there is one water ride at the Walt Disney World Resort that many Guests have not even heard of.

It may not get you soaked or offer a steep drop, but this Walt Disney World water ride is surrounded by stately mansions, beautiful magnolia trees, and a true escape to the wonders of New Orleans in Louisiana.

Sweeping through Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, the Sassagoula River offers a charming twenty-minute boat ride through many Disney World sites. The Disney-created river is a calm 2.5-mile waterway that winds its way through trees, Disney Resorts, and gorgeous views of iconic Walt Disney World sites – all the way to Disney Springs.

Guests on a ferry boat along the Sassagoula River can get glimpses of Resort Hotels that many Walt Disney World Resort Guests don’t often get to see. The sought-after and uniquely-shaped Disney Vacation Club Treehouse Villas are a fantastic viewpoint from the boat, while the Saratoga Springs DVC Resort can also be seen as Guests make their way down the Lake Buena Vista river towards Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney).

sassagoula-river-from-riverside

Credit: V MillsYou may not have realized it was there, but after riding this Disney mode of transportation once, you’ll want to do it on every Disney vacation.

Boat Routes

Guests staying at a Disney Resort Hotel on the Sassagoula River are in for a treat. Forget the Disney buses, Monorail, or Minnie taxis – the Sassagoula River and its glorious New Orleans ambiance are a Disney World marvel.

The Sassagoula River Cruise is a free service that ferries Guests from their Resorts all the way down the river to Disney Springs. Guests can board the boats at the following Disney hotel docks:

  • Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort
  • Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs DVC Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Treehouse Villas
  • Disney’s Old Key West Disney Vacation Club Resort

Once at Disney Springs, Guests can use the boats’ handy flag system to get around.

Yellow Flags and Purple Flags

Departing from the new Disney Springs Marketplace dock in the right-hand queue line, the Sassagoula River Cruise service for Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort is indicated by a yellow flag. Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort has a purple flag if you’re heading for some delicious beignets. A combined yellow and purple flag is used to show when a boat goes to both resorts – usually in the evening after 8:30 p.m.

Blue Flags

Sassagoula River Boats departing from the central dock with a blue flag at The Landing serve Disney’s Saratoga Springs DVC Resort & Spa, including the Treehouse Villas.

Green Flags

Also departing from the dock at The Landing, boats with green flags leave for Disney’s Old Key West DVC Resort.

Red Flags

The red flag boats indicated an internal Disney Springs water taxi, offering Guests a circular route running from the Marketplace dock (next to the Rainforest Café) over to the West Side dock (opposite Cirque du Soleil) and then back via the Landing dock (near to the Characters in Flight balloon).

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Credit: Disney Tips

Operating Hours

The river cruise service commences at 10 a.m. daily and continues all the way to 11 p.m. The last boat back from Disney Springs departs at 11:30 p.m., so Guests have plenty of time to get their shopping, dining, and exploring done at Disney Springs and the Marketplace.

The boats run approximately every 20 minutes during the day, and more frequently during the late afternoon and evening periods. Whenever the boats are not running, you can use the free Disney shuttle bus that operates from around 8 a.m. until 2 a.m.

The journey time between Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter is about five minutes and the onward trip from French Quarter to Disney Springs takes another 15 minutes. The direct boats from Riverside take about 20 minutes. It must be noted that round-trips are not permitted and you must disembark and join the line again to return on another boat.

The Disney Springs water taxi shuttle service (red flags) operates from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. with stops at the Marketplace, the West Side, and The Landing. The service runs every 15 minutes until 4:30 p.m. and then every 10 minutes thereafter. It’s a great way to save your feet and enjoy the waters of Disney Springs – especially during sunset.

sunset-disney-springs-boathouse

Credit: Disney Tips

Boat services will stop operating if lightning and thunderstorms are forecast in the area, or wind or water levels are too high. If that happens, you can use Disney’s free bus service back to your Disney Resort Hotel instead.

Keep in mind that the boats hold a maximum of 37 people, so there may be a line at busier times for the Sassagoula River Cruise. Wheelchair and ECV Guests can be accommodated on the boats without needing to transfer. The boat captain will attach a ramp for safe embarkation. When traveling between Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, there may be empty seats left to allow for passengers waiting to board at French Quarter.

The Southern Boat Names

The Disney river fleet consists of 15 boats spread out over four routes, all decked out in a brightly-colored yellow and blue paint job and with whimsical Southern names:

  • Sassagoula Sunset
  • Memphis Miss
  • Louisiana Lady
  • Magnolia Blossom
  • Bayou Princess
  • Florida Queen
  • Crescent City Queen
  • Buena Vista Queen
  • Jazz Queen
  • Saratoga Queen
  • Blossom Queen
  • Delta Lady
  • Jazz Lady
  • Azalea Bloom
  • Southern Breeze

The Sassagoula River Boats are not just a mode of transportation, they are a Disney experience all on their own. You get a new perspective on the Walt Disney World Resort, you may see some adorable animals, and if you are lucky, you may end up with a great captain who treats the boat like the Jungle Cruise!

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who loves to enjoy Disney's theme parks with a Mickey Premium Bar in hand! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her Air Force pilot husband. Find her children's book at @thebearandthehug_book