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Draining of Disneyland waterway reveals items lost by guests: Cellphones, pacifiers and more [updated]

May 4, 2010 |  8:04 am

For months, the rafts that ferry Disneyland guests across the waterway to Tom Sawyer Island have been idle. No children have explored the island’s caves, scaled its climbing rocks or run across its bridges.

But the island won’t be lonely much longer. Park employees will refill the Rivers of America this week after it was drained in January for maintenance. The draining took almost a week, at the end of which this question was answered: What do you find at the bottom of an amusement park basin after seven years?

The answer: a computer tower, hundreds of cellphones, countless pacifiers and half a canoe, said Disneyland Resort spokesman John McClintock.

While drained, employees repainted, replaced and cleaned park features along the shore, basin and island. In the past, park employees had drained the water to the ocean. Looking to minimize the environmental impact, they collaborated with the Orange County Water District this time around and drained the water through a valve, purified it and added it to the county’s reserve.

“You bank the water and get the water back,” said Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Betsy Sanchez.

That’s about 6 million gallons of saved water, park officials figured. The island and the waterway, which used to be stocked with fish, are as old as Disneyland itself, which opened in 1955. Photos show Walt Disney at the bank of the island with fishing pole in hand, McClintock said.

The Mark Twain riverboat, which navigates the waterway along with the sailing ship Columbia, was one of the park’s earliest attractions. The tracks the ships run on were among the structures due for maintenance -- a fact Disney officials were reluctant to concede.

[Updated at 8:20 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly called the riverboat the Tom Sawyer.]

“Because of the illusion, we don’t really talk about the tracks,” McClintock said.

Since the success of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, Tom Sawyer Island has been revamped to include references to treasure hunts and other buccaneer exploits alongside references to Mark Twain’s classic characters.

River-related attractions, like the ships and the rafts, will be back up and running in coming days, Sanchez said, just in time for the park’s warm-weather rush.

-- Robert Faturechi

Island Map: Disneyland