Sometimes when visiting a Disney theme park, it is time to just relax and enjoy your surroundings. Such is the case when Mary Ann and I stopped to ride The Liberty Belle which is part of The Liberty Square Riverboat attraction in the Magic Kingdom. As we entered the area just past the Liberty Belle replica on the left and the Hall of Presidents on the right, we noticed the “Belle” would soon be pulling into dock. [I've included toward the end of this post, a great Liberty Bell voyage You Tube video by AllEars.Net.]
So we entered the waiting area, which is the landing for Deck Two of the ship, and sat on the bench awaiting its arrival. Interestingly, there is only one loading dock in the Disneyland version, but in Orlando they figured out that things would speed up if you could enter one way and leave another. In WDW, you disembark on the bottom deck.
The Liberty Belle transverses the Disney constructed Rivers of America, whose central land mass is Tom Sawyer Island. But to get there, you need to walk further along to a second dock and board a raft that takes you across the river to Tom’s Landing (which is the only way to get to the island). We haven’t been over that way is many trips, but plan to for our next, as it will be with the youngins.
The Liberty Square Riverboat is a real paddlewheel steamship, whose boiler room takes water from the Rivers of America, converts it to steam and powers the boat up and back the approximate half-mile tour around Tom Sawyer Island and other parts of Frontierland and Liberty Square.
If the scene reminds you of a Mark Twain novel, it should, as you’ll soon discover from the broadcast narration. There is plenty of interesting scenery along the way, including the Splash Mountain plunge, riders enjoying a whirl around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, woodland animals, a burning cabin, a hint of river pirates, Native American villagers and finally an eerie riverside manor that casts an ominous shadow alongside the shore, which is The Haunted Mansion.
Mark Twain came into the world as Samuel Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. His parents moved to Hannibal, Missouri while he was a young'un, and he spent his youth experiencing the adventures that shaped his life and colored his writings. At 24, he realized a boyhood dream when he was finally entrusted with the powers and duties of a steamboat pilot on April 9, 1859 in St. Louis.
Twain loved the paddlewheel steamboat and he loved the river. As a matter of fact, it was during his years on the river that he chose his pen name. "Mark Twain" was a frequent call of the leadsman. It meant that the water was 2 fathoms (12 feet) deep and indicated safe water.
A lead line is used to determine water depth and the type of material which makes up the bottom or riverbed. A 30-foot-long line is attached to a pipe filled with lead, except for the bottom 2 inches. (Modern lead lines are simply a solid round pipe-shaped piece of lead with a concave bottom) Material from the riverbed...mud, sand or potentially hazardous rock...collects in the lower, hollow end of the pipe.
The line itself, in the "Ol days", was probably made of manila, hemp or sisal, and had markings woven into the strands which represented various depths. Today's lead lines generally have polyester strands and bright colored plastic tags with actual numbers are woven into the strands
The leadsman is the person who "heaves the lead" and "sings the mark". In the days of Mark Twain, the mark meanings were actually sung as the paddle boat cautiously made its way along the river in potentially shallow water.
When full, The Liberty Belle will hold 450 people on the three decks and is accessible, but unfortunately I haven’t seen it at capacity for a very long time. You will pass scenes along the riverbank that are from the 1800’s; but you also get a great view when the runaway mine train of Big Thunder Mountain fly by along the shore.
The riverboat leaves the dock on the hour and half hour. When you need to relax, both in the queue and on your voyage, it does give your feet and legs a rest as you slowly make your way around the river. We enjoyed this attraction, because the scenery is typical Disney and the photo opportunities abound. The best view is on the top deck. Most of the space is standing room, but since it’s unusual for a full house, getting a bench seat if you need one is normally not a problem.
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