If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you’ve almost certainly walked along the Rivers of America. You’ve seen the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia, and you’ve walked by the dock next to Frontierland. But did you notice that on the other side of the river, there’s another dock? This dock is part of the infamous Fowler’s Harbor, designed by and named after a Disney legend.
The harbor’s namesake is a former Navy Admiral, Joe Fowler. Fowler met Walt Disney through a mutual friend, and he quickly became involved in the development of several nautical attractions in the park. Walt trusted the Admiral’s expertise in the design of the Rivers of America and its first ship: the Mark Twain.
But the two did not agree on everything. Fowler stressed the importance of building a dry dock, which would be essential to ship maintenance and docking. Walt felt the dock was a huge waste of money, and instead advocated for a small bank without much architecture. The bank became “Joe’s Ditch”, and sat beneath a small building, part of which would eventually become the Harbour Galley.
Fowler finally persuaded Walt that a dry dock was essential to ship maintenance, and Walt named the new dock “Fowler’s Harbor” in his honor. But Fowler’s influence wasn’t limited to the waterfront. He oversaw park construction as a whole, and soon became a Disney exec. In his later life, Fowler worked for Walt Disney Pictures, WED Enterprises (Imagineering), and was part of the leadership team overseeing the construction of Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Today, Fowler’s Harbor is still one of the most peaceful places on the waterfront. The façade facing the Rivers of America now bears the name “Fowler’s Inn,” a final nod to a Disney legend and Walt’s trusted friend.