In the middle of the scorching Mojave Desert is a strange sight. It has sat quietly for over a decade, turning the heads of passing motorists. The Lake Dolores / Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark is a fascinating abandoned location built at the site of a natural spring.
The park featured eight identical 150-foot (46 m) sixty–degree–angle steel waterslides mounted side by side on a man–made hill. Riders rode on small plastic “floaties” which skimmed 40 to 50 yards (37 to 46 m) across the lagoon when they hit the water at the slide’s end.
Nearby were two V–shaped waterslides, also roughly 150 feet (46 m) long, which were ridden standing up. The slides ended about 15 feet (4.6 m) above the water, shooting the standing rider out of the end like a human cannonball.
On the “Zip–Cord” ride, riders hung from a hand–held device attached to a guide wire for approximately 200 feet (61 m) at a 30–degree downward angle. At the end of this wire the hand–grip would slam into a blocking mechanism and come to a stop about 20 feet (6.1 m) above the water, with the momentum thrusting the hanging rider 20 feet (6.1 m) forward into the lagoon.
In the middle of a smaller adjacent lake were three high diving boards, and three trapeze-like swings hanging from an A–frame structure mounted on a 20-foot (6.1 m) high platform. Riders launched themselves from these swings into the lake.
The “Big Bopper” was a fast, long group raft ride. The “Lazy River” was a slower and more relaxed raft ride. There were also bumper boats, an oval JetSki water racetrack, and a swimming pool. The park saw its peak attendance between the early 1970s and the mid-1980s. After a downturn in popularity in the late 1980s, the park closed.
I passed through the gate into a bizarre and amazing world that I’d never dared to dream existed.
A world of oil changes, tune ups, skulls stenciled onto buildings,
…discarded shower curtains in empty bathrooms,
…and even hookers, apparently.
Canals with stagnant brown water snaked through the park.
Bone-dry pools languished beneath the punishing glare of the sun.
Concession stands stood empty and ransacked.
A sign once bore important information for those about to ascend the stairs to the water slides.
The scaffolding remains, but the slides were shipped off years ago to Cultus Lake Waterpark in Canada, where they would again know the joy of plunging visitors into refreshing pools of chlorinated water.
The concrete pylons that once supported a dozen or so water slides stand as monuments to happier times. This place must have been awesome in its heyday.
Below, rows of water filtration tanks bake in the sunlight.
Many of the park’s buildings remain, most of them entirely empty,
their inner and outer walls coated with graffiti.
At the far end of the park stands an old prefab structure that once served as a “County Store”.
Little remains inside, except fallen ceiling panels, toppled filing cabinets, and a desk.
Lake Dolores is a 273-acre man-made lake in Newberry Springs, California, a town famous for its annual Newberry Springs Pistachio Festival. The lake is fed by the Mojave Aquifer via underground springs. It was quite dry at the time of my visit.
Local businessman Bob Byers built Lake Dolores Waterpark in the late 50s and named it after his wife. He originally meant for it to be used exclusively by his family.
In 1962 he added a campground on the adjacent lot and opened Lake Dolores to the public. Over the years the waterpark expanded with the addition of rides and other attractions.
Lake Dolores Waterpark, “The Fun Spot of The Desert!” had its heyday in the ’70s and early ’80s before attendance began to decline.
It featured a variety of attractions including group raft rides, bumper boats, JetSkis, high diving boards, a zip-cord ride and a massive swimming pool.
Byers sold Lake Dolores Waterpark in 1990 to an investment group who revamped it with a 1950s theme and changed the name to Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark.
Sadly, Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark remained open for only three seasons before massive debt forced its closure. A contributing factor was a $4.4 million lawsuit by an employee who became paraplegic after an accident in 1999. The investment group declared bankruptcy in 2000.
In 1999, the electronic music festival Electric Daisy Carnival was held there.
The property was returned to Dolores Byers, the original park’s namesake, whose husband Bob Byers had passed away in 1996. Dolores sold Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark to another investment group in 2001 and then died a month later.
The new owners poured $400,000 worth of renovations into the park and changed the name to Discovery Waterpark. It reopened 2002, but closed again in 2004.
Since its closure, the park has been used for many purposes, including a filming location for several T.V. shows and films, art events, and music performances.
The stunning photos were taken by Jim Sullivan. Jim Sullivan is a traveler, who shares his stories with followers. If you’d like to see more abandoned places in America, then check out our articles on the Abandoned Remnants of Arizona’s Mesa and the The Domes of Casa Grande — A Mysterious Abandoned Place in Arizona