Milky Way above the arcade building, Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, California
A barren oasis in the Mojave Desert may be more popular in abandonment than it was during its tenuous incarnations.
Off of Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the town of Newberry Springs sits the remains of “the first waterpark in America”. Originally opened in 1962 by Bob Byers as a manmade lake and recreation area built atop a spring and named after his wife, Lake Dolores came to feature several attractions based around the water. A set of slides where riders would slide down and glide across the lake on ‘floats’, two V-shaped metal slides in which sliders would stand up and ‘surf’ the slide, swings and a zip chord that launched riders into the water, boat races, bumper boats, and dirt bike trails throughout the surrounding desert landscape were all attractions constructed around Lake Dolores. A campground also made Lake Dolores a destination for locals and a stopover for families driving across the 15. Though declining attendance would eventually lead to the park’s closure in the late-1980’s.
Sold several years later, the park was rebranded and reopened in 1998, now called Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, and with new 1950’s era Route 66 theming and new rides more consistent with a modern waterpark feel – this included a lazy river, several large slides, video arcade and children’s water playground features. Though in the 3 years that Rock-A-Hoola would operate, plans to expand as an RV Park would not come into fruition, and the owners later claimed to have lost several million dollars on the investment. A 1999 accident which involved an off-duty employee using a waterslide into an inadequately-filled pool, leaving himself paralyzed, would result in a $4.4 million judgement against the waterpark, forcing the park to close down in 2000 and ownership to revert to Dolores Byers (Bob had died in 1996).
Byers again sold the property in 2001, and after another renovation, the park would open as Discovery Waterpark in 2002, only to operate intermittently and close following the 2004 season.
This would be the last time the park would operate as a functional waterpark, though after its closure, it would seem to take on another life as a magnet for rogue artists and filmmakers.
In 1999, the waterpark was the site of the EDM-centered festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, attracting an estimated 10,000 people. Though in the years since the park has closed, the allure of a decaying amusement park visible from the freeway has brought graffiti artists, filmmakers, skaters, musicians, and dirt bikers, not to mention scrappers, all of whom, coupled with the park’s isolated location away from any development beyond just a handful of homes spread throughout the area, have used the park for an array of videos and art installations, while time’s passing leaves the buildings more and more damaged. Nearly all of the park’s waterslides have been removed and sold to other parks, leaving the park an even more shell-like appearance of its past.
After more recent proposals to renovate the park and the land surrounding it, there are, again, ongoing efforts to reopen as a waterpark. Though as of this writing, Rock-A-Hoola remains a shell of a former amusement park attracting interest and curious attention for a brief moment for those making the drive between Southern California and the Southern Nevada Mojave Desert.
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fountain inside the entrance gate
waterslide frame sits atop a hill overlooking Lake Dolores
view from top, Interstate 15 traffic in the background
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