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What Happened to Mojave Desert’s Lake Dolores Waterpark?

Nestled along Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is what remains of what was known as one of the first modern water parks in America. Now known as an abandoned water park, Lake Dolores Waterpark was first opened in 1962. It was established by John Robert Byers, who named the place after his wife, as a private desert campground.

Byers was involved in the paint business in California, but because he had bigger ideas and plans, he went on to start his own venture in the Mojave Desert in 1953. Back then, the land was a penny an acre, so Byers began developing the area until Lake Dolores came to life in the 1960s. The area essentially consisted of interconnected man-made lakes, ponds, and channels, all of which were fueled by the underground springs.

The water park was open to various activities like fishing, boat racing, and water skiing. Byers wanted Lake Dolores to be a pit stop or landing place to rest and relax. Since it was located along Interstate 15, people started visiting the place after word got out about it. The park gained more and more popularity through time, gaining recognition as America’s first modern water park. At that time, the idea of a water park was still unknown. With Lake Dolores having all the sights and attractions that you see in commercial water parks today, it became a hit for visitors, welcoming about 30,000 in 1971.

Lake Dolores Waterpark was dubbed to be a “free-for-all party location” that appealed to bikers and offroad travelers. It had eight 150-foot long sit-down slides where you ride on small inflatables and plummet down to a narrow channel of water. Beside the slides were the thrilling zip lines, where you descended the first 100 feet over gravelly slopes before dropping to the water at high speeds. While this activity is without a doubt exciting, it can also be dangerous since you had to hold on and make sure not to let go until you reached the water.

Additionally, the water park also had a ton of other fun and exhilarating rides like the stand-up slides and trapeze, along with amenities like motocross and ATV tracks. All in all, Lake Dolores Waterpark was booming and became known as the “Fun Spot of the Desert.” Small commercials and interviews were even made to promote the place, but word-of-mouth continued to be the top source of increasing visitors.

In the late 1980s, the water park closed for the first time. While the exact reasons were not disclosed, some speculate financial problems to be the cause. Later on, local ordinances became more strict about water at recreational parks, causing worries about Lake Dolores due to its murky waters. At this time, Las Vegas began building water parks and people began to take more precaution for safety. Due to changing times, Lake Dolores was sold to a group of investors, who reopened the place in 1998 as Rock-a-Hoola.

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Lake Dolores Waterpark was once a top attraction for motorists and bikers, but after several closures, it had become an abandoned waterpark.

Unfortunately, Rock-a-Hoola’s success was short-lived as it closed down in 2000 after the owners filed for bankruptcy. Once again, another group of investors tried their hand in 2002, renaming the place as “Discovery Waterpark.” However, much like the previous occurrence, the park closed again in 2004. After this, the place became known as the abandoned water park.

Riley Brown
Written By

Riley is a history, lifestyle, and entertainment writer living in San Diego. He received his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Multimedia from the University of Oregon. His work has been featured in many finance and lifestyle publications throughout the US. When he is not writing, Riley enjoys reading and hanging out at the beach with his dog.


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