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Six Flags New Orleans is an overgrown apocalyptic swamp land. Wild bore, coyotes, and alligators now roam between the ticket booths and concession stands. Megalithic rusting coasters stand tall and frozen against the swampy marsh.
When I first heard about the dilapidated state of Six Flags New Orleans, I just knew I had to go. We packed up our things and set out on a 16 hour journey to conquer what was one of the most challenging yet rewarding explorations I’ve had to date.
The Fall Of Six Flags New Orleans
The amusement park first opened it’s doors in 2000 as Jazzland but was shortly renamed Six Flags New Orleans in 2003 before it was abandoned.
The park was built tough. Rides such as the Mega Zeph were constructed with metal risers to prevent termites from turning the wooden coaster into an all you can eat buffet.
Coasters and buildings alike were engineered to withstand hurricane force winds and other severe weather, but nothing could protect against what was to come in 2005.
August 29th 2005 would mark the Six Flag’s last day in operation. As Katrina crashed into the southern coast line water levels quickly rose, and anti flooding systems failed dramatically.
The storm drains that were installed to divert water from Lake Pontchartrain did little to stop the surge of water headed for the park. The land surrounding Six Flags filled up like a bowl with water reaching depths of up to 7 feet in some areas.
Roughly a year after the storm Six Flags announced that the park was deemed a total loss, and there were no plans to rebuild. As of 2019 plans to finish the demolition of the park have been accelerated although when that will actually happen is still up in the air.
To our surprise the park was heavily guarded throughout the day and night. Both main entrances were not only blocked off by massive locked gates, but had multiple city police cars parked in front of it.
This was going to be harder than we thought.
Accepting failure was not an option, so we drove around the property scouting for a way in and an inconspicuous place to park.
At the time, much of the land surrounding the park was soupy and impassible. As we continued to circle around we noticed an unmarked security van begin to follow us.
As the sun set we drove away and the van turned around. We lost our tail and gained some knowledge of the area. Our plan was set.
Since security was so tight we decided to predawn it. After some home made spicy Cajun food cooked in our hotel bathroom, we set our alarms for 4am to beat the sun and hopefully the police to Six Flags in the morning.
4am arrived faster than expected. Since most of us fell asleep in our clothes we were out the door in just a few minutes. We’re the only ones on the road as we pull up to our parking spot, everyone is sleeping so we try to be as quiet as we can.
We begin to make our way towards the road when suddenly the early morning calm is shattered by multiple guard dogs barking. We run, clumsily climbing some fences as we dart across the open highway.
Eventually we make it out of the glaring streetlights into the cover of foliage surrounding the park. As we began the second half of our hike the massive silhouette of the Mega Zeph coaster emerged from the darkness.
As we made our way through the weeds and tall grass we eventually came to an asphalt path that forked off into the darkness. We split up to explore the park.
The Jungle Inside
The extent of the damage was evident. Waterlines had stained buildings showing where the water table once was. Kids had moved boards against rides to form makeshift skate ramps. This place was truly transformed.
As we continue shooting long exposures waiting for the sun to rise, we hear a siren.
The siren is getting louder as the vehicle gets closer and closer. I think to myself “is it possible they saw us cross the highway?” We stay low in the darkness waiting to see where it goes.
It eventually passes us by and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
As the police sirens continue in the distance, half a dozen coyotes in the woods just north of us begin to whale in sync with the patrol car. This was by far one of my favorite memories from the park.
The sunrise was spectacular and provided some great light for photos of the park. As the sun rose so did the likelihood of someone seeing us. As we wrapped up our exploring we suddenly heard a loud metal dragging noise from the front of the park.
Someone was opening the gates.
Escaping Six Flags New Orleans
I quickly darted towards the back of the park and called the other half of our group. No answer.
I called again and after the third time they picked up. Turns out they heard it too and were also hiding. I peer through the bushes towards the entrance and see that same security van from the night before. I wonder if they saw us. It’s time to go.
We clear the last fence and are finally home free.
As we begin our long hike back to the car we see the same unmarked van slow down near us and then drive off. It does a U turn and repeats this pattern once more.
As we get into our car the unmarked van stops next to us and a man emerges. “You weren’t in that amusement park were you?” He looks down at my mud covered knees. “No….no”, we all mumble to ourselves.
He goes on to explain that they work directly with the police department and they arrest on average 5 people a week from the abandoned Six Flags.
He went on to describe all the dangers the park had to offer.
Assaults, wild bore, hungry alligators and packs of coyotes.
Don’t tempt me with a good time man.
He was a nice guy who I am almost certain knew where we came from. He said we were lucky cause he would of had us all arrested, and we would have had to spend the weekend in jail cause the judge didn’t get in till Monday.
We lucked out, and just missed him catching us by only a few minutes.
Six Flags New Orleans is an oddity in and of itself and may soon be gone. I was glad to have had the opportunity to photograph it, and I hope New Orleans never has to experience a storm like that again.
If you love abandoned amusement parks, be sure to check out Lake Dolores Waterpark located in the middle of the Mohave desert!