Lake Dolores | An Apocalyptic Waterpark In The Mojave Desert
Once an oasis in the desert, Lake Dolores Waterpark is now a dry desolate wasteland. We spotted this place while traveling back home from our Route 66 trip. Lake Dolores Water Park is now completely abandoned, but this wasn’t always the case.
Lake Dolores Waterpark Location
You can find Lake Dolores right off of highway 15, you really can’t miss it. Just know if you miss the exit it’s going to be about a 10 minutes drive before you can turn around.
Lake Dolores Waterpark History
Lake Dolores Water Park was built by in the 1960s by Bob Byers. He envisioned building a true oasis in the desert. Over the years Bob used the Mojave Aquifer to create the massive lake, which he named after his wife Dolores.
After opening in 1962 the park had it’s most visitors ever during the 60s and 70s. It’s prime location between Los Angeles and Vegas made it a hub for travelers making their way to and from the Vegas strip.
Lake Dolores was the first of it’s kind when it came to attractions. The park featured eight slides stretching 150 feet. There was another V shaped waterside that you could ride while standing, it shot you out the end like a cannonball. This place was NOT known for it’s safety. (More on that later.)
During the 1990s traffic to the park started slowing down and expenses to keep the park running were mounting. Pumping that much water into the desert is a challenging an expensive task.
In the summer of 1990 Bob Byer sold the water park to the Lake Dolores Group LLC. The three man investment group envisioned a more polished version of the park, set in a 1950s theme. The park was rebranded and reopened in 1995 under the new name, Rock-A-Hoola Water Park.
Rock A Hoola Water Park
With new rides and attractions, the new owners were hopeful that their additions would make the water park a success. In 1999 an all night rave called the Electric Daisy Carnival was held at the water park, which honestly seemed like it would have been a lot of fun.
More additions were planned, including an RV park but due to budget issues was delayed multiple times. With all the new rides, attractions, and advertising the investors were over $3 million dollars in debt.
To make matters worse, an employee was permanently disabled due to an accident on a water slide. This employee was later rewarded $4.4 million dollars.
Rock A Hoola Water Park Accident
On the morning of of May 29th, 1999 James Mason reported for duty as a pool technician. As he and a few others were working to get the water park open for the day, he decided to go down the Doo Wop Super Drop. James asked another employee to turn on the water as he made his way towards the slide.
He climbed 276 feet to the top of the water slide and waited for the water to come out. He looked below and saw that the bottom of the slide appeared to be filled with water.
James slid down the slide but as he quickly approached the bottom he realized he was not stopping fast enough. As his body scrapped against the shallow bottom he tried to use his hands to slow himself, but it didn’t work.
He crashed into the concrete dam at the end of the slide smacking his tail bone and flying into the air. One of the managers who first saw him thought he was joking when they found him laying on his back. James recalls that after the accident he tried to use his legs but they wouldn’t work. Based on the height of the slide, it’s likely he hit the concrete traveling 40-50 miles per hour.
There was a long drawn out legal battle between Mr. Mason and the park, which centered around the fact that James had not clocked in yet while the accident took place. Eventually the lawsuit was settled in 2004, awarding Mr. Mason $4,397,850. You can read the full details in the MASON v. LAKE DOLORES GROUP LLC report.
This accident was arguably the tipping point, driving Rock A Hoola Park into bankruptcy. By 2000 most of the assets were liquidated and the park was eventually returned back to the now widowed Dolores Byers. She then sold it to another investment group and passed away shortly thereafter.
Investors tried one last time to make the park work. With $400,000 in renovation and a new name, Discovery Waterpark was open now on weekends in 2002.
This idea ultimately failed as well, and in just two years the park closed it’s doors in the summer of 2004. The park has been a ghost town ever since.
Abandoned Lake Dolores Waterpark Today
The empty park has been a haven for skaters, graffiti artists, and vandals alike. Much of the park is in ruin and very few slides remain as of today. in 2018 an arsonist burned down the Lazy River Cafe and the Arcade.
If you plan on photographing this place I’d suggest visiting at either dawn, sunrise, or nighttime. It is private property that is evidently patrolled, but during my visit there were skaters and people riding dirt bikes through the park.
In it’s current state I wouldn’t cross the country to see it, but if you ever find yourself around Route 15, be sure to stop and check it out.
In 2008 Rob Dyrdek skated in the abandoned water park and feature it on his MTV show Rob & Big.
The band Boards of Canada also debuted their album ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ by first playing it live in Lake Dolores Waterpark.
Lake Dolores Waterpark is one of the few remaining abandoned amusement parks left in the in US. While most of it is gone, it’s still surreal to imagine how vibrant and lush of a place this park once was.
If you love abandoned amusement parks be sure to check out my personal favorite park, Six Flags New Orleans.