Abandoned Waterpark in the Mojave Desert - Lake Dolores aka Rock-A-Hoola

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in Newberry Springs California

Like the abandoned Zzyzx Healing Center, Lake Dolores / Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark is a fascinating abandoned location built at the site of a natural spring.

Driving back to Los Angeles after a weekend in Las Vegas, traffic had slowed to a crawl. About 20 miles east of Barstow I saw a treasure so rare and wonderful that it could have been a mirage or a hallucination brought on by the desert heat: an abandoned waterpark. It was the perfect place to wait out the traffic jam.

I crossed the vastness of the empty parking lot to a walkway surrounded by billboards and beheaded palm trees.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

I passed through the gate into a bizarre and amazing world that I'd never dared to dream existed.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

A world of oil changes, tune ups, skulls stenciled onto buildings,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

...illegible signs,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

...discarded shower curtains in empty bathrooms,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

...self-aware buildings,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

...lockers,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

...and even hookers, apparently.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Canals with stagnant brown water snaked through the park.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Bone-dry pools languished beneath the punishing glare of the sun.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Concession stands stood empty and ransacked.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

A sign once bore important information for those about to ascend the stairs to the water slides.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

The top of the hill affords a very nice view.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Below, rows of water filtration tanks bake in the sunlight.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Many of the park's buildings remain, most of them entirely empty,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

thoroughly vandalized,

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

their inner and outer walls coated with graffiti.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

At the far end of the park stands an old prefab structure that once served as a "County Store".

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Little remains inside, except fallen ceiling panels, toppled filing cabinets, and a desk.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California


Lake Dolores Waterpark, "The Fun Spot of The Desert!" had its heyday in the '70s and early '80s before attendance began to decline. 

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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.

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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. 

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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. 

Abandoned Lake Dolores Rock-A-Hoola Water Park in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs California

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And come back next week, when I'll share the story of another fascinating abandoned place.

BTW, if you'd like to see some pictures of Lake Dolores Waterpark in its heyday, follow this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andyroo117/sets/72157614486264219/detail/

18 comments :

  1. What a neat place--such a shame that it couldn't seem to keep going, no matter who ran it.
    Any thoughts on why the palms would be "be-headed" ?

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    1. I've seen beheaded palms in quite a few of the places I've explored. I've heard they are easy to replant and take root fairly readily, so people are probably chopping them off and taking them and replanting them somewhere. An abandoned palm could be a great addition to your garden blog :)

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  2. Hi Jim Sullivan! I have really enjoyed following you on your travels! I love the descriptions you give of the places you visit and your pictures are amazing! Reddit /u/Minniebunny.

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    1. Thanks so much for following my travels, Jeanette! I'm glad you're enjoying it :D

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  3. Hi, I loved your pictures

    I wanted to come and check out the place as well but is it fenced off or are there "no trespassing" signs? That's the only thing stopping be from checking it out.

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    1. Thank you! There may be some fences and no trespassing signs, but I can't remember for sure. It was very easy to access. I didn't have to climb any fences or anything. I haven't heard of anyone getting in trouble exploring this place.

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  4. Jim, these and all the rest of your pictures are awesome. Im taking a trip out there this week to explore around there with my wife. I like your website!!
    David

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    1. Thank you so much, David! I'm glad you're enjoying the website. I hope you have an awesome time on your trip. There are so many interesting things to see out in the Mojave.

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    2. We went out there yesterday,it was raining bUT we still went,pulled up into the parking lot, saw another car, guy gother out said he was the owner and that we were treapassing,I asked to take a few pictures and leave he said ok. Light Blue prius,if anyone sees that there ,DON'T GO. I got about 10 pictures,he told me he plans on reopening it within the next 2 years. Well see.....

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    3. I wonder if he really was the owner and why he was there in the rain. I'm interested to see if the place does end up reopening. Thanks for sharing your experience and info! I'm glad you got to snap a few pictures at least.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. It was the owner. Hes planning on reopening it as an rv park nd water park but they were told they would have to rezone it cuhz the new development code won't permit the current location to be built/rebuilt on so they have to get a General Plan Ammendment (which is initiated to allow a change in land use for future development that is not permitted by a property's existing land use designation) the owner doesn't want more damage done to the property than what has been done already especially when trying to renovate it.

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    6. It's public land so I'm curious how the "owner" showed up.

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  5. Well I learned something about beheaded palms, lol. Myself, my boyfriend and his 10-year-old sister went to Lake Dolores from the San Fernando Valley in the summer of 1981. There was a sign before entering that said you took your life into your own hands and they weren't responsible if you expired! I think the entry fee was $5. I don't think the triple decker dive platform/rope still exists. His sister was a fearless Aries and she leaped off of the top deck whereas I took one look and went down 2 levels!

    I love me a water flume/slide and that was a blast. There was also a zip line that ran the length of the lake and ended at a rubber tire. Well I hit the tire and bam, landed in the water chest first. Knocked the wind out of me. I was sore for a week.

    Good times!

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    1. Sounds like a fun, but dangerous place in its day! I'd love to have experienced the zip line, except for the part about crashing into the tire at the end.

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    2. Hi Jim. I realized when I read a little more, the 3 level dive platform was a 'trapeze'. Crazy! I'd be interested if he revitalizes the place for others' fun that maybe you'll get to experience...if your affairs are all in order. lol.

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  6. Actually it's owned by the public and the guy in the pickup or Prius is full of it. Call the cops if he hassles you.

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  7. This guy owns it, not public land. Was sold in 2013

    http://omadventuresinlife.blogspot.com/

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