Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Photo Essay: Water Park, Thrice Abandoned (Circa 2009)

I keep ending up in Barstow. It's not my favorite city, but I keep ending up there.

And every time I do, I can't help but think about the abandoned amusement park just east of Barstow along the 15 freeway in Newberry Springs, on the way to Vegas.

There were such hopes for it to be a desert oasis. But after three tries, it appears to be finally abandoned...for good.



Back in 2009, I first noticed the Rock-a-Hoola Water Park (also known as Discovery Waterpark and Lake Dolores) on my way into Barstow for the first time.



Heading west from Zzyzx and the Mojave National Preserve, I spotted a red and white silo painted with the Cola-Cola logo, and thought, "What is that?! That is something."



But it was the end of the day and I was losing light, and I was anxious to get to my hotel and have dinner in Barstow after a long day of desert exploration, so I got up early and returned the next day.



It was early in my days of urban exploration, and I was easily spooked (as I sometimes still am)...



...but I was alone at the abandoned water park.



It was a curious thing, like being inside three amusement parks all in one.



You could see remnants and relics from all of its past iterations.



Much of its current theme, at the time, was around Route 66 and 1950s car culture...



...with a classic (yet somehow modern) gas station entrance...



...and lots of billboards of classic cars.



Back then, many of the structures were still there...



...though standing mostly empty...



...with some trash and a few leftover prizes stacked in the corner...



...but much of these buildings are gone today.



It was easy to imagine screaming kids and worn-out families wreaking havoc on the place...



...but honestly, it was never that popular...



...despite its key location on the way to and from Vegas.



Nobody really wanted to get off the 15 that badly to go there...



...and there weren't that many locals to sustain the business.



Sure, skaters took up occupancy of the pools and the ramps...



...given the empty surface area available for tricks...



...but mostly, it was a whole lot of nothing.



Closed for good in 2004, since then it has been heavily vandalized...



...and scavenged.



Most of the slides were removed because of an accident involving an off-duty worker...



...who became paraplegic after using one of the slides and plunging into a pool that wasn't filled with enough water.



In the desert where water is scarce...



...Lake Dolores was one of the few sources of natural water...



...having been built on top of a natural aquifer...



...and also artificial water, featuring a man-made lake.



But now everything at Lake Dolores is dried up.



You can still see the remnants of something along the north side of the 1-15 these days, but there isn't much left, the rides and platforms having been dismantled, the lamp posts stolen. The location is great, but it's doubtful whether anything new will ever be built there again – and if it does, if it will survive.

Then again, there are a lot of empty desert areas in Southern California that have been filled, developed and populated over the last few years. Never say never.



Related Post:
Photo Essay: The Living Ghost of Yermo