Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark: The Once Fun Spot of the Desert

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: Dzealand / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

If there’s one thing the Mojave Desert is known for, it’s hot and arid weather. As such, it’s no surprise someone would build a waterpark to allow travelers a break from the scorching heat. While a solid concept, the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark – also known as Lake Dolores and Discovery Waterpark – suffered huge financial hardships, leading to its closure.

Creation of a private waterpark

In the 1950s, local businessman Bob Byers decided to build a private waterpark for his immediate and extended family. An expanse of desert, some 100 yards from Interstate 15, was purchased, as it contained an underground spring fed by the Mojave Aquifer. The spring allowed for the creation of a manmade lake, named Lake Dolores after Byers’ wife.

Entrance to the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

Photo Credit: Ryan Hallock / CC BY 2.0

Palm trees lining a reddish pathway

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Metal roof beams covered in ripped yellow and blue tarp

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Construction took place throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. Once it was finished, the park consisted of a series of identical steel waterslides that visitors could ride down toward Lake Dolores. They did so on plastic “floaties,” which skimmed 40 to 50 yards across the water at the bottom of the slides.

Lake Dolores opens to the public

The private waterpark opened to the public as Lake Dolores in May 1962, following the construction of a small campground. This was widely used by motocross enthusiasts and people traveling between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Children's waterslide and an empty pool at Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

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Orange billboard featuring a red convertible

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Over the next two decades, Lake Dolores was relatively popular. Advertised as “The Fun Spot Of The Desert,” it featured the original steel waterslides, as well as two V-shaped ones, ridden standing up; a “Zip-Cord” ride, which thrust visitors into the lake; a Lazy River; bumper boats; a JetSki racetrack; the “Big Booper,” a group raft ride; a swimming pool; three diving boards; and three trapeze-like swings from which visitors could launch themselves.

Lake Dolores becomes Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

Due to dwindling attendance in the late 1980s, Lake Dolores closed down in 1990. That same year, Byers sold it to Lake Dolores Group LLC, after which the waterpark underwent a renovation costing millions of dollars. The original waterslides were replaced with newer, fiberglass ones painted in the colors of the American flag, and more modern attractions were added, including a river ride on inflated tubes.

Row of rusty water tanks covered in graffiti

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Waterpark accessory attached to the roof of a building

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Rubble across the interior of a food vending building at Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

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When it reopened as Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark on July 4, 1998, it marketed itself under a 1950s theme. Visitors were treated to ’50s and ’60s rock and roll music with associated graphics. The rides also embodied this theme, with names like “Grease Lightning.” A year later, it hosted the annual Electric Daisy Carnival, an all-night rave by Insomniac Events.

Aerial view of Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

Photo Credit: Dzealand / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Orange sphere with wings painted on it

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Despite all the work that went into the park, it amassed a debt of three million dollars during its first few seasons. Its money troubles didn’t get better, as a lawsuit was brought about following an employee suffering severe injuries going down a waterslide. A settlement of $4.4 million was reached, crippling the park.

Blue building covered in graffiti

Photo Credit: Anthony Citrano / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The empty Lazy River in the sunset

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Roadside sign for the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

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In February 2000, the park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but when a court-appointed trustee failed to find a buyer, this was changed to Chapter 7 liquidation. The judge overseeing the case returned it to the Byers family, and Dolores sold it to SL Investment Group LLC in September 2001. She died a month later, five years after her husband.

Third time wasn’t the charm – but is the fourth?

In May 2002, Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark opened under a new name: Discovery Waterpark. Throughout 2002 and 2003, it was open on weekends, but by the summer of 2004, it officially closed.

Faded sign advertising Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

Photo Credit: Anthony Citrano / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sideview of waterslides and an empty pool

Photo Credit: Jeff Kern / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Following its closure, Discovery Waterpark was largely left abandoned, with its structures fading and becoming rusted beneath the Mojave Desert’s sun. It fast become a favorite place for urban explorers, with TrustoCorp transforming it into “TrustoLand” in 2013, an artistic statement represented through the repainting of signs and buildings on the property.

View from the top of waterslides

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Damaged billboard

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Small hill surrounded by debris

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In 2003, Olympic Gold Medalist Ron Brown and other pro athletes created a proposal to turn the park into a camp for disadvantaged youths. However, this ultimately failed, as did an attempt by Oasis Themepark to renovate and reopen the park in 2011. Just a few years earlier, a large portion of the park’s installations was sold off, with the Big Bopper and another waterslide being sent to Cultus Lake Water Park in British Columbia.

View of a canopy through leafless branches

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Skull painted along the side of a pink and white checkered building

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In mid-October 2018, Discovery Waterpark was the victim of arson. Many of its remaining buildings, including the Lazy River Café and Arcade, burned down. This led to the installment of security personnel on the property, as well as “No Trespassing” signs.

Pink and white checkered building in the sunset

Photo Credit: Anthony Citrano / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Entrance to the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

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Blue building surrounded by palm trees

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As of March 2020, private firm G&GF Enterprise had received approval from San Bernardino County to revitalize the land making up Discovery Waterpark, following their acquisition of the property in 2013. The company plans to turn the park into a “roadside playground.”