The derelict Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, once upon a time a fun spot in the sun

Magda Origjanska
Featured image

In the extensive Mojave Desert, the mountains sit majestically over the desert plains of Southern California. In a land where water is scarce, travelers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas would be surprised to come across a refreshing oasis, that is, the all new Dolores Lake Resort and Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark. Visitors are treated to an atmosphere filled with classic Americana and family fun. With new water attractions and the world’s largest family raft ride, the brand new Rock-a-hoola waterpark has something for everyone. Relax in the sun, get your kicks on one of the many exciting water slides, enjoy the cool flow of the river or take time and spend your afternoon in one of the shady areas of the park. A fabulous destination for friends, travelers and families!

No, what you’ve just read is not a hot tourist offer but a 1998 commercial for the Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark, an abandoned water park on the edge of California that used to lure tourists and stoppers-by on their way to Vegas.

Rock-A-Hoola Deserted Waterpark Author:Jeff Kern CC BY2.0

If you want an eerie thrill, there’s no place like an abandoned amusement park. The once crowded site situated on Lake Dolores, at Newberry Springs, east of Barstow on Interstate 15, is now a still-life image of quietude and decay. The Rock-a-Hoola was initially built as a private resort in the 1950s but opened its doors to the public in 1962 before closing them at the end of the 1980s.

The Rock-a-Hoola sign that greeted visitors into the park, April 2011. Author: Dzealand CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1998, the park was renovated in a 1950s “Route 66” style, including new attractions and contemporary buildings. The greenery was revived with numerous newly planted trees and bushes, supporting the vibrant, active atmosphere of the site. The highly popular element of the renovation was the Lazy River, the looping canal inner-tube ride. Moreover, a campground was built and made available for the visitors who planned to spend some time at the park.  It’s hard to believe that today, according to some of the latest visitors, the underground plumbing and the old snack bars are swarming with cockroaches and most of the palm trees have been cut down.

RockAHoola Author: Jeff Kern CC BY2,0

Shortly after the renovation, in 1999, an employee of the park was hurt in a terrible accident, which became the main turning point in Rock-a-Hoola’s fate. Reportedly, during the closed hours of the park the employee got on one of the slides but the pool didn’t have enough water and he ended up badly injured.

Lake Dolores water-park in 2012 Author: Jeff Kern CC BY 2.0

He was left a paraplegic because of the accident, and the park had to award him almost $5 million as a payoff. This event proved to be the beginning of the end for the waterpark.

The remnants of Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark in the foreground, and Interstate 15 in the background. Author: Dzealand CC BY-SA 4.0


Over the next six years, the park changed owners three times, with each of them struggling to keep it alive, before it finally shut its doors in 2004, never to reopen. Although the slides aren’t in use, the pools, canals, and futuristic buildings are stretched over the site’s acres, all covered in a kind of mystical patina.

Rock-a-Hoola Water Park, Newberry Springs Author: InSapphoWeTrust CC BY2.0

The surrounding Mojave is scorching hot during the summer while in the harsh, cold winters the rasping wind keeps on whirling. Over time, there have been many attempts to resurrect the waterpark, including a search for investors, but they all ended up futile.

Rock-a-Hoola Water Park Author: InSapphoWeTrust CC BY2.0

The buildings and the signs are rusting under the hot sun, long forgotten by anyone except vandals and scavengers. Most of the old billboards are painted with graffiti, reflecting the melancholy of the passage of time, somehow proving that almost anything can be replaced or reinvented.

Read another story from us: Inside Berlin’s ruined water park Blub: a long gone attractive recreational center in Germany

The 50s architecture and the waterslides have been evidently worn out by the sun while the buildings and signs have been demolished by vandals and scavengers. Although deserted, they still captivate visitors who claim to be fascinated by the looks of the former attractions.