Take a look inside an abandoned water park in the California desert that's on sale for $11 million

·5 min read
The eerie Lake Dolores Waterpark seen 17 years after it was abandoned.
Lake Dolores Waterpark seen 17 years after it was abandoned. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography
  • A photographer shared eerie photos of an abandoned waterpark in the California desert.

  • Shaun Hunter photographed the Lake Dolores site after hearing that it was on sale for $11 million.

  • "I hope that it continues as it's been for the past decade," said Hunter of the 251-acre park.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Photographer Shaun Hunter captured eerie pictures of a derelict water park in the California desert 17 years after it was abandoned.

The eerie Lake Dolores Waterpark seen 17 years after it was abandoned.
Lake Dolores Waterpark has been abandoned since 2004. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

Hunter, who owns Raise the Stakes Photography, told Insider he first noticed the "hard to miss" Lake Dolores Waterpark site during a drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas 10 years ago.

"Back then it still had a lot of its waterslides and most of the buildings were still intact," he said, adding that the next time he drove past, he pulled off the freeway, jumped the fence, and explored its grounds.

The photographs, which show the graffitied, crumbling skeleton of the former water park that closed in 2004, were taken by Hunter on a visit in mid-September 2021 after he heard it was for sale for $11 million, as listed on Realtor.com.

Hunter said that since his first time in the park 10 years ago, it has become more run-down and graffitied with every return visit.

A shot of the Lake Dolores Waterpark which has been closed since 2004.
An overhead view of the Lake Dolores Waterpark. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

"On most visits, it just feels empty and desolate," he said of the park that Jam Press reports is 251 acres. "Sometimes it's completely empty, other times I've seen people there skateboarding the old pools or filming videos."

Hunter also said he once saw someone who lives in a building on-site, who he believes to be a caretaker.

The park is located in the Mojave Desert and was built by local businessman Bob Byers, who named it after his wife, Dolores. It opened to the public in 1962, according to Jam Press.

A distant view of the Lake Dolores Waterpark.
A distant view of the Lake Dolores Waterpark. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

Jam Press also reports that the park was a known hotspot at the time of opening and was brimming with waterslides, zip lines, a lazy river, bumper boats, and a go-kart track. This lasted until the 1980s when it closed for "financial and legal reasons" until 1998, and then reopened as Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark.

A year later, the water park closed again due to investors declaring bankruptcy after a successful $4.4 million lawsuit by one of its off-duty employees, who became paralyzed after falling into an inadequately filled pool and sustaining injuries, Jam Press added.

The park opened one more time after the incident in 2002, under the new name Discovery Waterpark, according to Jam Press.

Unruly trees and bushes at the abandoned Lake Dolores Waterpark.
Unruly trees and bushes at the abandoned Lake Dolores Waterpark. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

The park lasted two more years before it was permanently closed in 2004 and its structures have deteriorated since.

Hunter told Insider that the large waterslides have all been removed and sold to other water parks, "but you can still climb the platforms that they used to be attached to and it feels like you're sitting atop a mountain overlooking a surreal movie landscape."

Hunter said the grounds are very large and usually take him two hours to explore, including the site of Dolores Lake which he said is completely dried up.

An aerial view of the the 251-acre Lake Dolores Waterpark, located in the Mojave Desert.
An aerial view of the 251-acre Lake Dolores Waterpark, located in the Mojave Desert. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

He said that during this visit, he also spotted an area of buildings that used to be cafeterias, video arcades, locker rooms, and an old recreation area with several pools, old slides, a large circular lazy river, and shallow areas that used to have fountains raining down on them.

One of the most distinctive aspects of the abandoned space is the amount of graffiti and spray paint covering the remaining structures.

The majority of the graffiti and vandalism on the remaining structures at the Lake Dolores Waterpark.
Graffiti and vandalism on the remaining structures at the Lake Dolores Waterpark. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

Hunter said some buildings have faced more destructive forms of vandalism, and have burned down. Despite this, he said he still finds the space to be visually appealing: "There's a lot of bad graffiti, but a lot of different artists have used the buildings to put up some really talented murals as well."

Hunter said he didn't know much about the history of the water park personally, but was able to read up on the space online.

A shot of the Lake Dolores Waterpark from above shows the surrounding desert and a sample of graffiti in the space.
A shot of the Lake Dolores Waterpark from above shows the surrounding desert and some graffiti in the space. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

He said that his parents often used to drive their family to Las Vegas, so he must have passed the water park while it was still open and busy but they never stopped there.

"My only knowledge about it has been seeing it slowly decay over time, after it was abandoned," he said.

The site is now on sale for $11 million, which includes permission to develop the property for any commercial use, Jam Press reports, adding that the last time it was sold was in 2013 for $1.5 million.

A sunset silhouette of the Lake Dolores Waterpark taken by Shaun Hunter after hours.
A sunset silhouette of the Lake Dolores Waterpark taken by Shaun Hunter after hours. Jam Press/Raise the Stakes Photography

Now that the water park is for sale, Hunter said he hopes "that it continues as it's been for the past decade." He added that previous development plans never seemed to materialize and described it as "a strange playground in the middle of the desert for anyone who's willing to hop the fences to reach it."

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