7 defunct water parks you can never visit again
Nothing is more American than apple pie, so the saying goes, and baseball is our national pastime. Water parks deserve a spot on that Mount Rushmore of American recreation, too.
This country is riddled with water slides. There are more than 1,200 water parks in the U.S.A. and the number increases every year. Whether you want to float around a replica "river" on an inner tube or rocket down a wet 60-degree incline, water parks remain the ultimate way to cool off in the summer.
Aquatic amusement parks didn't take off until the late 1970s. In the past 40 years, many beloved parks have come and gone. Here are a handful of historically significant water parks of yesteryear. Did you ever splash down at any of these bygone parks?
Disney's River Country
Bay Lake, Florida
Walt Disney World jumped into the water park business 40 years ago, on June 20, 1976, with the opening of its River Country. There was a touch of Frontierland to the place, which featured rustic wooden designs. The water came directly from the adjacent Bay Lake, pumped through a filtration system into the park. However, those filters did not screen everything. In 1980, a boy died after being infected by the "brain-eating amoeba" (Naegleria fowleri). The park closed in 2001.
Fort Mill, South Carolina
Televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker opened their Christian amusement park — complete with (holy?) water park — in 1978. In 1987, fellow TV preacher Jerry Falwell took a plunge down the 163-feet-long Typhoon slide, wearing a suit and tie. A picture of Falwell's fully clothed slide was named one of the top 100 national photos of the century by the Associated Press in 1999. Alas, Heritage USA had been closed for a decade by then.
Image: AP Photo / Sam Jones
Lake Dolores Waterpark
Newberry Springs, California
An oasis in the Mojave Desert between L.A. and Vegas, the Lake Dolores Waterpark claimed to be the first of its kind in America. Later, after being sold in 1990, it was renamed the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark. Today, weeds and sand cover the abandoned park, which is used here and there for extreme skateboard tricks or cool post-apocalyptic sets.
One downside to water parks? One can only visit them in warm weather. But if you put a roof over one? A-ha! The first indoor water park opened in Alberta, Canada, in 1985. The Polynesian Resort Hotel opened the first in the States, and more followed in the vacation haven of Wisconsin Dells. A little bit further east, the Hilton Milwaukee opened the first indoor urban water park in the city's downtown area. It closed in 2013.
Six Flags WaterWorld
WaterWorld — not just a dystopian Kevin Costner movie! Part of the sprawling AstroWorld amusement park, WaterWorld opened in June 1983 in downtown Houston, across the highway from the Astrodome. Initially, admission was separate, but in 2002 it was decided to let one ticket allow admission to both parks. Alas, AstroWorld left this world in 2005.
Wet 'n Wild
Las Vegas, Nevada / Garland, Texas
In 1977, SeaWorld creator George Millay opened his visionary Wet 'n Wild Orlando, which some claimed to be the first water park in America, despite Lake Dolores predating it by more than a decade. Still, Millay had great success with the idea, building a Wet 'n Wild chain across the country. Some remain to this day. Locations in Garland, Texas, and Las Vegas, however, are long gone. The Vegas location shut down in 2004, despite a prime location on the north end of the Strip.
Orange County kids of a certain age undoubtedly recall this water park — and perhaps have the scars to prove it. The Edge and Ledge rides were shut down in 2003 due to violent drops on the slide and tales of people getting stuck in tubes. Wild Rivers closed in 2011. But it's not all bad news! This one is due for a comeback and could return by next summer.