Lake Dolores, the once-world famous waterpark located in the middle of the scorching Mojave Desert that has been closed since 2004, could be resurrected as a going concern as early as this summer by a company which purchased the 267-acre concern three years ago.
For the attraction to make a comeback, the county will need to undo rezoning of the property that took place nine years ago, when it was given a rural living land use designation. At this point, with the waterpark dormant for a dozen years, an amendment must be made to the county’s general plan.
Bob Byers originally conceived of the park in the 1950s as a recreational amenity intended for a relatively small circle of his friends, family, acquaintances and business associates. He eventually named it Lake Dolores, after his wife. In Newberry Springs, the Mojave Aquifer lies close to the surface and Byers set about creating a lake of roughly 250 acres that would be fed by underground springs. He began construction in the late 1950s. In May 1962, enough improvements had been made for a basic campground adjacent to the small lake to be opened for limited use by the public. Its initial users outside Byers and his circle of friends and family were off-road vehicle enthusiasts who frequented the area as well as those traversing the desert between the greater Los Angeles area and Las Vegas.
Over the next quarter century, Byers augmented the facility with rides and concessions, as the site evolved into a waterpark, which was billed in radio and television advertisement as “The Fun Spot of The Desert!”
The park featured eight identical 150-foot sixty–degree–angle steel waterslides mounted side by side on a man–made hill. Riders rode down the slides on small plastic rafts, picking up enough momentum in the downward plunge to skim some 50 yards across the lagoon at that slides’ terminus along the water.
There were two other 150-foot long V–shaped waterslides, down which riders would descend while standing. The slides ended some 15 feet above the water, projecting the riders out of the ends like human cannonballs.
There was also a “Zip–Cord,” from which riders hung from a hand–held glide which slid the approximate 200 feet of a guide wire at a 30–degree downward angle. Upon the hand grip guide reaching a blocking mechanism, the rider would be thrust by momentum something like 20 feet forward into the lagoon.
A smaller lake that was adjacent to the main lagoon featured three high diving boards, and three trapeze-like swings hanging from an A–frame structure mounted on a 20-foot high platform. Riders would pivot from these swings into the lake.
Another feature was the “Big Bopper,” a fast, long group raft ride. The “Lazy River” was a more leisurely group raft ride. There were also bumper boats, an oval JetSki water racetrack, and a swimming pool.
The park had its heyday from roughly 1975 to 1985, after which point attendance there subsided. In the late 1980s, the park closed and Byers sold it in August 1990 to Lake Dolores Group LLC, an investment group led by Oxnard businessman Terry Christensen. Christensen’s vision of a more upscale park with a 1950s theme was slow in materializing.
Lake Dolores Group LLC in 1995 dismantled the original waterslides on the hill, looking toward installing newer and better amenities, and promoting the coming incarnation in conjunction with the Beachport Entertainment Corporation. It reopened on Independence Day 1998 under the name “Rock-A-Hooa,” featuring a constant soundtrack of 1950s and 1960s rock and roll music. An accompanying recreational vehicle park was delayed. Things went downhill almost immediately as the park lost three million dollars over its first three years in operation, coupled with the financial coup-de-grace of an $4.4 million award to an employee crippled in a mishap. The park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2000.
When the court–appointed trustee failed to find a buyer, the bankruptcy filing was changed to a Chapter 7 liquidation in August 2000. The bankruptcy judge overseeing the case returned the property to Dolores Byers, Don Byers widow, with most debts discharged.
Dolores Byers sold the property in September 2001 to City of Industry-based S.L. Investment Group LLC. She died the following month. S.L was never able to catch the lightning in a bottle Byers had created three decades before. The company performed $400,000 in renovation to the waterpark and reopened it in May 2002 under the name “Discovery Waterpark.” By the following year, it was open only on weekends and by 2004, was opened only intermittently. It shuttered that year.
In 2003, Olympic Gold Medalist and former professional football player Ron Brown and the Pro Players Network, a group of former and current professional athletes, sought to purchase the park and turn it into a camp for disadvantaged youths. This never materialized. The “Big Bopper” waterslide was dismantled and shipped to Canada, where it is now “Colossal Canyon” at Cultus Lake Waterpark near Vancouver.
The remainder of the park’s attractions have been vandalized over the years or torn apart by scavengers and metal salvagers.
The property went into foreclosure. In 2007, the property was appraised as worth $6.9 million. There were no immediate takers.
In 2011, a group called Oasis Themepark set out to renovate and reopen the park, but failed in that venture
In 2013, G&G Enterprise, LLC bought all 267 acres for $2 million. G&G is now in the planning phase for reviving Lake Dolores as Dolores Lake Park. G&G is finalizing its project description, which will fall under the category of a “waterpark,” but further intends to erect commercial buildings, hotels, restaurants and shops within the 267-acre footprint, along with a truck stop application at a distance removed from but still within sight of the property near a future freeway interchange. G&G is readying its application for a zoning change on the property to highway commercial.
The project calls for a water treatment plant, sewer treatment plan, and a solar power generating station. More energetic yet would be improvements to and along I-15, including the interchange to be constructed at Bragdon Road, entailing a bridge over Interstate 15 and on- and off-ramps in each direction.
Access to the Lake Dolores site from I-15 is limited, as northbound I-15 traffic can exit on Minneola Road and take Yermo Road to Hacienda Road to reach the park. Northbound I-15 motorists can also pass the property and driving nearly four miles to Harvard Road and heading back on Hacienda Road.