7 defunct water parks you can never visit again

Slap on a swimsuit and take a slide down memory lane!

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?

1. 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.

Image: disneyparks

2. Heritage USA

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

3. 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.

Image: YouTube

4. Paradise Landing

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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.

Image: Hilton

5. Six Flags WaterWorld

Houston, Texas

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.

Image: ramsayadagency

6. 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.

Image: YouTube

7. Wild Rivers

Irvine, California

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 in by next summer.

Image: YouTube

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DUKE1Jack2Stella3 8 days ago
Schlitterbahn in KC, KS was closed after a young man was killed on the world’s tallest water slide, Verruckt. He was killed when the raft he was on became airborne & decapitated him within the section that was enclosed by 360° fencing. The park was pretty new, the Verruckt was torn down as soon as investigations were complete, the park has been closed since.
daDoctah 20 months ago
Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, California operated from 1958 to 1967, alongside such other west-coast water parks as Sea World and Marineland of the Pacific. Before it was torn down, it was where the finale of the TV series "The Fugitive" was filmed.
Barry22 21 months ago
Atlantis in Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County.
stephaniestavropoulos 21 months ago
Shout out to all you Grammar Police, {and non members of the precinct:} to whom I would appreciate a shout out from: Does anyone agree w/me, that METV could have just typed Defunct Water Parks without including "you can no longer visit?" and still get their point across? I mean isn't that what "defunct" means? I will answer my own question as to its definition: Yes, that's what it means {"No longer existing, or functioning." If something is no longer existing or functioning, than you can no longer visit it.
I am curious to know whether I am correct, or not in my thinking, because I have been accused of being grammatically incorrect. Thank you!
Gary stephaniestavropoulos 21 months ago
In the scheme of things, who cares!
Yes, they could have. Sadly, having a full and educated vocabulary is not valued by many people today. Online dictionaries notwithstanding, MeTV has to cater to an audience that increasingly won't look up a new word.
JeffStevenson 21 months ago
Went to wild rivers as a teen. No scars through Just sunburn lol
BillyGr 21 months ago
While still (technically) a park on the site (but missing most of the items that made it [in]famous), there is the eastern version of #7, known by the name Action Park in NJ.
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