Wrecking ball renders final verdict on Wild Rivers water park

Los Angeles Times staff writer

Wild Rivers’ endless summer is finally over.

The Orange County water park that had been living on borrowed time for the last five seasons is now just a memory.

After more than a quarter of a century of water slides and wave pools, Wild Rivers failed to secure another lease extension from the Irvine Co., which owns the land and plans to build apartments on the property.

A post on the Theme Park Review fan site features two dozen photos showing the progress of the ongoing demolition work.

The spiraling Chaos slide has been disassembled and the tube segments neatly stacked and numbered. The Bombay Blasters underground speed tubes have been excavated. The Cobras body slides have been torn apart.

Some areas of the water park are barely recognizable.

Congo River Rapids is little more than a pile of blue rubble. Broken chunks of cement are all that’s left of the Bazooka Bowls and the Patriot slide. The Surf Hill mat slide area has been reduced to a mound of dirt. The side-by-side wave pools are completely gone.


Other areas have yet to meet their fate.

The Typhoon Lagoon kiddie play area still looks relatively untouched. The Safari River Expedition lazy river appears murky in places but remains intact. The Wipeout body slide is still standing.

The water park’s existence had been threatened since 2006 when the Irvine City Council rezoned the land for residential use.

In 2007, the Irvine Co. ended the lease agreement with Wild Rivers in hopes of building a 1,700-unit apartment complex on the property. But a faltering real estate market literally gave Wild Rivers a new lease on life, with each subsequent summer heralded as the water park’s last.

Wild Rivers fought eviction to the bitter end, gathering more than 1,000 supporters in a Save Wild Rivers campaign. The Irvine park closed for the last time on Sept. 25 and the lease expired on Oct. 31.

Wild Rivers has been working with Orange County Great Park officials since 2007 in an effort to relocate the water park to the former site of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Wild Rivers hopes to reopen at the Great Park in May 2013.

That means water park fans will have to find a new place to play in 2012 -- likely at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Soak City in Buena Park or Raging Waters in San Dimas. Great Wolf Lodge, part of a chain of hotels featuring indoor water parks, is scheduled to open in Garden Grove in 2013.