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    Never Forget the Abandoned Waterparks of the Great First World Drought

    Written by

    Michael Byrne


    The water of our blue planet was mostly an ill green as I recall based on 1980s memories of sliding around the lesser waterparks of South Dakota, Kansas, Nevada, and other places that made their way onto the itineraries of childhood vacation road trips. There was one in particular, etched onto a hillside in the Black Hills, that seemed to have no business there. Just a few slides, and one of those simulated whitewater things that my step-brother literally flew out of onto an embankment. It had some luge-style slides that could unnaturally move a stomach upwards in the abdomen well enough, but none of the straight-down, wet freefall madness of the big deal parks of today affiliated with Six Flags and the like.

    One of those monstrosities, the planned Waveyard in Arizona — America’s fake water wonderland — will use its own water treatment system, but will still lose around 100 million gallons of water a year to evaporation. Plus it takes 50 million just to fill it up. It all comes from area groundwater — yes, the flush groundwater supplies of desert Arizona. It’s actually not all that bad compared to, say, a golf course. But, like a golf course, a water park is about the peak of American environmental bubbledom, where technology can make your wildest wet dreams come true — even, say, surfing in the desert. And you’ll notice an interesting tone if you chew through the Waveyard website, a certain because we fucking can. Like:

    Through a series of break-through technologies, we will unveil a diverse range of life-enhancing experiences including surfing, white water rafting, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, standing wave surfing, wakeboarding, boogie boarding, climbing, canyoneering, zip lines, an action river, board sports training, a massive sand beach, concerts, world class competitions, volleyball, an indoor water park, special events, and much, much more.

    Your daydreams are about to come to life.

    In the end, the waterpark is an amazing symbol of water in the first-world — and of human’s marvelous ability to engineer our future away. The parks below crumble and become overgrown. Soon enough they’ll be gone, for most purposes. It’ll take mere decades. The flooded canyon networks-qua-reservoirs of the American west (and developing China and beyond) will take centuries to recover, if not more, after their dams become unusable and a toxic sludge of sediment and pollution fills their bottoms leaving whole ecosystems to attempt and fail to reclaim vast swamps of diesel and silt.

    This Moscow would-be park was approved in 1997, to be finished in time for the city’s World Games. According to zoopunks.livejournal.com (translated by myself and Google) plans called for a building area of 43,500 square meters, a 12-story glass sloping roof, three underground floors, nine aboveground floors, and five swimming pools, water slides, a track and field arena, the Palace of Sports, a hotel for nonresident athletes, offices, cafes, and a center for physical therapy and medicine.

    All told, it was the future of watersliding, a monument to slipperiness and foot fungus. Funds for the project were frozen in 2002. As of these photos, the site’s been slated for development into a shopping center.

    L’Aquatic de Sitges in Catalonia, Spain lasted just a few years in the ‘90s; the rumor is that in addition to just going broke, as seems to happen often with these things, a kid got sucked into the wave pool machinery. Note that there’s an intense fascination on the internet with getting sucked into the bowels of wave pools. Perhaps it’s a psychological defense mechanism against the far realer fear of touching the diseased skin of any old asshole at a water park. Photo by Nia Kime, via.

    The “old-fashioned swimming hole” of Walt Disney World’s River Country lasted from 1976 to 2001. It sits on the shore of Bay Lake, the pretty gross-looking thing Walt Disney World itself is situated around.

    In 2005, Disney canned it for good, citing high amoeba levels. Nothing like bloody diarrhea to make the magic kingdom all the more memorable. Via.

    Apparently this majestic thing exists on an island in the Seine near the village of Villennes, France. In its glory days, it utilized filtered river water. Via.

    According to Abandoned OK, the Ponderosa Water Park was part of a larger effort by the state during the ’50s and ’60s to attract tourists via fake lakes and other water attractions. “It was open until 1984, when a 9-year-old girl died tragically when she was sucked into a pump propeller, and then into an 8-inch pipe. The park still stands today, just as it was left in 1984, although the larger building is rented for storage.”

    Via. Location unknown, likely the UK.

    It’s funny how simple these can really be, nothing more than Slip ‘n Slide’s with big metal skeletons. In fact, a small water slide can be had for a few thousand bucks even; no idea about shipping or liability insurance. Photo by Nik Daum.

    This one’s in Lianyungang, China. Looks more like a water slide graveyard than the past site of recreation and good times. Just some water, plastic, and steel in a quarry somewhere. One of the driest scenes imaginable. Via.

    This is the Rock-A-Hoola Water Park, just off 1-15 in the Mojave Desert. It went backrupt and flopped around a bit through the early ’00s under different names, finally going dry in summer of 2004. Photo by Kyle Anderson.

    Lake Powell during the U.S. southwest’s most recent drought. Not a Google Earth distortion.

    Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.