Marine World/Africa USA

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Marine World/Africa USA
Orca show at Marine World in 1970
Date opened1968
Date closed1998
LocationRedwood Shores, California, United States (1968-1986)
Vallejo, California, United States (1986-1998)
Coordinates37°31.9′N 122°15.9′W / 37.5317°N 122.2650°W / 37.5317; -122.2650Coordinates: 37°31.9′N 122°15.9′W / 37.5317°N 122.2650°W / 37.5317; -122.2650
Land area66 acres (270,000 m2) (Redwood Shores)
160 acres (650,000 m2) (Vallejo)
No. of animals500
No. of species400

Marine World/Africa USA was a tourist attraction located in Redwood Shores, California. The park was named Marine World when it first opened.

Origins of the Africa U.S.A. name[edit]

There were two successive Africa U.S.A. parks in California, both associated with animal trainer Ralph Helfer. The first Africa U.S.A. in California was created in 1962 as a 600-acre (2.4 km2) affection training compound by Ralph and Toni Helfer. It was located in Soledad Canyon near Palmdale, north of Los Angeles.[1]

Ivan Tors first discovered Clarence, the cross-eyed lion, at Africa, U.S.A. and it inspired him to create the film Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) and the spin-off television series Daktari, which was partly shot on location there. Judy the chimp, another star of the show, was also owned by Ralph Helfer.

A few other shows such as Cowboy in Africa, Gentle Ben,[citation needed] as well as an episode of Star Trek ("Shore Leave") were also shot there. Helfer was providing both the location and the animals.

In January 1969, Africa U.S.A. was struck by a powerful rainstorm over Soledad Canyon. The resulting severe flooding and mudslides in the canyons destroyed the compound, but only nine of Helfer's 1,500 animals had drowned.

The property was located at 8237 Soledad Canyon Road, and by the mid-2000s had become the Robin's Nest campground[2]. Heavily damaged by the Sand Fire (2016), the property was sold on June 29, 2018 to the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority with the assistance of The Trust for Public Land, and is currently being restored to its natural condition in preparation for reopening to the public.[3]

Marine World/Africa U.S.A.[edit]

The Marine World/Africa U.S.A. site occupied approximately 66 acres (270,000 m2) of reclaimed tidelands of San Francisco Bay within the confines of Redwood City. Numerous shallow sloughs, which have long been filled in, are known to have meandered across the property in its natural state. The general area of the site was diked off from the bay about 1910 and was used for pasture until about 1946 when it was converted to salt evaporation ponds.(Earth Metrics, 1969) The site was then cleaned and leveled, and between 1964 and 1965, received about two feet of fill.[4]

Construction of Marine World took place between 1966 and 1968. Available topographic surveys indicate that surcharges of two to three feet were placed over some of the old slough areas prior to construction of the animal park.

Marine World opened in July 1968. The park was owned and operated by the American Broadcasting Company. The parks original attractions were based around Sea Creatures on display and Marine Themed shows. These shows included Orcas, Seals, and during the Waterski and Boat show a water skiing Elephant named Judy. The performances of the shows required fast low wake ski boats which were developed locally and known as "Avenger" hull series boats which would later influence companies like Master Craft to achieve faster ski boats for pleasure craft use. Marine World changed management in late 1969 during the off season and was added new display's as well as new pavilions for Sea Creatures including "Big Lou" a large Elephant Seal was added. Marine World management had been in discussions with Ralph Helfner shortly after his park had been inconvenienced at the behest of Lanny Cornell a well known animal veterinarian in the industry. Plans to incorporate Africa USA took almost a full year to design and build the expansion of the park and then implement the changes into the daily routine. Ralph Helfer and Resort's International eventually bought out Marine World in 1972 when it went bankrupt and added a more to the wildlife park and adding the "jungle theater", renaming the park as Marine World/Africa USA.

The park moved in 1986 to Vallejo, California, to eventually become Six Flags Marine World in 1998.[5] The Redwood Shores location of the former Marine World/Africa U.S.A. is now occupied by the world headquarters of Oracle Corporation.

A few years before the park's acquisition by Six Flags, a new dinosaur themed area was added, using animatronic dinosaurs in a jungle like exhibit.


  1. ^ "Vasquez Rocks". Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa. WebRing (Entertainment). (includes history of the first Africa U.S.A.)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Earth Metrics Inc, Environmental Site Assessment for the Marine World/Africa U.S.A. property, June 29, 1989
  5. ^ "Marine World starts move to Vallejo". Associated Press. 1985-09-30. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  • Redwood City Public Library 'Redwood Shores: A Short History', April, 1999
  • The Beauty of the Beasts: Tales of Hollywood's Wild Animal Stars by Ralph Helfer, 1990
  • Growing up at a Theme Park; A short story of my dad the park manager, Marine World,Redwood City,Robert P. West March 1995 unplubish