Wild Rivers (water park)

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Wild Rivers
Wild Rivers Water Park Photo D Ramey Logan.JPG
Wild Rivers Water Park in 2010
Location Irvine, California, United States
Coordinates 33°38′35″N 117°44′54″W / 33.6431889°N 117.748411°W / 33.6431889; -117.748411Coordinates: 33°38′35″N 117°44′54″W / 33.6431889°N 117.748411°W / 33.6431889; -117.748411
Opened 1986
Closed September 25, 2011
Previous names Lion Country Safari
Website Official Website

Wild Rivers was a water park in Irvine, California. It opened in 1986 on the site of the former Lion Country Safari. Following the expiration of its lease with The Irvine Company, it closed permanently on September 25, 2011.[1] In July 2012, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a 25-year, $30 million lease with Wild Rivers on a parcel of county-owned land in Irvine, located in between the Orange County Great Park and Irvine Transportation Center. A new, larger Wild Rivers park was scheduled to open in Irvine, California in 2016,[2][3] but the plans were canceled.[4]


Before Wild Rivers was built, the land was a drive-through zoo called Lion Country Safari, which went bankrupt and closed in 1984. Construction on the Wild Rivers "Mountain" began in 1985 and the park itself opened in 1986. The water park utilized a lot of buildings left over from the land's previous occupant. A few years later it opened the first side by side wave pools in the country.


General tickets, for guests over 48" tall, cost $34.98 and junior tickets, for guests under 48", cost $21.98. Admission after 4:00 p.m. was $21.98 ($16.98 for juniors). Children under 2 years old and seniors over 65 years old could enter free.

Season passes were $69.98 for one person or $249.98 for a family of four. Along with no blackout days, season pass holders were entitled to special discounts, including special Season Pass Sundays featuring discounts on drinks and hot dogs, and the ability to bring a buddy into the park for only $15 on select Sundays. The first open day of each season was dedicated only to season pass holders.


The park offered a wide variety of foods at its quick-service restaurants, including Colonel Hawkins, Congo Cafe, and La Fiesta (formerly called The Sweet Shoppe). There were also stands including Tropical Smoothies (selling bacon wrapped hot dogs and smoothies), Roasted Corn, Dippin' Dots, and a Portable Food Unit selling churros, pretzels, etc. In previous years, restaurants included Casa Ortega (Mexican Cuisine), Clayton Shurley's Texas BBQ, Wiley's Pizza, and a sandwich stop.


Wild Rivers staffed Red Cross certified lifeguards. First aid in the park was provided by certified emergency medical technician-basics (EMT-Bs). Since the park opened, there have been no confirmed deaths.

The Infamous Edge and Ledge[edit]

The Edge and Ledge, or The Liquidator, was eventually closed in 2003 due to injuries. After its closure, rumors spread about how someone over the weight limit got stuck on the ride, and this has been confirmed to be true. One of the other problems was that the large drop at the end of the ride had many people hitting the top of the slide, as their velocity when sliding to the curve was much too fast to stay on the bottom. Many injuries occurred and the slide began to lose its popularity. The left slide was closed down on a regular basis following the injuries, and the right slide followed soon after. The huge drop was taken out and was made into a smoother drop; but the ride still didn't become more popular. The Edge and Ledge was supposed to be re-opened, but after Wild Rivers started to get one-year leases, they felt less confident in fixing a ride that could have been demolished the next season. The Edge and Ledge was never demolished while the park was remained open, and remained inside the park until closing in 2011.

Rubber Ducky Derby[edit]

Each year Wild Rivers hosted a rubber duck race down the lazy river. It's proceeds went to help underprivileged children and was called the Rubber Ducky Derby. Sponsors included UPS, Starbucks, The Anaheim Ducks, and elvistech.com. For 2005, a car show was added.


In early 2011, Wild Rivers announced that it had lost its lease with The Irvine Company. Both the park and the adjacent Camp James were scheduled to close at the end of the 2011 season.[5] The park was planned to be demolished with 1,750 apartments being built in its place. A new water park was planned to be built on public land near the Orange County Great Park, and was scheduled to open to the public in May 2014.[6]

In late 2011 Clearwater Water Park Development purchased Splash Kingdom Waterpark in Redlands, California. Senior managers from Wild Rivers now work as directors for Splash Kingdom. These managers include Greg Briggs, Matt Keil, and Lianne Leiss. Wild Rivers equipment such as rafts, seating, and shade canopies are also now used at Splash Kingdom.

This note was posted by Mike Riedel, the President of Wild Rivers, on the Wild Rivers website regarding opening in the Great Park in 2015:

″Unfortunately Wild Rivers will not be opening in the Great Park next summer.

The master plan was to build and open the waterpark for the 2015 season. We initially had a lease with the County of Orange to do just that but due to complications with our funding partners the lease was later terminated by the county. We hoped that with our financing resecured we could reinstate the lease with the County but were unfortunately informed that a waterpark no longer fit into the counties plans for their 100-acre parcel that sits just outside the Great Park. We are continuing our search for land to develop a new and improved Wild Rivers within the Great Park or elsewhere in Orange County. We currently do not have a tentative date of when the new park might open.

On a brighter note, Wild Rivers is negotiating with the City of Temecula to build a new Wild Rivers Waterpark there. We are very optimistic that the waterpark will open in May of 2016.

Thank you for your support while we continue our efforts to bring Wild Rivers Waterpark back to Orange County!


Mike Riedel President Wild Rivers Waterpark″ [7]


An episode of Malcolm in the Middle has been filmed here, as well as an episode of Wild and Crazy Kids and The Bachelor. In June 2009, an episode of The Biggest Loser was filmed in one of the wave pools.[citation needed]

Wild Rivers was connected to Camp James, a children's day camp. It made daily visits to the park. Previously, Camp Frasier was housed on the same land.


External links[edit]