Wild Rivers is a water park located in Irvine, California, USA. It opened in July 1986 on the old Lion Country Safari property. It closed on September 25, 2011, when its lease with The Irvine Company expired. Since the closure, there have been ideas in the works to replicate Wild Rivers in Irvine on or near the Orange County Great Park. On July 1, 2021, the developers acquired complete finance and began building, assuring the park’s reopening for Summer 2022. The new park, which is 50% larger than the old park, formally opened on July 29, 2022.
Before Wild Rivers, the area was home to Lion Country Safari, a drive-through zoo that went bankrupt and shuttered in 1984. The park’s owner still had 13 years left on the original 29-year lease, which he subsequently subleased to the proprietors of the Wild Rivers water park, Camp Frasier (later Camp James), and the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
Wild Rivers “Mountain” construction began in 1985, and the park opened in 1986.
Wild Rivers stated in early 2011 that it had lost its lease with The Irvine Company. The park and the nearby Camp James were both set to close at the conclusion of the 2011 season. The park was set to be razed, with 1,750 units erected in its stead. A new water park was planned to be developed on public property near the Orange County Great Park and was set to open to the public in May 2014.
Since 2012, there have been initiatives to rebuild Wild Rivers on or near the Orange County Great Park. A new Wild Rivers park was supposed to open in May 2014, however it was postponed a year later to May 2015 before being canceled entirely owing to financial and land permission concerns. The ideas were renewed in March 2016, and three months later, on June 26, 2016, the Great Park Board offered two sites: one 35 acres and the other 60 acres.
In late April 2017, Wild Rivers successfully secured a deal with the Irvine City Council to operate as the Orange County Great Park, opening the path for their return to Irvine as early as summer 2019. As of March 2018, the park was proposing to operate in a 26-acre (11 ha) site on the old Marine Corps Air Station El Toro at the eastern corner of Marine Way and Skyhawk, but it was awaiting environmental assessments and approval from the US Navy. In August 2018, Wild Rivers indicated that the park would not open until 2020 at the earliest, and as of April 2019, they had not concluded the lease conditions and environmental assessment, and their exclusive agreement to negotiate with the city had ended. In January 2020, the city struck a tentative deal with Wild Rivers for a new 20-acre (8.1 hectare) area within Great Park at the southern intersection of Great Park Boulevard and Skyhawk, and the lease was granted in April. In July 2020, the park filed proposals to the city for consideration, with hopes to open in May 2022.
The park’s construction began in July 2021, after $60 million in finance was secured, with 20 attractions planned.
Next Point of Interest: Crystal Cove State Park