Six Flags New Orleans

30°3′4.0″N 89°56′3.9″W

I think we’re all familiar with the horrifying photos that resulted from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Urban landscapes lying four feet underwater. Displaced families standing on the roofs of their homes waiting for help. A general state of hysteria and helplessness that this country rarely has to feel. No one needs to remind themselves of these terrible images in order to acknowledge their power and consider our minuscule place before the immense power of raw nature. However, the last post we did here on Feral Cities about an abandoned theme park resulted in absolutely ridiculous numbers, so here we go again.

When Six Flags New Orleans closed for the last time on August 21, 2005, it already had quite a checkered past. First opened under the name Jazzland in 2000 and operated for about a year and a half, the ailing park was purchased by Six Flags and reopened in 2003 with a more corporate-friendly moniker and a shiny new upgraded aesthetic. Cleverly themed lands, superhero roller coasters, a vague tie-in to the jazz culture of the surrounding New Orleans area – it was a theme park that had it all. Unfortunately, that upgrade did not include moving the park out of the enormous basin it sat in down in eastern New Orleans, so once the mighty Katrina came along, Six Flags New Orleans was a sitting duck.

The damage done to the park from the hurricane and resulting floods came quickly. Not only did the immense scale of the storm render it underwater to a depth of 4 to 7 feet almost instantly, the park’s drainage system was completely overwhelmed and failed quickly. Overflow from the nearby Lake Pontchartrain also added to the devastation, and anybody who’s ever swum in a lake knows we’re not talking about surges of crystal clear mineral water here either. Being partially salt water, it was corrosive and dirty, making any future hopes of rebuilding the park that much more difficult to imagine (and especially pay for). I guess it could have always been rebuilt as a water park, but not one that anybody in their right mind would ever want to visit. Or maybe a mud park. What’s a mud park? Never mind.

The park was almost completely destroyed, and Six Flags showed next to no interest in rebuilding. Key parts and attractions from Six Flags New Orleans were salvaged and moved to other park locations. However, Mayor Ray Nagin held Six Flags to their lease and all but forced them to rebuild with any insurance money they were able to recoup. A few ugly lawsuits followed (lawsuits centered around theme parks are never pretty), and in the following years, the park just kinda sat there while everyone involved fought over exactly what the hell to do with it. It was almost a mall, almost a resort, and even almost a theme park again. Unfortunately, nothing stuck, and Six Flags New Orleans has remained half-submerged in a beautiful desiccated limbo ever since.

In the following years, the dark beauty of the abandoned park has risen to the surface. Not only have several major motion pictures including ‘Jurassic World’, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ been shot in part on the grounds of Six Flags New Orleans, but it is also rumored that various film studios are in talks to buy the park and convert it into a film studio. In 2014, photographer Jason Lanier snuck into the park and explored it with a small photography and film crew. The short documentary film he managed to piece together is fascinating and beautiful, and his photographs are otherworldly. Beauty is often right where we least expect it, and this is certainly the case with Six Flags New Orleans.

  • phxflyguy

    Just one correction: Chris Christie shook hands and hugged President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. Obama wasn’t president during Hurricane Katrina and Chris Christie couldn’t have cared less about the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    • Charles

      D’oh! Sorry about that, and even more sorry that it took me two freaking years to realize that. Good catch! Thank you!