Harry Shuster then became involved in a bitter and excruciating legal battle until 1997 when they finally reached a settlement. During the ongoing legal battle Shuster threatened to 'tear it all down' -- including Irvine Meadows (built on a sublease agreement with U.L., now Verizon Wireless Amphitheater), Wild Rivers, and the day camp. His reasoning was, "I built all this on a firm 28 year lease agreement, why should the Irvine Company be allowed to take it from me just because they want it back?". A portion of the park's entertainment area was converted into the current water park Wild Rivers in 1986-87. The remaining portion of the park was left as Camp Frasier which continued until the early 1990s when it became Camp James. During the years of Camp Frasier the drive through reserve was used for horseback riding, archery, ATC, ATV riding and hiking. Lion Country was originally in the city limits of Laguna Hills.
Attendance went down, and negative incidents occurred at the Safari Park. An escaped elephant killed a motorist on the 405 freeway and had to be euthanize. When a hippo named Bubbles was loose for 19 days, the hippo was shot with a tranquilizer, rolled into the water of a reservoir behind the park's rolling hills and drowned. A necropsy revealed Bubbles was pregnant. Also, several lions had killed the hoofed animals and had to be quarantined from the rest of the animals in a fenced section of the park. Monkeys reportedly ripped the rubber bumper stripping off car doors and jumped on hoods. Insurance claims skyrocketed. As of May 2008, the Irvine Company still has not done anything with the land except re-grade what was once the Drive-Through Preserve and designate portions for nurseries to store plants and large specimen trees.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_Country_Safari
Google Earth Images
Then and Now
LinksA great site with then-and-now pictures (2000)
Memories of Lion Country Safari
Exploring Lion Country Safari
What it was likePhotos from Lion Country Safari when it was open.
For 27 years, the old Lion Country Safari land was home to Camp Frasier/Camp James. In 2012, in order to make way for new apartments, the lease wasn't extended. Read the article here.
One of the original metal Zambezi Boats from 1970 was saved and affixed in the concrete paving as a souvenir in the Wild Rivers outdoor eating and recreation areas between the wave pools and the locker rooms.
Wild Rivers gets one more year OCRegister.com, August 2, 2007
2011: Wild River's lease was not extended: Wild Rivers' final season: No new site lined
2012 update: According to the Wild Rivers website, a new location was found within the OC.
updated September, 2012