By the 1950's, the Salton Sea was a hugely popular recreation area for the booming Southern California population. The Sea got more visitors per year than Yosemite. Pictures show hordes of station wagons with big fins parked around the lake. They had to build a 12-lane boat ramp to accommodate the traffic. Since then, a combination of two back-to-back hurricanes and the increasing salinity and dropping level of the water destroyed much of the recreation value of the lake. Now it is saltier than the ocean and much of the tourist infrastructure is destroyed. Squatters and transients have occupied the surrounding desert and the towns around the area are very depressed.
But the Salton Sea is magnificent in many ways. It's gorgeous blue water, the spectacular mountain backdrop and over 4 million birds make it a photographer's dream. Half of all known North American bird species have been sighted here. We spent a whole day exploring and didn't really finish, so we may go back before we leave Southern California. Some highlights below:
|80% of the endangered white pelican population hang out at the Salton Sea
|Decaying docks are common
Near the Salton Sea is a cultural phenomenon called Salvation Mountain. Built by a man who lived in the nearby squatters area called Slab City, it represents a lifetime of work to create...well, whatever it is, in the desert.
Finally we headed back to the sea for the sunset, which didn't disappoint!