Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Monday, January 12, 2015

Down to the Salton Sea

Literally "down", because the surface of the sea is over 200 feet below sea level!  This was a bit of a drive from Palm Springs, but we had heard much about the area as an interesting place to see, so we took a ride there last week.  The Salton Sea was a dry lake bed for thousands of years when in 1905 some entrepreneurial engineers, who were trying to bring water to the Imperial Valley of California, built a canal from the Colorado River to the streams leading into the valley.  Things got a bit out of control and some river banks collapsed, causing pretty much all the flow of the Colorado River to divert to the Imperial Valley.  It took them 15 months to fix the break and by that time, the dry lake bed was now the largest lake in California! There is no outlet from the lake, so there was nothing much anyone could do but make the best of it.

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!

No comments:

Post a Comment