We spent some time checking out the area and the Salton Sea. There were a few towns on the map that we thought we’d check out, one being Salton City. The views from the roads were beautiful.
We had no clue what we were about to see…After we returned back, we did a little research. It really is quite sad!
From – saltonsea.sdsu.edu:
The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California, encompassing 378 square miles in Imperial and Riverside counties, in the Southeastern edge of the state. Strictly speaking, it is not a sea but a geological depression tucked between mountain ranges and lying below sea level.
In 1905, a diversion was engineered in the Colorado river, in Baja California, Mexico, a few miles South of Yuma, Arizona, for the purpose of conveying water to irrigate lands in the Imperial valley. The diversion, of inadequate size and built with temporary structures, went sour, and the Colorado river changed course, first flowing West and then North in the direction of the Salton depression. By the time the river was brought under control, in 1907, the water had filled the depression to the level of -195 ft, effectively creating the Salton Sea.
Left on its own, the water in the sea would have eventually evaporated. This is because the region’s annual precipitation is only about 2.3 inches, while the annual evaporation is 70.8 inches. By the early 1920’s, the sea had reached a record low of -250 ft. However, in 1928, Congress acted to designate the lands within the Salton basin below -220 ft as storage for wastes and seepage water from irrigated lands in Imperial valley. Since then, the sea has been used mainly as a repository for agricultural wastewaters, with the water level rising gradually to its present -227 ft. The average depth of the sea is about 30 ft, and the maximum is 51 ft.
We also read that the seepage from the water from the irrigated lands included pesticides like DDT and Agent Orange as well as residue from fertilizers.
That was the official explanation but in talking with people, the city at one time was a huge tourist destination with a marina and hotel. There were homes right on the lake and there were big plans for the city, that never happened. In 1986, California told everyone to restrict their consumption of fish caught in the Sea because of its toxicity levels. The rising saline levels spawned algae blooms which created a profound smell, like rotting eggs.
We decided to do a little 4 wheeling to get some pictures close up. This is where the Marina used to stand. There are no homes on the beach…
And then I looked down where I was standing. The entire area was scattered with fish bones.
The homes, mainly manufactured are either burned down, rotted or vandalized. Many were just abandoned as the land of dreams and dead fish was all that was left.
But there are still some folks living in the area, this little guy belonged to a family with two small children. They were raking the dirt in front of their home, couldn’t see what difference it would make, but they still had pride in where they lived.
Birds still flock there today, unaware of the toxicity levels of the sea.
It really is a shame, the views are beautiful here. If you are interested, we came upon this article, it’s worth a read and has more pictures.