Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Salton Sea: A Virtual Tour

The Salton Sea is a saline lake in the southeast corner of California that was created when the Colorado River diverted in 1905.

Up until the 1960s large luxury communities were established around the Sea's perimeter, until the lake's lack of any outlet induced fish die-offs, high levels of bacteria, and general nastiness. The shore is coated in a fine layer of fish skeletons and recently deceased tilapia. It smells really, really bad.

Currently, the Salton Sea supports a few tent cities (more like RV camps, actually) and various other small neighborhoods.

One small community is called "Slab City" because it was founded on the leftover foundations of an old army base.

Bombay Beach, on the eastern shore of the Sea, is surrounded by submerged trailers and trucks.

One fellow, Leonard Knight, built a small monument he named Salvation Mountain at the entrance to Slab City. It's made from hay bales and mud, and is very colorful. Knight is very friendly and welcoming (he sleeps in his truck), if slightly deaf.

Despite the generally overwhelming stench, the lake itself is glassy and beautiful. The occasional submerged telephone pole, tree, or crumbling dock creates wonderful reflections in the water. There are flocks and flocks of birds (gulls, pigeons, egrets, sandpipers, pelicans, etc.), though I'm not sure how they've managed to survive on dead (/dying) fish.

I think I'm going to have to go back soon.


rbgilbert said...

A few corrections: most of the resorts around the Salton Sea were built after World War II. From then until the 1960s was the boom time, not the 1920s.

There are a few towns around the shore that are much more substantial than tent cities.

The Slab City foundations are left from Patton's army, not Marines.

Bombay Beach is midway on the eastern side of the sea, a long way from the northern tip.

But you're right, it's beautiful.

Daniella said...

Yikes! It was clearly a bad idea for me to rely on Wikipedia for background info -- edited accordingly.

(And thanks!)

Dominik J. Melchior said...

Just found your blogpost about the Salton Sea & Slab City while doing some research for me and my friends upcoming road trip and I totally love your photographs! Brilliant quality and lovely composed pictures.

cabuxton said...

These are totally beautiful! My friend and I have been fascinated my Salton City for quite some time, and it is our dream to make it out to California, let alone Salton City sometime soon.

Do you know if it is accessible by train at all?

dsz said...

Not at all, sadly -- there's really nothing around there that I can imagine would be on a train (or bus) route...