A Day Trip Around the Salton Sea
The Salton Sea
About 50 miles east of Palm Springs lies one of the largest inland seas and lowest spots on earth at minus 236 feet below sea level. Located on the San Andreas Fault in the Imperial Valley of Southern California, the Salton Sea is really a huge lake with a shoreline of 115 miles. (en.m.wikipedia.org and visitgreaterpalmsprings.com)
Over millions of years the Colorado River has flowed into the Imperial Valley depositing fertile soil for farming, building up the terrain, and constantly changing the course of the river. For thousands of years, the river has alternately flowed into and out of the valley, alternately creating a freshwater lake, an increasingly saline lake, and a dry desert basin. This repeated cycle of filling occurs about every 400-500 years.
The most recent inflow of water from the Colorado River occurred accidentally in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were dug from the river into the valley. The canals suffered silt buildup, so a cut was made in the bank of the Colorado River to increase the water flow.
The resulting outflow was too much for the engineered canal to handle. The river flowed into the Salton Basin for 2 years, filling the dry lake bed and creating the modern inland sea, the largest lake in California. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
We head east on the 10 to Highway 86 and then pick up Highway 111 through Thermal and Mecca.
The Salton Sea State Recreation Area covers 14 miles of the northeastern shore. It has been a popular site for campers, boaters, birdwatchers, and anglers. The increasing salinity in the sea basin, however, has reduced the types of fish that can be found here. Currently tilapia are mostly caught here. (parks.ca.gov)
It’s hard to believe this was once a resort area. The increasing salinity and pollution from agricultural runoff, however, ran tourists off with offending smells from the Salton Sea and the stench from decaying fish washed ashore.
In the 50s and 60s Bombay Beach was a thriving resort where you could swim, water-ski, and golf during the day and then party all night at a yacht club. Today Bombay Beach is a bleached, rusted, abandoned wasteland… an apocalyptic landscape smelling of salt, petrol, and rotting fish. (slate.com)
By the late 70s the ecosystem was rapidly deteriorating. With no drainage outlet, almost zero yearly rainfall, and runoff flowing from nearby farms, the Salton Sea was polluted with pesticides and saltier than the Pacific Ocean. Periodic flooding brought the poisoned water further ashore. Depleted oxygen in the sea killed scores of fish and dragged their rotting bodies onto the beach where they shriveled in the sun, decomposed, and eventually coated the sand with a layer of fragmented fish skeletons. (slate.com)
Look closely. Notice the abandoned ship left high and dry on a rock in the center of the picture below.
It remains as a testament to once was the “Salton Riviera,a miracle in the desert.” (slate.com)
Circled below is a statue of a cow sitting on top of a roof.
Jeff likes this abandoned house so I obligingly take a photo.
Apparently the Ski Inn is a great place to eat.
As you can see, people do live here! Bombay Beach is home to around 250 residents who travel the barren landscape by golf cart and drive 40 miles to the nearest grocery store. (slate.com)
Salvation Mountain is a unique and colorful outdoor art installation created by Leonard Knight. Made from adobe, straw, and paint, it is folk art-like consisting of murals and Bible verses.
Knight died in 2014. Volunteers have maintained the site and a charity has been established to support its future care. (visitgreaterpalmsprings.com)
The Folk Art Society of America declared Salvation Mountain “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” in 2002. In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as “a unique and visionary sculpture… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible.” (en.m.wikipedia.org)
Adjacent to Salvation Mountain is a community known as Slab City.
This abandoned Marine facility gets its name from the remnant slabs from the original military base. It is home to winter snowbirds and full time residents who choose to live “off the grid.” Makeshift campsites, a library, a nightclub, and golf course fill the large expanse that was once Camp Dunlap. (visitgreaterpalmsprings.com)
We drive around looking for the library but we never find it.
Out in the Sonoran Desert in Imperial County, California, is an experimental, sustainable, and educational art installation called East Jesus. Artists from all walks of life have built upon the original vision of Charlie Russell, who changed a trash-strewn patch of desert into a space for contemporary art. (atlasobscura.com)
In 2007 Charlie Russell quit his tech job and headed to the off-grid snowbird community of Slab City. He came to work on Leonard Knight’s famous painted mound, Salvation Mountain, but soon became involved in his own project. Russell began to turn a trash-strewn area, less than a mile away, into a quirky and colorful art installation. He called it East Jesus as in “the middle of nowhere.”
With a shipping container of his belongings and 2 carts, he began turning this patch of trash into a reflection of his vision: a world without waste, where trash could be repurposed into art. Russell invited other artists to contribute and East Jesus grew into a habitable cooperative compound that attracted free-roaming artists, musicians, scientists, and builders. Charlie Russell died in 2011. (atlasobscura.com)
For more info and pictures check out eastjesus.org.
So… if you are looking for a place to live off-grid, look no further!
And if you are ever in the Palm Springs area, you have to experience this places yourself!