The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is an inland saline lake, located in the Colorado Desert in Southern California, north of the Imperial Valley. The lake covers a surface area of approximately 376 square miles making it the largest lake in California.

The creation of Salton Sea of today started in 1905, when heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell and breach an Imperial Valley dike. It took nearly two years to control the Colorado River’s flow into the formerly dry Salton Sink and stop the flooding and the water instantly created a rival to Lake Tahoe, where Angelenos & San Diegans could go for sportsfishing & recreational waterboating, etc.

The place thrived, and by the 1950s was a booming resort with several surrounding cities. Unfortunately, the unnatural existence of the lake, with no real inflow & no real drainage eventually led to trouble – what water that does flow in from farm irrigation, etc, arrives with a reasonable measure of salinity & a reasonable measure of toxicity (pesticides, etc). What water that exits does so via evaporation, which takes the water, but none of the salt or poison. So every year, the water that remains gets saltier, and more toxic.

In the mid 1970s, things went south, and by the 1990s the whole area was largely abandoned. A series of fishkills had lined the beaches with tens of thousands of dead fish, even as the government restocked with hardier species like tilapia.

The future of the Salton Sea is unclear, as intervention is required to manage the increasingly unstable system. Such intervention would require massive policy and financial commitments from the state and federal governments.

Meanwhile, the entire area has become predominantly known for being a haven for societal outcasts, methamphetamine makers & users, and the very poor. Along with some crazy sites and groups, including Salavation Mountain and the Cabazon Dinosaurs. When they say “There is somethng in the water” they mean it here.

Here is a great pictorial tour of the Salton Sea


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