Friday, February 11, 2011

Salton Sea

During my two weeks of working on research and having a fairly open schedule I decided to check out a couple of nearby places that have always intrigued me. The first of these was the Salton Sea, about an hour east of Loma Linda, out in the desert past Palm Springs. I had first heard of the Salton Sea from a teacher in high school and it had interested me ever since because of how it came into existence. This salt lake, the largest body of water in California, was created by accident when floodwaters overran irrigation ditches in 1905. Before that this vast lake had been a depression, the lowest point of which was 5 ft higher than the lowest point in North America which is in Death Valley at 282 ft. below sea level.
Map of Southern Califonia with Salton Sea pop-out.
Red dot is approximate location of Loma Linda.

I had never met anyone who had been out to the Salton Sea and everything I read on the internet about it made me think it probably wouldn't be the nicest place to visit but I had some time on my hands so I decided to check it out. My first stop was Salton Sea Beach on the western side of the lake. This town came close to fitting my expectations of finding a post-apocalyptic-wasteland-esque environment around the lake. Salton Sea Beach, like some other places I stopped, revealed that this place was way past its heyday when it was marketed as a resort location. This town also revealed why the Salton Sea probably failed as a vacation destination. When I got out of my car at the "marina" I was first struck by the overwhelming stench of dead fish. I walked down to the water to find thousands upon thousands of dead fish, tilapia I think, floating along the shore. I think this must be a common thing here because many websites I read before my trip named fish die-offs as a problem.

West side of the sea at Salton Sea Beach, dead fish floating in water.

Abandoned building at Salton Sea Beach.

I drove all the way around the Lake which took a couple of hours. I figured maybe I could at least enjoy a good sunset at Salton Sea State Park on the east side of the lake. I got to the park about an hour before sunset and went for a brief hike along the beach. There was a lot of water fowl and once again a lot of dead fish.

Flock of birds at Salton Sea State Park on the east side.

Just before sunset I prayed a psalm at one of the conveniently placed picnic tables near the shore. As the sun sank below the San Jacinto Mountains, a chill, dank breeze blew in off the surface of the sea and I was almost overwhelmed by the heavy stench it carried. It had been an interesting day. I will probably never go back to the Salton Sea unless forced to but I'm glad I got to see it.

Sunset over the Salton Sea


eric said...

Wow. Takes me back. My wife and I took a road trip out to the Salton sea while in graduate school.
It has all the weirdness of Mono Lake without any of that cloying pristine beauty and purity.
The ghost town "resorts" are so pathetic and over the top they seem like fake movie sets in a dark comedy.
You say you'll probably never go back but your glad you went? I have 35 years of experience to bet you're right on both counts.

Ed said...

Best... concluding... line... ever... ;-)

Sounds like a truly charming place.

Matt Perkins said...

Haha... You guys made me laugh. Hey Eric, I think you're right about Mono vs. Salton - Mono is both weird and also beautiful, the Salton Sea is just weird... and kinda disgusting.

Thanks for commenting!

TLF+ said...

You mentioned a more pleasant trip soon to be blogged, and I know the place so I am looking forward to that! I had some great snorkeling and kayaking there... neither of which I would be inclined to do at the Salton Sea.

Glad to have you back from hiatus! Thanks for you recent comment over at my blog.

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Fr. Fountain, I think I'll post about Santa Catalina next Monday. I didn't get to snorkel or kayak but it was still a great trip and a beautiful place. Thanks for commenting!