One of our friends is from Southern California, in the Salton Sea area. It’s an area that I’ve long since wanted to see, ever since we met him and he told us about it.
This iteration of the Salton Sea was created completely by accident in 1905 according to Wikipedia, when a team of California engineers erred in their irrigation-canal cutting, and the river overflowed and flooded the dry, salty valley. It’s currently California’s largest lake.
The lake measures about 15 miles across by 35 miles long. On the west side of the lake are a series of date-palm orchards, the Torres-Martinez Reservation with its attached casino, hotel, and gas station, and a couple of small, desolate towns. On the east side is a 20-mile-long recreation area that doesn’t look to offer much, and a couple of other small, desolate towns.
On our most recent trip to California, we drove up the east side (because I had planned to visit Slab City, but we ran out of time) and drove back down the west side.
From a distance, this lake looks like a sparkling, blue jewel in the valley between mountain ranges, but up close, there is trash floating at the edge of it, and the shining white beaches are mostly made up of salt deposits and the bones of dead fish, whose memory lingers in the air. In fact, because of the tall retaining wall, we had to drive all over the “town” just to find a place that even had beach access!
Half the town was nice, pretty houses with well-watered flowers in front of them, but as we got closer to the beach, we started to see more ramshackle, abandoned houses, crumbling foundations, and in this case, lots of graffiti on what looks like a neighborhood BBQ and party spot.
The Salton Sea area used to be a popular spa destination. I’ve seen photos of the defunct salt spas along the east shore, but with only 2 days to get from San Francisco back to El Paso, I didn’t take a lot of time to do much exploring. I’d love to return someday, maybe with a small RV so we can stop when we need to, and spend a lot more time around here.
The sound of the surf and the smell of the salt air was appealing, and knowing its history, it was a bit haunting to visit such a desolate, remote area. I don’t know why I liked it so much, seeing how run-down everything was, but I’d love to go back and spend a week or so on the beach.
The avian wildlife around the lake is superb, and the photography was great, if a little random. At one pull-off on the east side of the lake, someone had carefully placed a pair of army boots, side by side, and then driven off and left them there! I grabbed a shot of that too, but it’s offbeat enough to go up on the stock photo site instead of here.
In short, the area is beautiful, if you want some remote camping for a few days to take pictures or just to listen to the surf and take in the scenery, but I’d give all the towns a miss.