My cousin, Karen from the North Country, was in southern California on a photography roadtrip and I was able to meet up with her recently at the Salton Sea Visitor Center. I had read up a bit on the area and knew that the Salton Sea was no longer the popular vacation spot it once was. But I was still looking forward to seeing what I could find and taking some pictures.
The Salton Sea is actually the largest lake in California. It was created by accident in 1905 when a cut in the bank of the Colorado River resulted in an overflow that overwhelmed the canal which was supposed to contain the runoff. The river basically flowed unchecked into the historic dry lake bed of the Salton Basin for two years before repairs were completed. Oooops. Things happen.
My first stop was in North Beach. I spotted what appeared to be some abandoned building alongside the road so pulled over to take a few pictures.
A short distance from Toro Loco is the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club. It's apparently still open, but I'm not sure exactly what the place is used for. I didn't see any yachts in the harbor.
This looks like it was probably the place where folks came to get their fishing license, bait, maybe some snacks and possibly rent a row boat.
Time to leave North Shore and find my cousin, the plan was to meet at the State Park Visitor Center.
It was 9:00 am. The visitor center opened at 10:00. So we hit the road to see what we could find. The Salton Sea State Park stretches for about 14 miles along the north eastern shore of the Sea and there are several campgrounds along the way. The Mecca Beach campground is very nice and the one that I would recommend to anyone wanting to camp inside the park boundaries.
Once outside the park boundaries, the highway follows along the shoreline. There is interesting stuff to see along the way. Especially if you enjoy poking around old, abandoned places and ruins. I admit, it's a favorite pasttime of mine.
We soon arrived at Bombay Beach, one of the towns I had read about and wanted to visit.
Bombay Beach, Cal. dates back to 1929, when it was founded as a private development by R.E. Gilliagan. It’s located on the east shore of the Salton Sea, and at 223 feet-below-sea-level, is known as the lowest community in America.
Being located right on the shore, Bombay Beach has had to contend with fluctuating water levels over the years. 1976 and 1977 were disastrous years, as tropical storms hit the area, raising the water level of the sea and causing serious flooding. A good portion of the town was destroyed and washed away in the floods.
A huge dike now surrounds the remainder of the town, protecting the residents and businesses. The lots on most of the streets are interspersed with occupied homes, empty lots, burned-out or abandoned trailers and fenced-off lots. Driving through the town, we stopped and poked around in a few of the abandoned trailers. Melancholy would be a good word to describe the feeling I had while in Bombay Beach.
It's a bit surreal walking though this area. This photos were taken along Avenue A, which is on the west end of town. There were almost no occupied homes along this street.
Avenue A dead ends at Fifth Street, which then continues east along this large burm or retaining wall that was built to keep the Salton Sea away from the town in case the waters rise again. I'm not sure when the burm was built, but on the other side, it's pretty bleak, with lots of ruins of what must have once been a very beautiful place to live.
Fifth Street runs east-west, with the sea wall on the south side, and mostly empty lots on its north side. Scattered along the way are a few abandoned buildings, what must have once been homes and beachfront businesses.
At the end of Fifth Street, where it connects with Aisle of Palms, it was time to park Old Blue and checkout the other side of the sea wall.
Lots of crusty stuff.
The obligatory 'dead fish' picture that everyone who visits the Salton Sea seems to take.
There were a lot of birds on the water and in the surrounding wetlands and grassy areas.
The remains of a trailer that must have at one time been a favorite vacation spot of someone's. In the background, the sea wall is visible, with some of the town roofs peaking over its ridgeline.
This picture was taken from close to the top of the sea wall, looking out across what was once several streets of Bombay Beach.
A boat launch ramp, the channel takes a left in the distance and heads out into the sea.
After wandering about the beach area for a while, oh, by the way. What appears to be white sand along the shores of the Salton Sea is actually this:
.... crunched fish bones.
The Lowest Bar in the Western Hemisphere is located in Bombay Beach. Who knew?
The entire area around the Salton Sea is filled with secrets, treasures and interesting history. Mudpots? Yes. Bird watching? Yes. Farming? Yes. And a good number of small towns around the shoreline to investigate. There is still a lot of life left in this region.
Heading southeast after leaving Bombay Beach, we were on our way to Niland and from there to Salvation Mountain and East Jesus, two amazing spots in the desert. Not to mention Slab City, but I just did. A short distance from Bombay Beach, the remains of a small homestead of business literally screamed, "Stop and take some pictures!"
If you get the opportunity to visit the Salton Sea, take it. There are some nice campgrounds along the shore and there's some amazing things to take pictures of. Go see what you can find.