The Salton Sea: Remnants of California’s Rivera

Well, we’re home from California! And with lots and lots of photographs! I’m so eager to share my experiences and photos from this trip. My dad tagging along meant I got to go out and do so many wonderful things! And I’ll be sharing them all with you over the next few days. But today we are talking about a place I’ve wanted to go to for over ten years, the Salton Sea

In the 1950s through the 1960s the palm lined streets of Palm Springs led out to another recreational location, the Salton Sea.  It was boasted to be “California’s Rivera.” There was a yacht club and people took their travel trailers and boats out for a weekend of fun along the shorelines, but there was something sinister in the air.  The area now known as the Salton Sea has seen much change over the centuries, and you are more than welcome to dive deeper into the creation of it, as it is difficult to offer a clear and succinct description. Prior to the twentieth century, the area was known as the Salton Sink, and was a dry lake bed with immense salt deposits, and served as salt mines in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The “sea” itself was born when the Colorado River flooded, causing large amounts of water to enter the irrigation canals in the area, flooding and allowing water to pour into the dry lake bed. In the mid-twentieth century the California Department of Fish and Game released fish into the sea, and the area grew into a resort town, however the already existing salt, the salt creation through evaporation and the run off of chemicals created a toxic environment, leaving behind thousands of dead fish.  As the fish body count rose, the people packed up and left, leaving behind decrepit trailers and ghostly buildings.

I’ve wanted to go to the Salton Sea for over ten years, a time when I still shot film.  I’ve always had an interest in photographing abandoned Americana and I didn’t know that the rusty signage and skeletal trailers of the Salton Sea existed until I saw some of Troy Pavia’s images and I begged to go out to it, but often family and Disneyland proved higher priorities during our California visits, but this time, my dad and I made the short drive from Palm Springs to visit.

Today the Salton Sea is still an interesting place.  What look like white sandy beaches at first glance turn into a gruesome sight when you realize you aren’t walking on sand at all, but in fact decades of broken down fish bones, with a few partially decayed fish here and there.  There are some efforts underway attempting to save the Salton Sea or at least preserve what they can.  And there are still residents, and not to mention the International Banana Museum.  So if you like the spooky and the kooky and find yourself near Palm Springs, make a visit!  Sadly, we didn’t make it to all of the interesting areas  around the large lake (we drove around the North Shore and Bombay Beach areas), but maybe another time.

Stay tuned for more California adventures!

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