The Deserted Town of Desert Shores

Over the weekend Patrick and I took a day trip to the Salton Sea to see what we could see (yeah, I just went there). Last March I visited the ghostly Salton Sea for the first time with my dad, but we only explored the east side of the sea. During this visit, Patrick and I drove along a portion of the west side.

The anomaly that is the Salton Sea was the result of flooding from the Colorado River into irrigation canals along an area known as the Salton Sink, a dry lake bed high in salt deposits, so high that salt mining occurred in the area in the late 1800s. As the canals were breached, water poured in, and a singular lake, with no water source going in (after the flood was contained) or an outlet, meaning the only way for water to leave is through evaporation, a process that leaves behind more salt. After World War II, the California Department of Fish and Game released thousands of fish into the sea, and the fishermen quickly flocked to the area (as did many species of birds) and in the mid-twentieth century the area became a resort destination. Backs of postcards described a place where “the boating facilitates are the best and the modern motel, trailer park and cafe will add to your vacationing pleasure” However, many of the fish released could not tolerate the high salinity of the water combined with toxic chemical runoff, and began to die by the hundreds, washing up on shore, and within a few years, the great Salton Sea resort boom was over.

Today the Salton Sea looks like remnants of a war zone, with hollowed out buildings, trailers that appear as if they would fall over with a sneeze made too close to them. But the area is part of California’s unique history, which is something I continue to seek out, and capture before it completely disappears.

As we walked the shores and explored the area, we met other photographers, one who makes regular visits to the Salton Sea. He described how much has changed over the years, and whispers of a push to tear down what remains. It should be noted that while these images give a sense of complete and utter desolation, the area is not uninhabited, for there are still residents along the shores of the Salton Sea.

So much has disappeared over the last two decades, and the area is now rampant with graffiti. Patrick and I discussed revisiting later this year, as we still need to visit Salvation Mountain, another one of California’s oddities.

Stay tuned for a look at what I wore for our outing, and Patrick will be doing another guest post to discuss the North Shore Yacht Club.

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