Journey To The Salton Sea

Journey To The Salton Sea

For several years I’ve been trying to road trip it to the Salton Sea to check out the ruins and leftover © CA Dept. of Water Resources“stuff” from decades of abandonment. I’ve been a fascinated by this place for some time now because of what it stood for with previous generations and what it’s become to mine. Today the Salton Sea is a place where reality and dreams truly didn’t meet up. From the fenced off landings to vacant lots there isn’t really anything worth smiling about any longer, but this wasn’t always the case. In the 1950’s and 1960’s it was a place to vacation. Just a few hours out of San Diego it promised warm weather, refreshing water, great fishing and plenty of sunshine. Business opportunities were everywhere as new communities popped up along the shores. What could go wrong?

As it turns out a lot could, and did go wrong. Apparently the fact that the waters feeding the Sea are laden with pesticide and fertilizer was ignored. Left unchecked it would ultimately prove disasterous. Add to that the water authority changing the amount of cleaner water deposited into the Sea. With no way for water to get except for evaporation, what went in, stayed in.

April 2009But all the while this was going on people sold their homes in the city for the promise of paradise in the desert. Dilapidated signs can still be found on the east and west shores advertising “Buy today, invest in your future”. Well, they got it half right! Now the land is so devalued the people that still live there are stuck.

I was more interested in the ruins and abandoned structures than anything. So off we went on a Saturday journey that would take us around the Salton Sea in one day. Beginning on the west shores at the Salton City we were amazed at how many dwellings still had occupants. Plenty of vacant lots, some scraped down to the earth, others with structures barely hanging on. Yet peppered in between these were some nice homes which looked like they were recently built. Maybe paradise isn’t lost for everybody. A few markets, Sheriff office and Chamber of Commerce buildings still seemed to be active. From the Salton City we headed north up the 86 to the North Shore, which was totally ghetto. Just around the northern tip of the Sea we saw a state park. WTF? Who would want to camp here? Roll down a window (okay, push the little button) and you’ll get a face full of foul smelling dead “matter”. Neat, let’s camp here. The shoreline was riddled with dead fish bones and barnacles. The little waves that would splash against the shore made a strangle gravel rattling sound. The water had a rust colored hue which looks a lot like an unflushed public toilet. Swimming anybody? As we went south on the 111 we stopped at the little community of Bombay Beach.

At first it didn’t seem like much, but just over a berm was a chunk of time half-buried under salty mud. This little slice of yester-years heaven was the jackpot. Home to the now infamous most photographed trailer in the world, Bombay Beach proved to be land that time forgot. Houses burned out, others just abandoned. Windows busted out with jagged plates of glass clinging to the frames. Tires. Oh the tires. By far the most popular garbage at the Salton Sea. Trailers dissolving into the crunchy earth covered in rust. Wooden structures splintering in the arid desert environment. A shopping card half buried in mud. There isn’t much to smile about here for sure.


  1. Grandmama Vicki

    I need more pictures of zoe. She is 4 months now.
    Thank you
    love mom

  2. Thank you for writing your experience of the Salton Sea. I have been wanting to go there and what you have written confirmed what I thought this place is like.

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