April 21, 2008

The Salton Sea.

Warning: I'm about to use some words. Lots of them.
And I promise it won't happen again anytime soon. Feel free to skip them if you just want to see the photos. I won't mind ;-).

How do I even begin to explain my strange fascination for this strange place? Even my husband doesn't get it. Didn't know why we were there - thought it was pointless: "there's nothing here." Which is why it's all the more precious that he drove us out of our way to take me there, to humor me, to honor my desires. I think I'll keep him. He's a good man. Even if he doesn't understand why the sea intrigues me. ;-)

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I think my fascination lies in the Salton Sea's similarity to my favorite vacation destination of my childhood: The Colorado River. Annually (sometimes biannually) my parents would drive us down to Parker, AZ to stay at my grandparents' mobile home park on the River. There was heat, boating, fishing, walks to the local market, web-mesh chairs on the docks, card games, good food, friends and family. I loved it all. Still do. The Salton Sea, similarly, was once beloved by people for many/all of the reasons I just listed for loving the River. At one time, Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys crooned there nightly, and more people spent their summer vacations sunbathing along the shoreline than hiking in Yosemite National Park. But, the Salton Sea is no longer loved. It's totally abandoned. Falling into disrepair. In fact, being intentionally dismantled. It's like a nature-resort wasteland.

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The Aces & Spades Club


Today, the sea has been left mainly to the birds. It's a 300,000-acre saltwater lake that straddles Riverside and Imperial counties in the hottest, driest part of southeastern California and is a stopping ground for nearly 400 species of birds - more than any other wetland in the United States except the Texas Gulf Coast. Millions of migrating birds, including endangered brown pelicans, rare blue herons, and eared grebes flock to the sea during winter months.

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Pelikans at the Salton Sea

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The Salton Sea is a modern day environmental conundrum. It's undeniably one of the most important habitats for birds in the West. But the sea relies mainly on ["wasteful"] irrigation run-off from Imperial Valley agriculture. The farm run-off is a toxic "soup" of salt, fertilizers, selenium and traces of pesticide - all of which encourage the massive growth of plant life & algae in the water, which both richly feeds the fish (contributing to their health & well-being) and then depletes the oxygen in the water, thus killing the fish. Mass fish deaths = nasty odor that can be smelled all the way to Palm Springs. Bye, bye tourism. So, the conundrum ... conserve water, eliminate waste = the sea drying up and the birds losing an important wetland sanctuary. Congress has spent millions over the last 10+ years trying to find a solution to this tricky equation. All I know is: if anyone offers you a "hot" investment opportunity in a new Salton Sea resort ... just say no.

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The "beach" is comprised of barnacles, dead fish, bones, bird feathers, and salt.

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See our bedraggled, happy doggy? We gave him free rein - it's not like there was anyone there to tell us not to. Wouldn't you know, he fell off the "marina" edge into the smelly water within 5 minutes of gaining his freedom. I was just relieved to be able to pull him out without dropping my camera in!

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Before we left, the Littlest Dude tried to clean the place up.

Unrelated, funky sea details:

Largest lake in CA - twice as big as Tahoe.
Perhaps the most productive fishery in the world!
Surface area of 376 square miles; surface level is 227 below sea level.
25% more salty than the ocean (tho half as salty as Mono Lake and 1/5 as salty as Salt Lake).
Due to salinity & sea level = fastest lake in the nation upon which to boat.
It's a shallow, closed basin (like a sink); thus when it rains more than usual (3 inches per year), the sea floods the surrounding areas - also a contributing factor to the abandonment.
If Congress has its way ... the current legislation proposes spending $2billion (!!) to dry up most of the lake, leaving a small brine pit in the center, and a small lake at the south end and a small lake at the north end of the current sea. I dunno. Somehow that seems a sad, sorry "solution."

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8 comments:

Rhea said...

Ok, I'm still in shock you used words...seriously. Lots of em.

tearese said...

what an interesting piece of lost Americana...kind of like Route 66. I would have liked to visit too, just to reminisce on what had been.

Kat said...

Isn't there a song about the Salton Sea? I'm going to have to google that. I'm with Rhea thought...not short on words today!

While you were there...was anyone else there...or is it more like a ghost town? Is it roped off...or can just anyone mosey on through?

SKELLER said...

tearese - totally like Route 66 Americana - that's the flavor.

Rhea/Kat - I may just have used up all my words for this year. :-D I saw only one other person there - also with a camera in his hands. Anyone can mosey on thru ... or let their doggie run wild. I saw just one property that was cyclone-fenced off, marked "no trespassing. govt property." It kinda begged the question, "why?"

Leslie said...

wow now aren't you chatty....

Life With My 3 Boybarians said...

Oh man. You're not going to make me redo your header now, are ya'??? ;)

My LR arrives today or tomorrow!

SKELLER said...

No way, Darcy! Wildflowers are way cheerier & welcoming than the Salton Sea :-P.

gekke mum said...

oh...that was cool. I've lived in CA my whole life and never knew about this. This must be used in movie locations. There's one in my mind I just can't remember, but I am almost positive they filmed part here. beautiful...