Try Salton Sea for unusual daytrip

Where can you find seafront real estate for less than $100,000 in Southern California? That would be Salton City on the Salton Sea in Imperial County, a saline lake that was once the center of a vibrant resort community strung with marinas, motels and merrymakers.
Salton City on west shore of Salton Sea

Salton City on west shore of Salton Sea

But these days, the Salton Sea is bereft of that type of tourism.

The lake, formed in 1905 when the Colorado River flooded and submerged the town of Salton, contains about 7.5 million acre feet of water.

It’s absolutely enormous–California’s largest lake, but its water, which grows saltier by a percentage point each year, is not for drinking or for recreation anymore. It needs major rehab.

Dead fish at Salton Sea

Dead fish at Salton Sea

While the water sustains tilapia and many species of migrating birds, it is also becoming so saline and contaminated by agricultural run-off and the New River which flows into it from Mexico that its surrounding shores are littered by dead fish carcasses, bird feathers and unpleasant odor.

A $9-billion, 25-year plan has been proposed by the state to fix the Salton Sea. It hasn’t been approved yet and things aren’t looking good financially for California right now, so it seems unlikely a $9 billion project will be approved in time to start work in 2011.  
Salton City Yacht Club treelined boulevard

Salton City Yacht Club treelined boulevard

In the meantime, it’s a weird and fascinating place to visit. Drive down the dead-palm-tree lined entrance to the Salton City Yacht Club or pop over to Desert Shores to see a lone jetskier braving the briny sea.

Each decrepit marina or shuttered motel was once someone’s dream, and while you see and smell the decay surrounding the lake, you can easily imagine its glory days many decades ago when it drew more visitors than Yosemite National Park.

1 Comment so far

  1. Anil Das (anildas) on May 28th, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    Before you go, check out the documentary (narrated by John Waters; available at Netflix) Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea. http://www.saltonseadoc.com



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