The Salton Sea

Tuesday, 26th July 2005 by

This is the Salton Sea an inland ‘man-made’ salt-lake, located in Southern California. It usually covers a surface area of 974 square kilometres (although it varies a lot), making it the largest lake in California. It was formed in 1905 when heavy rainfall caused the Colorado River to breach a dike, and it took nearly two years to finally control the river’s flow into the Salton Sink and stop the flooding.

Bodies of water which have existed here in the past have always evaporated, but the Salton Sea is constantly replenished by runoff from surrounding agricultural communities, sustaining its water level. Water also flows into the lake at the New River delta, a river which originates 20 miles inside Mexico and consists entirely of wastewater discharged by nearly 1 million inhabitants of the rapidly growing Mexicali Valley.

Unfortunately this has all contributed to the Salton Sea becoming one of the most polluted lakes in the whole of the United States (there’s a rather grisly analysis of the situation here).

The high level of selenium in the water contributes to high mortality rates and birth defects in the local bird population, whilst algae starves the fish of oxygen, meaning that it’s not uncommon to see thousands of dead fish lining the shore.

Salton Sea

All this has (unsurprisingly) taken it’s toll on tourism. Here’s Salton City, which was founded in the late 50s but failed to develop. You can see the layout of the roads (in fact in hybrid view you can see their names too), but there’s hardly any houses at all.

Salton City

Weirdly, not too far away is an all-dirt, 9-hole golf course called The Sidewinder, that’s open all year round for free.

There’s loads and loads more information about this area available (as always) at Wikipedia.

Thanks: Cortney Moody, Jeff Alu, Ken Arnold, Pierre-Michel Ricordel