Day 20: The Story of Salton City
It started with a dream...I was...designing a board game....set in a medieval fantasy realm. It combined tactics from Settlers of Katan and Civilization 5 (on a much smaller scale) and allowed up to 4 players to create an empire with which to conquer, advance, or enlighten...And I designed it all so I could beat someone the first time they played it in my dream...Not sure why but that was my incentive! It was actually rather intricate and incorporated different structures, unit types, and production abilities across a simple yet customizable board. Has anyone heard or played a game like that before? If so please let me know so I can make sure I don't waste my time as I've started making a mock version of it! =D
I awoke from his dream and then wrote a few notes before saying farewell to some friends in Imperial Beach, CA. I got a later start than anticipated and headed towards Salton Sea to check out this abandoned area I had heard about while at Quail Springs. I ended up doing a bit or research ahead of time since I am very interested in post apocalyptic topics and wanted to know what to expect. I will share a bit of what I learned along with my journey that afternoon as it will likely take over this entire post! I have also edited most the photos I took there and will release my first photo collection on my website! Visit the Salton City Photography page for the gallery, some of which will be used in this post.
It took over a dozen railcars of boulders to eventually curb the leak, and by then there was a 43ft deep sea in the middle of the desert where only parched earth had existed before...so what can be done with this new body of water you ask? Well you turn it to an up and coming resort town only a few hours travel from L.A.!
Initially they stocked the body of water to see if fish would survive, and boy did they. This also made for some happy birds and wildlife began flocking to this big puddle. Soon it was a fishing and hunting oasis in the middle of the desert where one could "throw in a hook without bait and pull out a fish". The Hollywood elites soon saw the value and with a couple marinas in the 50's and 60's turned it into a hot spot for vacationing away from the ocean on a much calmer body of water calling it the "Miracle in the Desert". It was advertised as a place where one could enjoy a variety of leisurely activities; a sportsman and vacationers paradise. Infrastructure grew and people moved in, Salton City was built...but something wasn't happening...the water wasn't evaporating
With no natural water source, how could this be? Well it just so happens that all the farmland in the area naturally drained to the basin as it is the lowest point in the state. So the runoff roughly equaled the amount of evaporation (around 6ft per year). The issue is that irrigation runoff brings all sorts of fertilizers and salts, so some lovely algae started forming and the water got salty.
At first it was nominal, but after 50+ years of this process, the sea was becoming more and more contaminated. An oder became noticeable. the salt levels rose rapidly (nowadays its about 50g per liter which is higher than sea water!). Fish couldn't survive and died in the tens of thousands. Parts of the shoreline are still covered in fishbones. Subsequently one of the largest deaths of a bird population in the U.S. also occurred, as brown pelicans consumed the dead fish washing onto shore. With so much of the wildlife dying, the smell got worse. Incinerators were run nonstop for months to keep up with the epidemic.
By then, the area was quickly becoming a less desirable place to visit, and the tourism industry began to sharply decline. One of the final straws came in 76' when Hurricane Kathleen arrived to ravage the area, flooding the shoreline and many of the inhabited areas. As luck would have it, in 77', hurricane Doreen finished the job. People left their homes, businesses gave up and moved out, people abandoned Salton City. Some people came back over time, but many didn't. Now there are segments of the town just left to let father time and mother nature reclaim what is theirs. If you're interested in more of the history, I found this article to be a great source of entertainment while learning about Salton City if you're interested! (http://lostamerica.com/photo-items/the-salton-sea/)
I actually met two high schoolers from San Diego who were also looking to explore the area when I got there! We teamed up for a little bit and made a couple stops.
Please see the Photo Gallery for further photos.
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