01-01-19 – Salton Sea

Once a Pleistocene age sea, the Salton Sea was accidentally re-created when overzealous tapping of the Colorado River led to a catastrophic failure of the waterway’s path in 1905. For 2 years the Colorado emptied its bounty into the Salton Sink, before engineers were finally able to repair the damage they had inadvertently caused. The Salton Sea was reborn.

The Salton Sea had some success as a resort area, with Salton City, Salton Sea Beach, and Desert Shores, on the western shore and Desert Beach, North Shore, and Bombay Beach, built on the eastern shore in the 1950s. However, many of the settlements substantially shrank in size, or have been abandoned, mostly due to the increasing salinity and pollution of the lake over the years from agricultural runoff and other sources. Many of the species of fish that lived in the sea have been killed off by the combination of pollutants, salt levels, and algal blooms. Dead fish have been known to wash up in mass quantities on the beaches. The smell of the lake, combined with the stench of the decaying fish, also contributed to the decline of the tourist industry around the Salton Sea.

Many people now visit the Salton Sea and the surrounding settlements to explore the abandoned structures and art installations such as Salvation Mountain and East Jesus, near the town of Niland, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southeast of the sea, with a population of 1,006. Evidence of geothermal activity is also visible. Mudpots and mud volcanoes are found on the eastern side of the Salton Sea. A number of geothermal electricity generation plants are located along the southeastern shore of the Salton Sea in Imperial County.

The US Geological Survey describes the smell of the Salton Sea as “objectionable”, “noxious”, “unique”, and “pervasive”.

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