(Click for larger version)
The full gallery of pictures can be found at TheDirtyLens.com under Salton Sea
In 1905 due to heavy rain and snowmelt on the Colorado river the Alamo Canal flooded over and then breached a dike, resulting in flooding of what was then mostly a dry lake bed in the Salton sink. For over two years while repair attempts were made to stop the flow, the entire volume of the Colorado river flowed into the basin creating what is now known as the Salton Sea.
In the 1920′s the area became a draw for tourists looking to play on it’s shores and enjoy the cool water and the newly expanding wildlife. By the 1950′s the area was well on it’s way to being developed as a major resort area, with several cities springing up along the shores. By 1958 Salton City had laid down a master plan and started to develop large areas to handle the expected growth – grading lots and paving streets as well as putting in place power and sewer lines for thousands of future home sites. The future looked bright for the entire area, a gorgeous water front playground that was drawing even some of the biggest names in Hollywood to play along it shores.
But it was all about to take a dark turn. Being a basin, the Salton Sea had no outlet. Over the years water and agriculture runoff and pesticides would flow into the basin and then evaporate, leaving behind salts and other chemical run offs behind in the lake. Slowly the salt content of the water began to rise as well as the level of other pollutants. Soon the fresh water sea became a salt water sea. In the mid 70′s record rain fall combined with irrigation dumping flooded out all the shore side resorts and homes – many would never rebuild. By the 1980′s Fish and Game was advising limiting consumption of tilapia fish due to increasing levels of selenium. The 90′s were filled with large scale die offs of grebes, pelicans, tilapias and croakers. What was a waterfront paradise became an environmental disaster.
As a result, the area around the Salton Sea began to fall apart. Resorts failed as people no longer wanted to vacation near the stench of the rotting shores. The large planned neighborhoods of Salton City were never developed as home sales and prices plummeted, leaving only scattered houses throughout the area . Flooded homes and buildings on the shore were left to rot. Houses and trailers were abandoned and left to the elements. Slowly over time the dream fell apart. Tourism fell and along with it local jobs, and the population for the first time began a decline. Nobody wanted anything to do with the mess that the Salton Sea had become.
Today the area is at a cross roads. Large scale plans are being made and executed in the hopes of stopping the deterioration of the sea, and beginning to reverse the damage. Preservation efforts are being made to protect both the once abundant wild life, and the environment created by the accidental sea. The housing boom saw a brief influx of new homes and small developments take place, taking advantage of the low property costs and drawing in a new generation to the area for a bit.
Will this all be enough to save the Salton Sea? Only time will tell. For now the area is a mix of old and deteriorating remnants of the golden resort years and a splattering of new life here and there, all surrounded by the stench of rotting flesh and the billions of small fish bones that make up it’s shores. Maybe someday there will once again be flocks of happy vacationers playing in it’s waters and children playing along a clean shore with real sand. Only time will tell..
(click for larger version)