The Forgotten Sea

The photographers at MK Envision Galleries regularly go on "photo trips" and share their best shots and adventures... Enjoy!

The Forgotten Sea

March 11, 2016

Location:  Salton Sea, California

Located 3 hours east of San Diego and 230 feet below sea level, this lake is a bit off the beaten path.  

Mini history lesson…

The Salton Sea in fact is not a sea at all, but the largest lake in California (by surface area).  The Colorado River has been feeding into it for millions of years, and left to its own devices, the lake has gone through hundreds of cycles - from a freshwater lake to a dry desert basin to a saline lake, and the cycle starts again. Then man intervened...  In 1905, engineers at the California Development Company tried to increase the water flow for agricultural purposes resulting in their canal getting overwhelmed with the volume of water.  Water dumped into the Salton Basin for 2 years straight, submerging the town of Salton, until repairs were completed.

Deciding to embrace this new accidental “oasis in the desert”, the tourism industry marketed the Salton Sea with exuberance.  A fun, exciting resort destination was born on both the eastern and western shores, complete with a Yacht Club, boat rentals, excellent fishing, hotels and restaurants.  

Present day...

The disruption in the lake’s natural inflow and outflow has caused its salinity to get out of control.  It’s salt content is higher than the Pacific Ocean, and growing each year.  A whopping 4 million tons of salt are deposited into the lake each year!

Between the lake’s salinity, algae blooms, agricultural runoff and pollution, most species of fish get killed off, constantly washing up on the shore in the thousands.  This fish graveyard brought along with it a less than pleasant smell… sadly the lake eventually became an abandoned wasteland. 

 

Our experience...

Stepping out of the car, our senses were greeted with a putrid stench. The small white sand mounds covering the beach, upon closer inspection, took form. Thousands of crisped dried fish as far as the eye can see. Concentrated around the perimeter of the water, but washed up and scattered over a 100 yard radius.

 

 

 

Dilapidated homes covered in graffiti, battered signs pointing to the once bustling "Yacht Club", broken floating in the lake, the quietness... it is both eerie and fascinating.  Remnants of the life that was once here...

 

 

 Despite the lake’s loss of tourism, a different population now relies heavily on it. Over 400 different bird species call the Salton Sea home. The lake is also a critical pit stop for migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway; an important and scarce feeding & resting spot on their journey between Patagonia and Alaska.

 A lesson…

in being able to find beauty even in the most unlikely places, we were stunned by the vivid sunset that evening…enjoy!

 

 

 

 

M K
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