Salton Sea was our second destination of my Southern California desert trip last spring. It is the largest lake in California – and a man made one at that. We got in to the state campground sometime in the afternoon. The first thing that hit me was the smell and then the flies. Let me explain…
Salton Sea – A Cautionary Tale
The Salton Sea was formed by mistake in the Coachella valley when irrigation canals from the Colorado River overflowed in 1905. It took 2 years to fix the overflow and by the time the lake was formed. In the 1950s the area was full of booming resorts, but nothing lasts forever. Pollution and increased salinity has resulted in just ruins all around. The salinity is rising fast and the shores are covered with millions of dead fish. Hence the smell and the flies. There is still some life left in the lake, but at this rate we will have another dead sea soon.
Well, I pitched my tent and made sure the flap was closed all the time. I didn’t want to spend the night in the company of flies. The Mecca beach campground was on the north east corner and actually had shower facilities! Since we had some time before sunset we decided to take a drive to Slab City.
Slab City & Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain is one man’s tribute to his god and is situated at the entrance to Slab City. This mini-edifice was built by by local artist Leonard Knight from adobe, straw and tons of colorful paint. The whole area is covered with a mixture of scripture and psychedelic art. Best part are the buses and cars calling out to you to repent along with messages of love. Is the implication that these vehicles can whisk you away to heaven?
Slab city is a huge snowbird community with no electricity, running water or sewers. Most of the residents living in campers are there for the winter and drift north during summer. The area is strewn with strange artwork. At least you don’t have to pay for parking.
Alright! Enough of this detour. Let’s get on with the main attraction.
Bombay Beach Ruins
Bombay beach is pretty much an abandoned area on the eastern shore of Salton Sea. We got there an hour or so before sunset. The only people around were photographers and some models doing shoots. I don’t understand how a place can be breathtakingly beautiful and disgusting at the same time. You really have to be there to understand. We picked up our gear and walked on to the edge of the beach – if you can call it that. I am glad I had on my hiking boots walking on the remains of dead fish.
The first thing you notice, other than the smell, is the furniture lying around in the lake. On the whole the place looks like something right out of a Salvador Dali painting. Little birds run across the surface of the water adding to the surreal scene.
The best was yet to come. As the sun started sinking over the mountains in the distance, I was treated to the most magnificent sunset I’ve ever seen. I still have not seen anything like that since. The sky seemed to shift from yellow to orange to all shades of red and purple. And the reflection in the almost still lake made it even more amazing. We just hung out there taking it all in till the last hue of red faded away.
The overnight stay at the campground was nothing to talk about. I was so exhausted that I slept in and missed the sunrise the next morning. The next part of the adventure will continue next week in Joshua Tree National Park. Don’t miss out my adventure with some wildlife there.