I arrived in my nice, clean, white, rented Equinox. The windows were up, and the cool air was coming from the air conditioner. The sun was shining, and I was loving being away from the cold and snow of Canada. When I arrived, first at Salton City, I drove close to the beach and stopped. I looked out over the shimmering water, turned off the engine and got out... THE STENCH! Nothing had prepared me for the smell. Like seaweed and rotting fish, yet somehow much, much worse. I looked around, noticed that some of the houses were actually occupied and thought, "how do they live with the stench?".
Salton Sea began as an accident, and it's potential as a vacation resort ended as an accident.
In 1905, the California Development Company attempted to increase the water to the area for farming. Canals were dug from the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley. These canals began to fill with silt, restricting the water flow, so the engineers made a cut in bank of the river to divert even more water. It was too much. The canal was overwhelmed, and the river flowed freely into a basin for two years before repairs were completed. This was the birth of the Salton Sea.
As I wandered the deserted streets of Salton City, and then Salton Sea Beach, it was surreal. The streets were all there although they had few stop signs, or other types of traffic control. You could tell that this area was much more built up than it is now, but it was hard to imagine. Between the heat, the desert sand, and the smell, it was almost impossible to imagine this as it once was; a busy, thriving vacation spot.
The area began development during the late 1950's, early 1960's. The streets, power grid, and other infrastructure were planned for a population of over 40,000. With rising water, salinity, and pollution from farm run-off, most properties were abandoned by the 1980's. It wasn't the end of a dream, because the dream simply never materialized.
i noticed that Salton Sea Beach seemed to be more about trailers and what most would consider cottages than what I saw in Salton City. A number of fires appear to have destroyed some of the remaining structures, and graffiti and vandalism are everywhere.
With property costs so high in California at the moment, the lure of lots priced from $4,000 each is clearly attractive as the number of permanent residents appears to be on the climb again. Much will depend, of course, on the nearby employment opportunities, beyond the casino located across the highway.
As the sun disappeared behind the mountains, I was keenly aware that my time was up. It was time to head back to San Diego after enjoying my opportunity to check a place off my bucket list.