In California, in the middle of the Colorado desert, there is a rather strange place called the Salton Sea. One accident in history turned this desert location into a successful resort, which ultimately declined into a ghost town.
Throughout the centuries, the course of the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley has fluctuated. Sometimes it creates a freshwater lake, other times it is a saline lake or desert basin.
In the early 1900s, the California Development Company decided to channel the Colorado River in order to develop the agriculture of nearby cities. For this, they created a series of irrigation channels and canals.
However, at one point, the river breached the canal, and water flooded into a nearby dry lake bed called the Salton Basin. Over the course of two years, a body of water was formed that would become known as the Salton Sea.
A landlocked sea in the middle of a desert was bound to be an instant attraction, and tourists flocked to this accidental wonder. In 1925, a fishing industry began to develop here as well.
By the early 1950s, resort towns had been built around this area to take advantage of this popular tourist attraction.
According to statistics, the Salton Sea attracted on average more than 1.5 million people every year. Some of those visitors included the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono.
The area became known as “the Salton Riveria,” and yacht clubs began to appear along the shore alongside the hotels.
The area of the Salton Sea varies according to rainfall and run-off but generally covers about 15 by 35 miles. The Alamo, New, and Whitewater rivers also flow into the lake.
However, the creation of the sea was a mere accident and poor planning was its demise. It turned out that a lot of the water draining into the sea over several decades contained salts, pesticides, and fertilizers from surrounding agricultural land.
This landlocked sea had no natural drainage of its own, and the toxins began to build up.
By the 1970s, the coastline was dotted with thousands of lifeless fish.
In addition, the Salton Sea had originally been a freshwater lake, but over time, its salinity increased, making it inhospitable to a lot of wildlife.
The increased salt content of the water resulted in the demise of more fish and birds as well.
An unpleasant smell started to permeate the area, partly caused by the algae in the lake. All of this drove away even the most devoted of tourists, and the area became abandoned.
Torrential rains in the 1980s meant that the water levels rose and fell, resulting in flooding nearby properties. This further destroyed the remnants of a once-bustling tourist location.
From a distance, what remains of the Salton Sea resorts look impressive, but visitors should beware of the awful smell that is a combination of the fish and the algae. It can be almost unbearable in hot weather.
It might seem that nearby cities are abandoned, but this is not the case. The population of the surrounding cities varies from 300 to 3700 people, offering a base for photographers and city explorers to visit the Salton Sea.
In the spring of 2017, the State of California developed a plan to save the Salton Sea.
The State not only wanted to encourage wildlife back into the area but it was also motivated by the fact that, if the sea dries, the lake bed will turn into dust, which could pollute the air and cause unpleasantness for nearby cities.
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