Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Oasis CA-Salton Sea (Day 3)

Today is the day we are going to drive all around the Salton Sea. Doug has figured it to be about 130 miles, back to where we are now. Should be an interesting trip....

We packed up the van today and headed out about 9:45 a.m. We have to learn to do this more. Seems difficult at first, once you are all set up and everything is in it's place but it is the only way we will see things in the surrounding area.

First area we headed to (south on Hwy 86) was Desert Shores. All I can say is wow.....and not in a good way. Way back in the 1950's people used to flock to this beautiful lake, by the thousands from Los Angeles and all points imaginable. They would come to holiday in their trailers, to fish (there were at one time boat launches with 15 lanes available) In the 1960's this is what Desert Shores looked like:

What we saw was a virtual ghost-town. Pretty sad in some regards. It's not the fault of anyone but Mother Nature. The Salton Sea sits at 227 feet below sea level and is a shallow, saline lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault. Because of the high saline levels it has virtually killed off everything in it.

Here is what we saw:


Remember that archive picture above, with all the trailers?
Incredible that it came to this. Just a wasteland.

This pretty much sums up the whole place....

More of those canals you saw in the old picture above....
Now people just have old houses and trailers, haphazardly everywhere... 


 I thought, at first, that these were pieces of concrete, but they
are just huge chunks of salt....with loads of dead fish.
 ...and it stunk!!! It was a combination of
dead fish, salt and sadness......

We tried to cheer it up some....

...and so did Euri.

A really nice mural on the only store in town....

Then it was a further 10 miles or so down the road to Salton City. Surely IT would be better?
Nope it was not.....

Notice that you see NOTHING behind this sign...
that is pretty much what the entire town looks like!
Paved roads, albeit some of them are super old, sign posts, everything
but the houses and the people. It says that there are a few thousand,
but I don't know where they are!!

They do, however, have a swanky golf course!



Nope, not a joke because some other crazy Canadians from Oliver BC
came along to actually golf. They spend their winters in this town.
There is one "tiny" area with some nice RV's/trailers.
But I honesty do not see what people would see in an area that is virtually abandoned!!
 This is where they live. Don't get all excited because this is it.The rest is totally
abandoned. Named streets with pavement that is probably 50-60 years old,
all cracked and dusty, weeds growing out of it.....Weird.
Doug's research says this whole area was touted to be the next Palm Springs so they went all hog wild and put in these huge developments and then the Salton Sea and Mother Nature had other ideas. Super high salt content and the resulting dead fish.
Here is a bit of Salton Sea info:
One of the world's largest inland seas and lowest spots on earth at -227 below sea level, Salton Sea was re-created in 1905 when high spring flooding on the Colorado River crashed the canal gates leading into the developing Imperial Valley.  For the next 18 months the entire volume of the Colorado River rushed downward into the Salton Trough.  By the time engineers were finally able to stop the breaching water in 1907, the Salton Sea had been born at 45 miles long and 20 miles wide – equaling about 130 miles of shoreline.  Salton Sea State Recreation Area covers 14 miles of the northeastern shore and has long been a popular site for campers, boaters and anglers.  Increasing salinity in the Salton Sea basin has limited the number of types of fish that can be found there, and most fish currently caught are Tilapia. 
So we carried on our way and got to the Sonny Bono Salton Salt Sea Nat'l Wildlife Refuge. A bird watcher's paradise. Nice little spot. Good for picnics.

By now we were all the way at the south end of the lake and starting to come up the east side, heading north. This area is totally farming area, oh, and cows!! After we left the Wildlife refuge, we stopped for lunch. Coincidentally, it was about 1 mile away and it was an area that bird hunters could go out into "blinds" and shoot birds. We thought that this was funny, as this was still part of the refuge. Like "oh here, come and be safe, mind that little shooting gallery part though!!"
All around this valley, there is thermal energy. There are 5 geo-thermal plants in this area run by CalEnergy.


Doug ran into one of the foreman and he said that basically they drill wells and the steam comes out at about 430 degrees F. It is piped to the plants and the steam is separated from the water and sludge. The steam turns the turbines, turns the generators and the result is lots of power. Pretty cool, or steamy!! The water and sludge is pumped back into the ground through disposal wells. No mess and no pollution!!  
It was recommended that we go through Slab City just east of Niland on Hwy 111. Mere words cannot possibly describe this area. It is simply an area that the army had and then left and there were a bunch of concrete slabs from the houses left behind. Squatters built a community.
First thing you come to is Salvation Mtn. Notice the bottom of the sign....Got paint?
See in the foreground the cars...just for some size reference! 


Then you drive another 1/2 mile and you find Slab City. This is from an old army guard hose. Notice the hole for the guns!


I'm not sure why there is a shoe tree...I guess "why not"?

 Euri wonders why too!!

This old truck had most everything known to mankind glued onto it....

This is predominantly what the entire area looks like. Little groupings of
run down trailers like this. But there IS a community here....


Take a moment to read this fitness notice.....

...and somehow out here is "The Range" a kinda club/bar entertainment area.
Seating area is old couches, chairs, no stuffing in most. But someone does
have a generator because there are lights!! And there will be music too!!

You know we always have to take VW pictures!!

Another guard shack (not used, of course) on the way out....

Yikes - it was very interesting!! Then we continued onto  a place called "Fountain of Youth". Yup, not kidding. Pretty posh, 750 spot plus park. Typical what a little irrigation will do. It was situated away from the Salton Sea with only a nice view of it. It was an area where workers discovered the thermal pools back in the 30's when they worked on the All American Canal and needed water. The water was too hot and they dug pools to cool the water. Then, the pools were forgotten about during WWII and found again by a group of highway workers. They used them to clean up after work and soon found out about the healing benefits. By the late 50's, some bright minds came up with the idea of making an RV park.
There were several state parks along this side and another community called Bombay Beach. The guide at the Sonny Bono Centre told us that this is where Hollywood got the actors for the Mad Max movies from. Same type of settlement as the others, dirty and abandoned looking. I read that there have been so many disaster documentaries done in the Bombay Beach area that when people see "outsiders", they just assume you are there to do another documentary!
Pretty from far back!!
Information Centre boards.....Ah yes, the smell. Apparently, in the summer, you can sometimes smell the dead fish and algae bloom right down into the Simi Valley!!
Phew!! I will leave you with all that. Super interesting area. I am  sure if you all Google the Salton Sea you will have an amazing read.
We are back "at home" for the next two nights. Tomorrow we will just hang here. Hopefully wash the van front end so we can put our new black, sexy van bra on!! We figure on leaving here on Thursday morning. On the way out of here, we are going to the Oasis Date Garden. Apparently they make date milkshakes and I am saving room for one of those. Then it will be on to Yuma AZ!! Goodbye California on Thursday!!
Thanks for checking in. Hope I didn't bore you!!
Thought for the Day: It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see....Henry David Thoreau.
I think I should go back and look at all those pictures.....


  1. Excellent post, I want to go there and float in the sea.

    1. Oh Peter, believe me, you do not want to even touch that water. It is smelly, dirty and full of dead fish. Apparently, even the birds die young on it!! Nope, stick to a spa!!

      Glad you liked the post. There is SO much info on it and I try my best to get my facts right.....

  2. Hadn't heard of Salton Sea before but we have heard of Slab City. Thanks for the tour and great info. Hopefully we will do this tour ourselves next winter.


  3. This is a very interesting post; thanks Nancy. I visited the Great Salt Lake in Utah last Fall. It's 1,900 square miles. But, it's only the remnant of Lake Bonneville, a prehistoric lake that was 20,000 square miles. Now part of it is the Bonneville Salt Flats.
    It's sad, in a way, to see a 'ghost-town area' but it is the way of nature and history.

    1. Doug being the racer he is would love to see the Bonneyville Salt Flats - we will put that on our next list!!

  4. Pretty interesting. We remember lots of what you are showing. Didn't spend as much time there as you. The picture of the Trillium brings back memories. I am sure you will love the date shake. Didn't sound good to me at first but we are hooked. Drive safe.

  5. I, for one, am really looking forward to that date shake. I can't speak for Doug though. He may need some convincing!!