It was a day trip or was it a round trip? Either way it was on back roads, really back roads, and highways, maybe freeways. I’ve always gotten the two mixed up. I’m talking about our ride to the Salton Sea. It came close to not happening, being rescheduled twice, but early on November 22nd Road Captain Irv G. lead a group of enthusiastic riders out for a 226* mile loop on roads new to many of us around the Sea. Salton Sea Ride Video by Jerry L.
Did you know the Salton Sea as we know it today** was a 1905 man-made accident? A flow control irrigation canal on the Colorado River broke and water poured into the Salton Sink, a 1800s salt mining area on the San Andres Fault 278 feet below sea level. The water gushed with unusually high seasonal flooding for two years before repairs were completed creating the largest lake in California. In the 1950s real estate investors sold the area as a sport fishing and vacation destination, “Palm Springs by the Sea”, a boom town that went bust.
The area once supported over 400 species of birds, one of the most significant populations in the US, and several species of fish. With the building of dams on the Colorado River and continually increasing diversion of water for farm and human consumption by the 1960s there just wasn’t enough clean influx to maintain the quality of the Sea. By the early 1970s agriculture pollution, fluctuating water levels and increasing salinity (higher than the Pacific Ocean), along with massive fish die offs and algae blooms and decay raised a stink chasing most out. Today many of the towns once dotting the shore are marked only by broken concrete, derelict trailers and forlorn signs. What looks like sandy beaches are bones, crushed bones.
Not everyone has left, there are 11 geothermal plants producing electricity, dairy, sheep and date farms as well as a wide variety of seasonal crops grown including sugar beets. The bar at Bombay Beach Skin Inn even grows dollar bills on the walls. The owner, George, has the place up for sale but I don’t know if the harvest is included.
* It was over 330 miles round trip for me.
** The Colorado River has flowed into the Imperial Valley for millions of years slowly building up a delta that separated the area from the Gulf of California. Otherwise it and most of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park would be submerged. Cut off from the rest of the gulf the area cycled every 400-500 years between a freshwater lake, a saline lake and a dry desert basin.