Salton Sea

California's Salton Sea was created by accident, became a thriving resort area, then became too salty and polluted to support life, and now threatens coastal Southern California cities.

This cycle from dry desert to freshwater lakes, to saltwater lakes, to dry desert appears to have happened many times in the past.

The current instance of the Salton Sea came about after heavy rains and snowmelt in 1905 caused the Colorado River to flow down and overrun newly created irrigation canals -- redirecting the flow of the Colorado River into the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea then became a vacation destination in the middle of the 20th century. However, increasing salinity due to evaporation being the only outflow from the sea progressively made the sea less attractive to visitors. Salt and pollution killed the fish. Changing water levels flooded communities. And to top it off, the odor of decaying fish helped keep city folks away.

The current California drought and many upriver taps into the Colorado River make saving the Salton Sea difficult. There isn't water to send into the sea. However, many fear that letting the sea dry up may lead to toxic dust blowing into the cities to the west and kill off the millions migratory birds who pass through the area each year.

Paradise lost in California drought: The old man and the Salton Sea
Once a resort to stars such as Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx, the Salton Sea now shrivels as California gasps for water.

I spent much of a day exploring the area as I drove home to Arizona from a visit to California. This started with exploring beaches just north of Desert Shores on the western shores of the Salton Sea.

I venture out onto the beach

Taking chances as I try to not get stuck in the "sand" or mud as I drive on the beach

Birds line the seashore

When I approach, the birds relocate

Have a seat

The "sand" of this beach is made up of barnacles and bones

I start to question whether or not I can get the car off of the beach

Maybe squinting into the sun will help me remember the way back to the highway