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Salton Sea - Ghost Town Lake


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However, Salton Sea’s bright lights would quickly fade in the 1970s when the sea’s water level began rising from several years of heavy rains and increasing agricultural drainage. Shorefront homes, businesses, resorts, and marinas flooded several times until the water stabilized in 1980 after a series of conservation measures to reduce field run-off. However, for the many resort areas, it was too late. The salt and fertilizers of the run-off had accumulated to such a degree that they had reached toxic levels, which began a cycle of decay. As algae fed on the toxins, it created massive amounts of rotten smelling matter floating upon the surface of the lake and suffocated many of the fish.


Within just a few years, the resorts had closed, the marinas were abandoned, and those who could afford to, had moved, leaving in their wake, abandoned businesses and homes, and scattered junk.  



Dead fish at the Salton Sea

Unfortunately, dead fish lay scattered on the beaches of

 the Salton Sea due primarily to the high saline content of

 the lake, photo by Guary Nicholson


Today, Salton Sea continues to maintain itself, fed by the Alamo, Whitewater, and New Rivers, as well as continued agricultural runoff from irrigated farmland. Covering an average surface area of about 375 miles, it is the largest lake in California.

But, still the lake is in trouble. The salt in the Salton Sea is higher than that of the Pacific Ocean and numerous restoration plans have been developed over the years, the latest of which proposes to reduce the size of the lake to make it more manageable at a cost of billions of dollars and more than two decades to complete.

The lake is dotted with "signs” of more prosperous times and the area is much like a "ghost lake," surrounded by small "ghost towns," "ghost resorts," and "ghost trailer parks." 


Bombay Beach - Located on the east shore of the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach was first developed by R.E. Gilliagan in October, 1929 as a private community that quickly grew with weekend visitors and retirees. By the 1960s, the town sported numerous businesses and homes. However, the next decade would take its toll on the community as tropical storms and flooding destroyed parts of the town. Though this permanently affected Bombay's development, the small town still supports about 350 people and a few open businesses amongst a sunken trailer park and abandoned buildings. A dike now protects the west portion of of the small community that is located just south of the Salton Sea State Park. It is one of the lowest elevation communities in the U.S. sitting about 225 feet below sea level.


Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California

Bombay Beach today, photo by Eric Polk, courtesy Wikipedia.


Desert Shores - This small community still supports more than 1000 people and has actually grown over the last several years. However, signs of its resort community heydays can still be seen a few abandoned businesses and fading billboards. One of the many communities that developed during the sea's heydays in the 1950's, the city was bustling in the 1960s with the Desert Shores Yacht Club, Marina Mobile Estates, a five-fingered marina, a fishing barge just offshore, and numerous businesses. However, in the 1970s the town was battered by a couple of tropical storms and the rising sea level flooded many of the shoreline resorts and homes. Desert Shores is located just north of Salton Sea Beach on the west side of the sea east of SH 86.


Desert shores, 1947

Desert Shores Harbor during its heydays, vintage 1947 postcard.

Desert Shores Motel, Salton Sea, California

An abondoned Desert Shores Motel today, photo by

 Guary Nicholson.


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