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Salton Sea - Ghost Town Lake - page 2

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Niland - Another small town on the lake, Niland was once known as the "Tomato Capital of the World," and though not the agricultural center that it once was, it still sports an annual Tomato Festival, which has been held for more than 60 years. Like neighboring towns, it also developed into a fishing and hunting paradise during Salton Sea's heydays in the 1950s and 60s. Today, it still is called home to about 1,000 people, many of which work at the nearby Calipatria Prison. Another quirky addition just outside of town is Salvation Mountain, a colorful artificial religious folk-art mountain that draws numerous visitors each year. 


North Shore - Developed in 1958 by Ray Ryan and Trav Rogers as yet another resort on the coastline of the Salton Sea, they began to sell lots in 1960 and to build the crown jewel of the area -- the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, as well as the North Shore Motel.


Horses hitched in front of a business in Niland, Ca on the Salton Sea
A couple of horses are hitched up in front of a business in Niland, California. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2015.



North Shore Beach Yacht Club

The $2 million marine paradise opened in 1962 to much fanfare and was described as one of the largest largest marina in Southern California. Catering to the rich and famous, the resort soon claimed visitors such as Jerry Lewis, the Marx Brothers, and the Beach Boys who were frequent visitors or kept boats at the marina. The marina was a hotspot, especially when it featured speed boat races, parties and dances that drew hundreds of visitors. However, like most resorts on the Salton Sea, fluctuating water levels and flooding created problems in the 1970s. However, the yacht club hanged on until 1981 when it suffered a severe flood that wiped out the jetty and the marina, making it impossible for boats to dock there. The popular club closed to later be utilized as a rehab center and then a nursing home. However, the once glamorous resort it is entirely abandoned today. People still live in homes that dot the hills above the water, but North Shore's heydays are long gone. However North Shore is still notable as the home of the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, one of California's greatest bird watching areas. Established in 1930, the refuge covers several thousand acres. North Shore is accessible via State Route 111 and the wildlife refuge and campground is just a short distance south of the town.


North Shore Yacht Club today, photo by Guary Nicholson  


Salton City - The most ambitious of the Salton Sea developments, Salton city was developed in the late 1950's by M. Penn Phillips and the Holly Corporation, just shortly after Phillips had successfully developed the high desert community of Hesperia. The development plan called for 25,000 lots, 250 miles of paved roads, swimming pools, churches, parks, a golf course and a $500,000 luxury yacht club and hotel. Opening in 1958, the development was an immediate success as busloads of people were trucked in to view the new development. By 1964, some $20 million had already been spent developing the community and about 15,000 lots had been sold. Soon, a  yacht club was built, and motels, restaurants, a championship golf course, airport and other amenities followed. It's brochures touted that the "Miracle Salton City by the Desert Sea" would be the most popular sea resort in all of Southern California. And for a time it was, as sailing regattas, powerboat races, Hawaiian luaus, and fishing tournaments derbies attracted thousands of people including the rich and famous such as Frank Sinatra, Dwight Eisenhower and Desi Arnaz.


However, though there were numerous lots sold, few homes were built as most people seemingly purchased the lots for investment purposes. And when the lake began to flood and the saline levels started killing off the fish, Salton City's plans were doomed.  Today, the yacht club is closed, many businesses stand abandoned, and empty streets lined with dying palm trees feature hundreds of lots for sale, but no homes. Though its certainly no where close to its intended vision, the small town still boasts a population of about 1,000 people and several open businesses. "New" California developers and home builders are also working hard to attract new residents. Salton City is located on the SH 86 on west side of the Salton Sea.


In addition to the many ghostly relics to be seen in the area, there is still active fishing at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, which also provides for camping, picnicking, and boating. Additionally, the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is a bird-watchers paradise that features more than 375 species of birds, many of whom are endangered. The Salton Sea is located about 30 miles south of Indio, California on Highway 111.



Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated September 2016.



Contact Information:


Salton Sea State Recreation Area

100-225 State Park Road
North Shore, California  92254





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