Merrily Morbid (left) and Lady Lovesblood (right)
For those who don’t know, let’s review the facts: The Salton Sea is “a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California's Imperial and Coachella valleys.” Basically, the Salton Sea is a lake accidentally created by the California Development Company in 1905 to divert water for farming. Much later, it became a beautiful resort community and popular weekend celebrity getaway in the 1950s through the late 70s.
Vintage signage from the once prosperous vacation hotspot.
Then around 1980, due to its geographic location combined with the saline water baking in the desert sun at extremely high temperatures, the vast body of water turned into a toxic sludge pool. This zapped all signs of life in and around it in a matter of months! (It’s also the title of a surprisingly good movie starring Val Kilmer and the location of a new indie TV series in the works.)
Long road home
I step out of the car and stretch. The sun is still hot and bright when we arrive. Since I’m originally from the East Coast, I’m always surprised by the intensity of California sun.
Salton Sea 'beach town'.
Seat by the sea
A few yards from the car, there it is in all its glory: the disturbingly placid and strangely beautiful Salton Sea.
A placid view
The landscape is surreal. My feet sink into sun-bleached ‘sand’– a charming mix of salt, fishbones and dead barnacles.
Shores of dead fish
I quickly learn my shoe choice was not the best— should have gone with something more … waterproof.
Note to self: next time bring boots
What happens when you don't bring water
For those that like it dirty, there's always dune buggying it.
Now, all I need to complete the fantasy is to see a goggled pilot land with a cigar in his mouth and glass of scotch in hand.
Paramotor (minus the scotch)
As the sun sets, the scene turns from macabre to magical.
Trail of birds
Shades of cotton candy pink permeate the sky and the sea transforms into a giant reflecting mirror.
Sick Salton sunset
After the sun sets, we head to a Motel 6 in Brawley, the largest small town near Salton Sea, for a much needed shower. The motel is clean and fairly new. As much as I love horror movies, I was a bit relieved we opted for something more comfortable than one of the somewhat sketchy seaside motels.
The last remnants of civilization
Anyone up for a swim?
My advice? Bring water, lots of it. And sunscreen.
Used to be the snack bar at North Shore Yatch Club
Our first stop is the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club. Originally built in 1960, the place known as “The Glamour Capital of the Salton Sea” used to dock boats for people like The Beach Boys and Jerry Lewis.
Marina remains, once home to celebrity boats
A very senic view
The North shore proved to be a bit different from the beaches surrounding Salton Sea City. It had more of a classic seaside beauty … minus the petrified ducks.
Get your rotting ducks-in-a-row
In stark contrast to the toxic, dying body of water, there was vibrant surrounding flora, like cattail sedges and tamarisk. After a few hours of wandering about snapping surrealist nature pics, we decided to take a break from the scorching sun for lunch and relocate.
Pink pops of color, thanks to the tamarisk
Pro Tip: Pack a lunch, there aren’t many restaurants or convenience stores by the beaches.
Dream vacation home of nightmares
To my surprise, there was a young girl on a tricycle not far from the shore—a chilling reminder this is still home to a few determined inhabitants.
Home sweet home
At the end of the second day, we packed up and headed back to the highway, stopping in the Coachella Valley for food. The sunset was still immaculate and we left excited about the prospect of visiting again.
We decided our next trip would need to include the nearby Salvation Mountain or perhaps for one of the SEAthletes events, hosted by a fascinating group of people dedicated to boosting tourism and preserving the Salton Sea.
Palm Desert sunset
Verdict: Take a weekend and check it out. A day will do but two is always better!
Nearby Salton Sea Sights
Slab City - A former navy base turned artist-centric squatter community that was featured in the movie Into the Wild.