The Salton Sea


This topic stepped to the front of the line to talk about because it’s been in the media lately, climate change, and California’s drought are taking their toll. I haven’t seen anything in the media about whether recent storms have reversed the last four years of drought at the Salton Sea, all the reportage has been about more dramatic events – floods, dam spillways over flowing, huge snow in the Sierras.

The sea has been alternately flooded, become saline, dried up many times over in tens of thousands of years.

‘Dry lake’ is kind of an oxymoron but try to wrap your head around it anyway!

What exists now was partially created by a monstrous blunder but came to be regarded as permanent until recently. It was hoped to be a resort destination to rival Vegas, and for a while it was.

Remnants of those days remain, stark reminders of the temporary dreams.



Here’s a good map, it shows what flows into the sea, but there is no outflow, what collects slowly evaporates, which makes the lake so saline.


I quote from wikipedia:

“The most recent inflow of water from the now heavily controlled Colorado River was accidentally created by the engineers of the California Development Company in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were dug from the Colorado River into the valley. Due to fears of silt buildup, a cut was made in the bank of the Colorado River to further increase the water flow. The resulting outflow overwhelmed the engineered canal, and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the modern sea, before repairs were completed.

“The Salton Sea has been termed a “crown jewel of avian biodiversity” by Dr. Milt Friend of the Salton Sea Science Office. Over 400 species have been documented at the Salton Sea. The most diverse and probably the most significant populations of bird life in the continental United States are hosted, rivaled only by Big Bend National Park in Texas.[21] It supports 30% of the remaining population of the American white pelican.[22] The Salton Sea is also a major resting stop on the Pacific Flyway. On 18 November 2006, a Ross’s gull, a high Arctic bird, was sighted and photographed there.”

Robert Misrach made startling photographs of the place many years ago.

The sea’s future is in doubt, up for grabs, who knows what tomorrow may bring? Neither of us, No one.

“Unfortunately, little thought and few resources were devoted to the management of this accidental lake. As a terminal lake, the Salton Sea lacks any outflow, and in the late 1970s a series of heavy tropical storms caused the water level to rapidly rise and flood its banks.  The surrounding towns and businesses were severely damaged, many beyond repair, and tourism began to shift away. In the 1990s the lake began to recede dramatically, stranding many of the remaining residences and businesses, as changing water-management priorities diverted more water from agricultural areas to cities.”

A long and very interesting article:

“It’s heyday was the 50’s and 60’s, it was called “the french riviera of the west.”

Bombay Beach is the town where I took the most images, it’s a very quiet lonely place now, vacant lots for sale, roadrunners skittering across the street, dogs could nap in the middle of the streets, and live long lives. The couple of people i chatted with seemed to be castaways from society, come here to live on air, soc sec. or disability, maybe some veteran’s monthly check. A small one. They’ve checked out of society at large. Let’s hope we don’t end up here in our ‘golden years’. Or maybe not, maybe we’d like it. In one of the articles i read the current residents were quoted as saying they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

A beautiful sky reflected off the glassy lake is reason enough to stay.

1280px-salton_sea_reflectionAs for the rest of it? I dunno … only the hearty would want to stick around.

I had a lot of photo fun w/ the place.




As the Terminator most famously said “Ah’ll be back” – i second that emotion.



Happy New Year

renaissancemanCalifornia is a place where many people ‘take it to the limit…’ as the Eagles song goes.

And the end of the year is a time for reflection, wandering thoughts – so this post is about both.

20 or so years ago, somewhere along the way south of I’m not sure where, along the northern CA coast, I took a turn off into a sizeable rest stop/ parking lot/’viewpoint’… Took in what was a brilliant sunset, even in B&W.

After i pulled in, another vehicle did too, a school bus, but no school kids here, it was converted to be living quarters for the owner(s). It parked so the door was on the far side of me, at the far end of the parking lot. The windows were covered w/ crude shades, I watched as lights went on. Then i saw, underneath the bus, a pair of human legs, and four legs of a dog step out. The dog relieved itself, both got back on the bus. My first experience w/ Nor Cal off the grid, in a manner of speaking. Anyone on that bus got a job? Doubtful.

nc_sunsetcntctI came across these negatives while trying to put together some darkroom montage that takes things in a new direction, using sandwiched negs in the image. 


The chair at the bottom is one neg, the top is a sandwich, dodged out from bottom up, the sunset mentioned above, and a shot of a driftwood sculpture at Patricks Point SP. I will always remember the sunset, and with it the school bus. This chair is a place to sit down, & contemplate… ‘whatever’. 

I wouldn’t want to direct your thoughts, just encourage them.

I will also remember Patricks Pt SP, the wild and crazy things people did with driftwood. Not quite off the grid, but heading that way. It’s a long walk to that beach, and if there is a park ranger at that SP, he/she doesn’t get there very often, anyone there is left to their own devices. Dance naked, howl at the moon, nobody notices or cares.


I took one neg into the darkroom, did some things with it. A steady hand and a sharp exacto blade got into the act too.


Turning this over in my mind, many other thoughts/images bubbled to the surface, the main one, the most tantalizing to think or write about being the whole idea of ‘off the grid’.


This sign is off the grid for sure, somewhere in the Mojave desert, it’s many miles to anywhere, someone started this, and many others added to it, what a great idea.

It wasn’t so long ago that most of America was rural, farms and ranches, there wasn’t much of a grid to speak of, and most weren’t on it. Some survived, some didn’t.



When i took the B&W neg. of the above into the darkroom, the shack became somewhat transparent. No surprise.


Nowadays, we like to think we can be adventurous, walk on the wild side, get away from the daily hum-drum routines of our lives, an idea that can be very entertaining – think ‘burning man’ in the Nevada desert, or this bonfire i attended some years ago on Ocean beach, sponsored by a group of wild and crazy artists i belonged to.


Taking ‘the road not taken’ can also be a death trip, there will always be warnings, even if you don’t see them. 


There is at least one story in the media every year about someone out west who takes the wrong turn, the wrong road, and ends up dead, frozen in snow, or totally dehydrated in the desert.

Here’s a place that’s just one step short of off the grid, Bonk’s Jawbone canyon store, just northeast of Mojave Ca. This was shot in 1996, the place is gone now. Jawbone Canyon got it’s name for being a really rough off-road dirt bike place – as in “it’ll rattle your jawbones”.


So… uh… before you ‘take it to the limit’ … pause for some thought.

“There must be some way outta here said the joker to the thief…”

Bob Dylan song, best recorded by Jimi Hendix. Do a ‘youtube’ search, it’s there, it’s just that pasting the link does wacko things to my blog.

Since the end of the year is always the anniversary of my longest road trip ever, my migration to the west coast, from Arlington Va. to SF, Ca., I will remember a day-long respite in Holbrook AZ, thanks to some hi-desert snowstorm that closed Rt 40, i took in the Petrified Nat’l Forest SP. To a guy who was used to seeing trees standing upright, green and growing, this was a mind-bender.

This long view was awesome, blew my east coast mind.


I’ll be back next year for sure. I still have Gigabytes of images, and many thoughts.