The Abandoned City
The Salton Sea – One word comes to mind: eerie
I had heard that this was a visually interesting place to visit while I was attending photography school and have since wanted to check it out. The Salton Sea used to be a booming vacation spot in 1920’s. The Lake itself was formed by a few seasons of heavy rainfall and snowmelt causing the Colorado River to overflow. Runoff from the New River and Alamo River ended up slowly filling the Salt Sink (226 ft below sea level) and eventually, with the help of human intervention in trying to stop the excessive movement of water, turning it into a veritable lake. For a short while the Salton Sea thrived, but due to mostly stagnant water conditions and the increase of saline levels the lake has become overrun by bacteria, killing plant and animal species alike.
From afar, the lake looks to be a gorgeous emerald blue haven with sandy shores in the middle of the desert. As you near your destination you realize something just isn’t right here. You become overwhelmed by a stench of rotting fish and sulfur, and what you thought was a lakeside town is really a mix of run down homes and trailers surrounded with debris. I stepped out on the beach to take some photographs of this strange place and my feet sunk into piles of millions and millions of tiny broken down pieces of fish carcass, calcium deposits and barnacles. Dead floating fish lined the sand-less shore. I thought the entire town must be abandoned until I saw a satellite dish being installed on a nearby trailer.
We drove around and explored for a short while until the smell became unbearable. There were still signs for the boat launch and rental equipment. It was as if everyone jumped ship at the same time and the town was left intact only to rot away in the desert heat. I stood there on the jetty for a minute staring down at the brown water, then out at the other end of the lake. It looked so deceivingly beautiful from a distance with the sky reflecting its color on the water. There was an intense stillness lingering in the thick smelly atmosphere. I wondered if people still took their boats out, they inexplicably all still had them in their driveways even though the lake seamed to be silently condemned. The whole scene was utterly weird. Miles of land sat untouched decorated with power lines in a grid waiting for homes that were never built. There was not a single place we saw to stop for food aside from the gas station lining the freeway. We drove off, away from the strange energy of that mysterious salty waterside town, my mind full of questions.