Salton Sea

January 3-4, 2009
The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California and it is huge - 35 some odd miles long, 15
miles wide, 100+ miles of shoreline.  It occupies a basin -227 below sea level that was
once part of the Gulf of California but it has been separated from the Gulf due to silt
deposited by the Colorado River.  Alternately over the course of millions of years the
Colorado River would change course and instead of emptying into the Paciific Ocean, it
would instead empty into the Salton Sea Basin or Salton Sink.  When it did large lakes
would form but eventually evaporate when the river changed course again and emptied
into the ocean.  Lake Cahuilla was the name of the last large lake that occupied this area
previous to the current one.  The Cahuilla Indians thrived along its shores.  But by the
time the first Spanish explorers came across this area Lake Cahuilla had evaporated.  It
was a dry land until the early 1900's when the Colorado River again jumped its banks and
decided to empty into the sink once again.  Thus the Salton Sea was born.  But
enterprising people cut off the flow of water off because it had covered railroad lines
and salt factories.  So now, about a hundred years later, and following the course of eons,
there are concerns about the lake evaporating again.  In fact it was one of Sonny Bono's
dying wishes to save the Salton Sea.  Save it from time, I guess.

Today many people like to go fishing, boating, camping, and birdwatching at the lake.   
There are several commercial marinas on its western shore and a state recreation area
on its eastern.  In the south is the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.  One
of the gravest concerns of Sonny's was that if this lake were to dry up many species of
birds along the Pacific Flyway would be in dire straits.  In the past few years, though, the
level of the water has been rising due to agricultural run-off.  The Imperial Valley to the
south capitalizes on the rich silt the Colorado River deposited over thousands of years and
many crops are grown here and are irrigated by the Colorado River.  So in a roundabout
way the Colorado River is still filling up the lake.

Todd and I spent Saturday night at Mecca Campground, one of several on the western
shore.  Our camp was steps from the beach and as such we enjoyed watching sunset,
sunrise, and the thousands of pelicans, herons, egrets, geese, coots, gulls, terns, and
other birds that call this place home.  I took out Grandpa's kayak for a spin and was able
to sneak up on several birds for up close shots.  The air was perfectly calm and warm but
not hot on Saturday making for very enjoyable kayaking.  At times with the perfect
reflections I felt like I was kayaking across the sky.  And surprising to me I did not see a
single other boat on that huge expanse of water.

On Sunday we drove down to the wildlife refuge and I walked out to Rock Hill.  After
climbing this little volcanic butte I realized I still wasn't above sea level.  And in the
distance seeing mountains rising to 10,000 and 11,000 feet and in the foreground a huge
lake teeming with birds, well, it is definitely a spectacular and unique place.
Most pelicans don't care if they're white or brown, they still intermingle
Great Blue Heron
Cattle Egrets
Gulls and Stilts
Room with a view
Multitudes of geese that I accidentally scared away
You weren't falling asleep by looking at this many photos were you?
Well, these will wake you up!
Snowcapped San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Peaks can be seen in the
distance, these mountains are 10,834' and 11,501' respectively and
because I'm standing at ~227' the vertical relief is very impressive
There are terrestrial critters as well at the wildlife refuge
More about this area
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More about this area

Salton Sea Trip in 2012

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