Toxic dust. Highest rated child asthma cases in the state. Rancid water landlocked with a salinity 50% greater than the Pacific ocean. Welcome to the Salton Sea.
A dam failure in 1906 diverged the full force of the Colorado river into a small basin for an entire year. The result of this was a 350 square mile lake in southern California. In it's early days the locals were elated to have a beautiful oasis of water to irrigate their crops and bring in tourists. By the 1950's folks from LA flocked to the lakes shore as their summer getaway spot. Then the plight of man began to turn the tides. Over used pesticides created hazardous washoffs. The lake did not have a natural way to drain out, and began to absorb the dried salt from the bottom of the basin. What lays here now is the most heavily polluted lake in the USA, an abandoned wasteland of mankind's mistakes.
Bombay beach is one of the towns that succumbed to the chain reactions of failures. Situated at -223 ft below sea level, the lowest community in the country, it felt the wrath of the lake first hand. In the 1960's the lake quickly rose and flooded part of the town. For years it remained under water. When the lake finally retreated all that was left was the structures and equipment tangled in salt. In this town of 350 people nobody cared enough to clean it up.
The buildings that weren't completely destroyed were abandoned to rot. They have since turned into an artists canvas for those who like to tag. Unnervingly, you can't tell which homes are still occupied.
Some of the pieces were picked up, but only for a montage of sculptures. Walking around the area made our eyes burn, and our throats itch. The state of California has issued official toxic dust warnings due to the amount of arsenic that is encapsulated in the shore line dust. Ironically, there was a state camprground just one mile down the road open to tourists. It's $30 a night for hookups and is right on the beach. What a bargain.
Enough of this place. Heading back north drops us into the irrigated fields of the basin. A place where plants still grow from the diverted Colorado River. I see a tree I've never seen before. It's a date tree. We had no idea this agricultural oasis would be on our agenda for the day.
With our return trip nearly complete I spy one more thing that peaks my curiosity on the side of the road. A sign describing the BLM land and all of it's off road trails. I love driving off-road. We should check it out.
With the long day behind us it's finally time to call it quits. The sun begins to set and gives us a gorgeous farewell. Could be worse...