The present lake was formed in 1901, when the California Development Company, intending to develop agricultural land, dug irrigation canals from the Colorado River. Because of heavy siltation in the canals, engineers created a cut in the western bank of the Colorado to allow more water to reach the valley. But heavy spring flood waters broke through the engineered canal and nearly all the river’s flow rushed into the valley. By the time the breach was closed, the present-day Salton Sea was formed. Historic photographs show a train being derailed by the flood, and H.B. Bell's 1911 novel, The Winning of Barbara Worth, covers this event. The present lake is about 200 feet below sea level and covers about 380 square miles (from a May 2011 pamphlet by the US Fish & Wildlife Service).
The two photographs above were taken from Rock Hill, a volcanic plug that sticks up out of the soft sediments that make up most of the basin. Rock Hill is in the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge:
"The Refuge is located within the Pacific Flyway, an important migration route for birds. The Refuge habitats and the Salton Sea are vital to these migrating birds as a resting place and wintering area. The Refuge was established as a sanctuary and breeding ground for birds and other wildlife when 32,766 acres were set aside in 1930."
Various web sites with scientific and ecological data:
- A general summary and overview of ecological problems is at this San Diego State University site.
- The State of California has a chronology of events at the Salton Sea.
- The U.S. Geological Survey has a Salton Sea Science Office with publications and LIDAR data.
- The US Fish & Wildlife Service has a site about the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.
Bell, H.B. 1911. The Winning of Barbara Worth. Kessinger Publishing LLC (2010 facsimile reprint, 518p.
The first photograph was taken by my friend, Bill Birkemeier, from InTheLens.com. The others are with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera, with RAW files processed with PhotoNinja or DxO filmpack.