Sunday, June 28, 2015

Salton City, CA: The Party Where No One Came

The Salton sea is a endorheic rift lake located in southern California in Imperial and Riverside counties. It is shallow, saline, and fed by agricultural runoff. A few wadis (gullies) lead into the lake, but only flow after a rainstorm. The Sea was trendy and sophisticated in the 1940s, when Hollywood stars flocked to marinas and watched boat races. In recent decades, increasing salinity led to fish kills and severe environmental degradation, and the tourists stopped coming. Dust has led to serious air quality issues.
Salton City was an ambitious dream. When you look at aerial photographs, you see a grid of streets and think this must be a sizable community. But in fact, few of the streets were ever developed, and tumbleweeds blow over dusty pavement. According to Wikipedia, "The town was developed in the 1950s and established in 1958 primarily by M. Penn Phillips and the Holly Sugar Corporation as a resort community on the Salton Sea." But it was isolated and there were few local employment opportunities, leading to minimal development. Could the fact that the summer temperature was over 100 deg F be part of the story? (Of course, Palm Springs is hot, too, but it is higher altitude and close to mountains, and has a more sophisticated aura to it.).
The main excitement seems to happen at the Arco truck stop on California State Highway 86 at the junction with Marina Drive. Optimism: the sign says there are lots for sale. (Click any photograph to enlarge it.)

Cross Highway 86 and head east on Marina Drive, and the Alamo Restaurant welcomes you. Another good sign.

Oh oh, now it look a bit quieter. Where are the people?
The high school looks modern and clean, but it sits by itself in a rather lonely spot.


We found one lot with some habitation.
A sign said "Marina." Where was it? All we saw was sand. Even the palm trees looked lonely.

Another chance to buy some waterfront property.
This road was rip-rapped (protected with stone). Did it once serve as a levee during a time of higher water level? Bombay Beach, on the east side of the lake, also had levees.
Oh oh, some more of these unhappy palm trees.
This basin may have been the unhappy marina. The yachtsmen must have moved their boats away.
This says it all for poor old Salton City. But not all is lost; drive about an hour northwest to Palm Springs, and you can dine in a variety of excellent restaurants. Salton city is only 30 min, south of Interstate 10, so the next time you drive across country, take a short diversion and see the Salton Sea. Click the link for some photographs of Bombay Beach.

The day my daughter and I visited Salton City, storms had recently passed, so the sky had more texture than usual with high clouds. I used a Fuji X-E1 camera with a polarizing filter to darken the sky. I processed the Fuji raw files with PhotoNinja software and converted to monochrome with their red or orange filter emulations. On some frames, I slid the blue wavelengths slider to the left to create an almost black sky. Also, I cropped square as per the days when I used a Rolleiflex camera, with its 6×6 frame. On my next trip there, I will take my 4×5" camera and do real photography with Tri-X film.

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