News Article

News Article

Salton Sea Beach, California - A Post-Apocalyptic Fish Graveyard


The Salton Sea in California's desert is a huge lake that shouldn't be. Created accidentally at the beginning of the 20th century when irrigation routes from the Colorado River flooded the Salton Sink in the Coachella Valley. The spot was a popular tourist spot, and properties were snapped up by celebrities like Sonny Bono. After all, how often is there new waterfront property?

Of course, with no consistent water source the Salton Sea's water level fluctuates wildly, and the salinity grows ever higher, much of it being leeched out of the surrounding land (which also takes with it pesticides). By the 1970s, the water could no longer support the fish that called it home, and they died off by the millions, washing ashore. The area is described as smelling like an old fish market on a hot day. You might drive past and think it looks like a nice, quiet beach with sandy white shores - but the "sand" only looks so white because it is actually made from the bones of millions of dead fish.

The stench of rotting fish, as you can imagine, drives away those who once made Salton City (and neighboring Bombay Beach) their home. In its heyday, millions of people passed through the Salton Sea every year. As of the 2010 census, Salton Sea Beach reported about 400 residents; Bombay Beach reported barely 300. 

It is, however, popular with disaster tourists and urban explorers. Frequent flooding and its location atop the San Andreas fault have left many structures to fall into sinkholes or rust out. Many homes appear to be abandoned, families leaving everything behind. Probably to start a new life someplace that doesn't smell of decaying fish.

Plans to restore the Salton Sea began in the 1990s, when Sonny Bono went to Congress. Many, many different plans have been made for the area, and many, many delays have meant that nothing has happened. The most recent update from the government is that the restoration project will begin later this year. So if you want to "enjoy" this bit of "disaster tourism," better start planning your trip!

Photo credits: herobyday, Vice, brazilfox, ruggybear, wildcaught

Similar places you might want to visit, but definitely wouldn't want to live: Helltown, Ohio; Stull, Kansas; Centralia, Pennsylvania.