Sunday, September 7, 2014

Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is a big body of water that sits in the middle of the desert in Southern California. I learned something very interesting about it last week. I always thought it was the result of some ancient sea or something but it turns out that it is actually the result of an engineering mistake back in the 1940s. Some engineers were trying to divert a river to agricultural land and ended up filling up a desert basin that sits below sea level with water! Their mistake has lasted far longer than they imagined. You can see the large expanse of water here that hosts thousands of pelicans and gulls.

Pelicans and Gulls
Although the scene looks idyllic, the sea has had problems from the start. There were once vacation homes and marinas and lots of fishing, boating and swimming here. But not today. Here is the marina and boat ramp - dry as a bone.

Salton Sea Boat Ramp
We parked here and had to walk a few hundred yards out to the water's edge. The place is desolate.

The water cannot sustain as many fish now that it has evaporated. Back in the '60s, the fish all died at once. The stench drove people away. They abandoned their vacation homes, pulled their boats and split. Dead fish are still visible along the beach.

Dead Fish
But there are also really neat birds here too like this Snowy Plover. This little guy didn't seem to mind my presence on the desolate beach.

Snowy Plover
At one point, he walked right toward me! 

Snowy Plover
Other birds such as these Avocets are plentiful around the sea. Here are 2 coming in for a landing.

American Avocets
American Avocets
This Caspian Tern was cruising the coast line.

Caspian Tern
American White Pelicans were all over the place. This huge pelican soars very high like a hawk. Here is one taking off right overhead.

American White Pelican
The Salton Sea is one of the only places in the US to see Yellow-footed Gull. We saw a few including this one sitting with Black Terns.

Yellow-footed Gull
Oh, did I mention that it gets hot here - like 111 degree hot? That's not a typo - 111 degrees. We started the day at 76 degrees,  it was 100 by 10:30 AM and triple 1s by the time we quit at 1:30.. I was lucky enough not to have a hot flash or I might have vaporized on the spot - POOF and I could have spontaneously combusted! Good thing they had cold beer at the burger joint.

Cold Beer!

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