South of the prosperous city of Palm Springs with it’s history of rich vacationers and party people, past the expansive golf courses and manicured lawns of desert condos, and beyond the polo fields of Coachella, lies a place that time forgot. The Salton Sea, part of the agricultural area of the Imperial Valley, lays shimmering in the desert sun, it’s communities dwindling as the sea shrinks.
Once a recreational powerhouse to rival Vegas of the ’50s, Salton Sea attracted the celebrities of the day among tens of thousands to it’s shores. People would drive from nearby Los Angeles and San Diego in their Cadillacs and Thunderbirds to water-ski, fish, and sun themselves. Amenities and communities grew in tandem with the influx of visitors and small towns were established. But it was not to last forever.
The Sea, itself born out of an accident, firstly suffered from several flooding events swamping the shoreline areas. However, more terminal for the Sea was the gradual increase in agricultural run-off from the surrounding farmland. The devastating result of this was a massive upsurge in algae blooms feeding on this run-off, subsequently creating a quite extraordinarily and unattractive sulphuric odor. Further to this, the biodiversity of the lake reduced and much of the fish life died off.
It was not long before the tourists also left. Much of the proposed townships were never fully realized, with empty streets and no houses. Those that remained there lived mainly in trailers and makeshift housing. As their children left and the older generation began to die off, these homes were also abandoned to join the derelict amenity buildings still dotting the shoreline. A few hardy souls still call this home, but as the sea shrinks, the algae intensifies, and the economy continues to be difficult, how long will they remain?