©Bert Gildart: Last night Adam, Sue, Janie and I made a 30-minute drive from our campsite in California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park to the Salton Sea. It’s now famous because of its low elevation, its high salinity, its vast numbers of birds – and because it was created by a massive environmental mishap.
More on the disaster in a moment, but first I want to say that the conditions creating the disaster occurred over 100 years ago, and because they are here to stay, all of us accepted the situation and began enjoying the features for which it is now famous.
For us, that was the presence of the Sea’s thousands of birds, most notably the white pelicans.
THE LAP OF LUXURY
But there are sophisticated ways to enjoy such natural history luxuries, and we began in a way that is both tried and true.
We began by setting up chairs, pulling out a Coleman Camp table on which we cut cheese and filled our goblets (nothing but the best for we connoisseurs) with wine. Temperatures were in the mid 80s and the mountains around us were assuming a distinct red glow.
Adam sliced a huge watermelon into edible chunks and we then sat back to watch the sun as it descended into the mountains behind us. We attempted to count the thousands of birds that dotted the lake. Here and there numbers were dramatic and flocks of white pelicans must have numbered over 200. In turn the flocks were surrounded by Ibis, willets and sanderlings, pecking the sand for morsels of food.
A “CROWN JEWEL”
In fact, The Salton Sea has been termed a “crown jewel of avian biodiversity”, hosting over 400 species. Research later informed me that Salton Sea supports 30% of the remaining population of the American white pelican. Interestingly white pelicans nest in Montana, and Janie and I wondered if these groups were making their way north.
L to R: Salton Sea attracts 30 percent of America’s white pelicans. It also attracts over 300 other avian species. White pelicans gather
to continue migration north, perhaps even to Montana.
That’s the way it is now, but still, a mishap did occur, and it is one from which lessons can be drawn.
Disaster began back in 1900 when the California Development Company began a series of water diversion projects, intended to funnel water from the Colorado River into the Salton Sink, which at the time was a dry lake bed. The hope was to help farmers, and for a while the project worked. Farmers planted crops and watered them with now-available water. But then, just two years later, massive amounts of silt began to fill the Imperial Canal.
In 1905, heavy rainfall and snowmelt swelled the Colorado River, and flood waters soon poured down the canal and breached an Imperial Valley dike – because of the silt, which had elevated the waters. Disaster followed disaster and in yet another two years continuous flood waters eventually carried the entire volume of the Colorado River into the Salton Sink, creating an irredeemable sea.
Today, the Salton Sea — as this de facto lake is now called – is California’s largest lake. It also has the distinction of occupying the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink, which approach the record low elevations in Death Valley. Surface waters lie 226 feet below sea level.
Because of a high rate of evaporation, sediments accumulate rapidly and the Salton Sea measures 44 44 g/L, which is greater than that of the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
All of those facts are interesting and fascinating features surround this sea to include The Slabs and Anza Borrego Desert State Park. But the lake is an attraction in itself, and because it hosts so many species of birds, it is an attraction that will certainly continue to draw Janie and me – and hopefully Adam and Sue, who are connoisseurs of fine wine and fascinated by natural history. And Adam certainly knows how to cut cheese and create acceptable portions of watermelon.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
BOOKS FOR SALE:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy