Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Salton Sea – Not Always a “Crown Jewel”

©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.


Created by an environmental mishap over 100 years ago, the Salton Sea is now a "Crown Jewel of Avian Diversity." It is shallow and has a exceptionally high salt content.


For us, that was the presence of the Sea’s thousands of birds, most notably the white pelicans.


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.


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.

SaltonSea-41 SaltonSea-42 SaltonSea-43

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.



*Vista del Malpis






4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

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One Response to “Salton Sea – Not Always a “Crown Jewel””

  1. Global Warming Will Says:

    You forgot to mention the horrible smell that sometimes travels all the way up into the Coachella Valley miles and miles away! AKA “The Salton Sewer”. We were told that there is a river that flows north out of Mexico that dumps into it.