The Sea in the Desert
This year we thought a lot about where we want to bring in the New Year and after much research we thought a great destination would be the Salton Sea. This was a brand new location for us and we were hooked after reading the history behind this accidental manmade sea in the desert.
Quick history: The sea in desert was created in the early 1900s it quickly became a popular getaway attraction for the wealthy and famous. Motels, dance halls, yacht clubs and restaurant quickly bloomed around the area and the land around it became a hot buy. After making it big in the 50s and 60s, by the 70s the toxicity in the water from local farming run off went over limit and fish started dying off in the sea and swimming became unsanitary. From then on everything went downhill. Much of the area was abandoned and within a short time turned into seaside ghost towns.
Driving down the night of December 30th we were hit by a soft snow blizzard as we neared the town of Mecca. Mecca is roughly 20 minutes north of the first campgrounds on the west bank of the Salton Sea. There are five main campgrounds and we explored all before picking where we put our tent up. The first campground down from Mecca is Salton Sea recreation Area, then Bombay Beach (which was closed, Mecca Beach, Corvina Beach and lastly we came across Salt Creek Primitive Campground (which seemed to open and flat for our liking). We decided to go with Salton Sea Recreation Area, although it seem to have more a few more campers, it had nice spread out camping spaces bushes and palm trees to keep your site private.
We did all our grocery shopping before leaving, please note Mecca has limited grocery stores and you will not find any worthwhile grocery stores in the sparse populated areas that wrap around the sea. So come prepared with lots of firewood (if you are camping in winter), water, and food. Temperature dropped to only 30 degrees at night so our good winter jackets and -40 sleeping bags was plenty to keep us warm and enjoy winter in the desert. At night we fell asleep to the wind rustling in the palm tree branches above our tent making us feel that we were camping on a tropical island. We both slept peacefully.
Since we arrived at night, besides smelling the salty sea we couldn’t make much of anything of our surrounding area. As soon as we woke up with the sun in the morning we started exploring. The area was beyond fascinating to say the least. It felt like we were among a tombstone of a lost era. The sea is beautiful and widespread. You feel like you are by a mini ocean with all the pelicans and seagulls you see. As you walk toward its shore and on the white beach, your steps begin making a very distinct crunch under your soles…then you look down and realize that what you are walking on is not sand in any form, it is all crumbles of fish bones. Millions and millions of tiny broken fish bones gathered over decades. There are some areas were the fish skeletons are still in tact. It was the strangest thing to experience.
After the beach we spent the rest of the day exploring the many abandoned buildings that were once full of life and excitement less than 50 years ago. This part of our trip was one of the coolest. It felt like a scene from AMC’s “Walking Dead”. The buildings we walked through felt like they were urgently abandoned with much of the canned food, furniture, and clothes left behind. Most walls were full of apocalyptic graffiti giving the same feeling of “the abandoned.” The more we explored, the more we wanted to keep going. We wanted to keep discovering the history and reading all the messages left on its walls.
We highly recommend this area to anyone who wants to uncover another unique part of California’s history. Must see at least once.