150 miles from LA, there’s a bright blue patch in the desert. Twice as salty as the ocean, the Salton Sea encompasses roughly 325 square miles – though that number fluctuates drastically.
It’s this fluctuation that has been its pitfall. The Salton Sea was formed very accidentally in the early 1900s; it’s the result of an irrigation accident where the Colorado River burst and flowed into a dry (and very salty) lake bed for 2 years.
These days, the sea keeps getting saltier and saltier – the scant influx of water is consistently less than what’s evaporating. Thanks to California’s dry, sunny desert climate, the shoreline is almost constantly receding, exposing a dusty lakebed littered with dead fish, garbage, broken seashell beaches; a stark contrast to the cobalt blue waters of the Salton Sea.
But it wasn’t always so bad. In the 1950’s, the Salton Sea was a productive fishery, and also a popular tourist spot in the ’50s – with resorts, beachfront homes, speed boat racing and water skiing. But the salinity of the lake and the heavy agriculture of Southern California slowly destroyed the ecosystem, eventually deeming the Salton Sea unsafe.