Friday, April 4, 2014

Salton Sea

Odometer  38391
Trip Meter  40 miles (car)

Thursday April 3, 2014

The Fountain of Youth RV Resort uses a hot water source that was first discovered in 1938 by construction workers looking for a water source to use for mixing concrete used in building the All American Canal.  The All American Canal is an 80 mile canal that conveys water from the Colorado River, here to the Imperial Valley.  Settling ponds allowed the water to cool and some of the minerals to settle out before using it for concrete.  When the canal was finished, the ponds were left behind.  The ponds were rediscovered in the 40's by construction workers building California Highway 111.  The workers spread the word about the soothing and healing qualities of the ponds.  By the 50's tourists from all over the country were coming to camp by the ponds.  One of the workers enjoying the ponds was Clyde Hays, a carpenter from Oregon.  .

Mr. Hays convinced a local contractor to build RV and mobile home parks in the area.  The contractor drilled a well that produced 250 gallons of water a minute at 137 degrees farenheight

This is the well that the Fountain of Youth developed around.

This area of California known as the Salton Sink has been recognized as an important agricultural area since the early Spanish explorerers passed through in 1771.  When the US- Mexico war ended in 1848 the border between the two countries became fixed at the Rio Grande river, and this area became part of the US.  As early as 1850 irrigation canals provided water for a booming agriculture, however the water for the canals originated in Mexico and supplies were uncertain.   By 1901 the dream of irrigating the Imperial Valley with water from dams on the Colorado River were being realized with the construction of the "All American" Canal.  It was during the construction of this and other canals that an engineering disaster created the Salton Sea.  In 1905 a combination of silted canals and spring floods on the Colorado caused a breech in the canal and for two years, nearly the whole volume of the Colorado River flowed into the Salton Sink

 The Salton Sea became the largest inland body of water in California with a surface area of 230 thousand acres.  Almost immediately this new fresh water lake became a recreational outlet, and whole communities sprang up to serve the influx of vacationers. .
Bombay Beach was one of these resort communities founded by a developer in 1929.

However the lake levels were anythng but stable, and without the benefit of flood control dams on the Colorado the communities along the lake shore were itermittantly flooded.   The building of the Hoover Dam in 1935  provided some stability and the flooding episodes mostly ended.
However this community was flooded in 1976 by Tropical Storm Kathleen and again in 1977  by Hurricane Doreen.  Soon a large dike was built between the community and the lake.

A large dike now keeps the community safe, but blocks any view the houses may have had of the water.   Bombay Beach is listed as a "ghost" town on some internet sites, and after driving through, we would agree with that assessment.  Real estate is listed by a local company, and the "houses" we looked up were going for about $10 grand.

The Salton Sea continued to be a very popular resort for boating, fishing and swimming, for many years. In it's hey-day the Salton was a bigger draw for tourists than Yosemite.   Gradually the runoff from agriculture, the natural salinity of the area and the fact that there is virtually no outflow from this lake that is 277 feet below sea level, turned the lake into a brine salt sink.
The New and the Alamo rivers still flow into this area from across the Mexican border, but despite the inflows of 1.3 million acre-feet of water, the rate of evaporation is nearly equal, keeping the level fairly stagnant unless there are significant storms in the area.  The salt content at present is greater than the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  Some have advocated several schemes to rejuvenate the Sea- most notable among those was the former Mayor turned congressman Sonny Bono, who was a strong supporter.  

The town of Niland was a major civic hub of activity on this side of the Imperial valley and was built at he junction of two main rail lines serving the southwest.  The only historically significant building Joan and I could find was the remnants of this graceful looking bank building

This stately columned building is made of concrete, but looks a lot like temples made of marble and granite.

The architecture and the craftsmanship appear to be first rate.  We felt sad to see this edifice being reduced to rubble by time and neglect.

The only occupants appear to be flocks and flocks of pigeons.
The State of California seems to recognize that rejuvenating the lake would be an economic boon, but the question of how to do it and who would pay for it are big sticking points.  Personally, I like the idea of a canal that would allow sea water (of lower salinity) to flow in from the Sea of Cortez.  Other plans abound, including one that would divide the lake into two parts with a dam across in the east-west direction.  We'll just have to wait and see...

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan


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