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Cultural Nuances Of The U.S. & Italy

Salton Sea: A Must-See Attraction

Once a paradisiacal land

The Salton Sea, a saline and lesser-known lake in California, carries a fascinating history that can stimulate travelers to visit the place at least once. Once a paradisiacal land booming with tourists, the Salton Sea turned into a ghost town and an environmental disaster, abandoning several people and settlements in the surroundings.

Cut to the 1950s and 1960s, this endorheic lake (without an outlet) was a popular tourist destination because the salt level was considerably lower than today. It gained significant attention as a mesmerizing oasis, where tourists thronged, preferably during warmer days. Also, the efforts of the Department of Wildlife, which started in the 1920s to introduce freshwater fishes, finally materialized in the early 1950s after several attempts. Consequently, the fish population began to boom, with the numbers of tilapia, sargo, Gulf croaker, and others reaching millions. It became a preferred destination for sport fishers too. Its popularity rose gradually, spreading hotels, beaches, clubs, and marinas. Bombay Beach, one of the beach towns on the lake, turned into a famous tourist hub. The fame grew so much that the Salton Sea even hosted celebrities and attracted tourists even more than Yosemite National Park.

Salton Sea

Unfortunately, that glory and sheen proved short-lived.

Conditions went rough in the 1960s when the Salton Sea was attracting more than half a million tourists yearly. To comprehend the reason for the disaster, it is imperative to grasp how the lake emerged. The lake had appeared as a result of an accident in 1905 and was solely dependent on agricultural runoff. It had no outlet except the drainage through hard desert soil beneath it. The agricultural runoff, which fed the lake, comprised fertilizers, nitrates, waste materials, and chemicals. As it had no outlet, the water could do nothing but evaporate. However, minerals, salt, and other fertilizer components cannot evaporate, so they started depositing, significantly enhancing the salinity of the Sea.

Eutrophication happened without an outlet and drainage, causing significant bacteria and algae growth. By the 1980s, a noxious smell had started emanating from the water. The odor of rotten fishes repelled not only tourists but also residents. In the next couple of years, the lake became hypersaline, highly polluted, and smelly- a ghost town and a disaster. Salinity further increased by the 1990s, causing disastrous effects on wildlife. Around 150,000 eared grebes lost their lives, and approximately 7.6 million croakers and tilapia died because algal growth depleted oxygen levels. Since then, officials have tried to fix things, but nothing concrete has been done.

Despite its toxicity, the Salton Sea is home to wildlife

Today, the land is housed by few people, but Salton State Recreation Area is still open, where tourists can enjoy camping, fishing and hunting. They can enjoy Bombay Beach ruins and its strange art installations. Despite its toxicity, the Salton Sea is home to wildlife. Visitors can enjoy the diverse nature at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of people avail of numerous recreation options and view the unique geology of the place. Overall, the Salton Sea has experienced a complete era of rise and downfall.

Despite its collapse, the place still offers several activities, ranging from parks and preserves to museums and historic sites. Imperial sand dunes have also served as a location for renowned movies such as Star Wars. Additionally, tourists can stop by Bautista Family Farms, enjoy mudspots, visit the International Banana Museum, and even explore the massive Dos Palmas Preserves. Though the old days can’t come back, visitors can find solace in what it offers now!

by Severino Ricci

 

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