When people think of California, they imagine among many things, the stereotypes of blue skies, surf, Hollywood, and endless opportunity. Desolation and dereliction are certainly not foremost in people’s minds, and while blue skies are plentiful here, so is abandonment. The Salton Sea; California’s forgotten place, stands as a monument of anthropogenic accident, mismanagement, frivolity, and consequently dilapidation.
Created by accident in 1905 when a flood of the Colorado River overcame man-made barriers, a two year unabated flood of the Salton Sink occurred forming the largest lake in California. The salinity of the sea (caused by dissolved salts in the soil) is around one and a half times higher than the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a low aqua biodiversity which continues to lower as the salinity increases. During the 1950′s and 1960′s, Southern Californians flocked to the Salton Sea for recreation. Many communities started to spring up around the shores of the Sea servicing the visitors. Projections that thousands of people would migrate to the area resulted in ambitious development of these towns, with street networks of paved roads, street signs, and lights, all being erected before the people came.
During the coming decades, as flooding condemned houses on the shore line, and an increased pollution and salinity started to take hold, Tourists stopped using the Sea for recreation and people failed to buy plots of land in the towns. Many recreation related structures closed up and fell into disrepair, and many of the small communities became near ghost towns. Today, a few of these communities struggle on, living with the annual mass die-off of Tilapia in the sea, an event so astounding, it overwhelms the senses.
The set of photographs in this gallery document the remaining people and communities of the Salton Sea, and the desolation, decay, and disrepair that surround them. Through these images, I hope to educate and highlight the existence and plight of the Salton Sea and its people.