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Wonderfully Horrible | by buzzymt
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Wonderfully Horrible

The Salton Sea in the summer is my favorite place. It is wonderfully horrible. It stinks from millions of dead fish and birds, the temperature is right around 120 degrees, it is for the most part abandoned, and it is an ecological time bomb. What more could someone want out of a vacation destination?


The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River was being diverted to help farmers take advantage of the nutrient rich soil of the Imperial Valley. Irrigation canals were soon blocked up with silt, which caused the farmers of the valley to risk losing their crops. In a rushed decision engineers made new paths for water to reach irrigation canals from the Colorado. The new unprotected paths ended up flooding and eroding due to heavy rain. Naturally the water ran to the lowest lying area; the Salton Sink.


Eventually the breech in the canal system was patched up, but not before a 376 sq. mile sea was created. The high salinity of the water due to the fertilizer rich irrigation run off aided the Salton Sea not to evaporate in the desert heat.


The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife imported salt-water fish from Baja. The Salton Sea soon became the vacationing and fishing hot spot of Southern California. The sea maintained fairly normal levels of salinity through the 60’s and 70’s. The waterfront property around the sea was being developed, and people were buying it up.


The salinity of the sea has increased steadily since its creation. In the 80’s the sea flooded and destroyed a lot of beachfront land. The salinity of the water due to increased run off also began to rise at a faster pace. The salinity level of the sea became higher than the Pacific Ocean. Fish began to die off in the summer months due to lack of oxygen due to the heat and high salt content. The die offs are insane!!!!!! Fresh dead fish 15 feet out in the water, and older dried out fish 20 feet back onto the beach. We are talking 35 feet of solid dead fish everywhere. Needless to say the Salton sea has a lot of nutrients from all the dead, decomposing fish going back into the sea, which in turn creates allege blooms, which help spawn more fish. It is a crazy out of control cycle of death and rebirth.


Now about the dead birds. The birds eat the dead fish and they end up with Avian Botcholism, which they spread to each other through maggots, and then they all die. It is insane.


Since no vacationers and few residents want to hang out around a salty sea full of dead fish and birds the communities and businesses around the sea are for the most part abandoned, burnt down or sunk into the salt incrusted shores. There are a few people around some of the towns, but I got the vibe from them that they were stuck there with no means of leaving.


I will say that the smell of millions of dead fish and birds in 120-degree weather is something to be experienced. When I took this photo my camera was smashed into the ground to steady it, and when I picked it up it was slimed. I can’t for the life of me get the smell of fish death off of my Zero Image. I have cleaned it a few times and it still stinks.


I love the Salton Sea and the oddness of it. It is a crazy wasteland that most people wouldn’t think was in the United States. I spent a few day there this summer shooting photos, so I will post more soon.


Zero Image2000 shot on my last roll of Agfa RSX2 50 cross processed


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Taken on September 18, 2008