SciSun: Not much to Sea   Leave a comment

In the deserts of South-Central California, there is a strange sight – a large lake about 30 miles long and 15 miles wide, surrounded by sand, and rocks, and a few (mostly vacant buildings), and lots and lots of abandoned cars and boats and trailers, all coated with layers of salt. This is the Salton Sea, the largest lake entirely inside the California state border and also one of the most un-welcoming places for humans: Aside from being in the middle of a desert that gets very little rain, the lake is extremely saline – containing salt – that makes it impossible to drink and unusable by most plants and many animals. Still, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to make the area the next vacation capital! Because of a massive flood and temporary changes in nearby river patterns, the lake we know now was formed in 1905 and since then people have tried to build homes, and hotels, and restaurants, and even a yacht club in hopes the Sea would become a hot tourist attraction. All they got right was the ‘HOT’ part.  

Salton Sea drowned trees WIKI

Enjoy the wide open spaces, scenic vistas, and plenty of trees! No, they’re not dead, just resting.

Today there are a few hundred people who live in the area, and a visitor center and museum, but this clearly isn’t a place humans should, or that most would even want, to be. Still, now there’s another idea to create more than 16,000 houses and apartments (along with all the stores and shops and other businesses and highways those people would need) on 5,000 acres near the lake. After all, no one else is using it! No one, except the wildlife and plants that are particularity adapted to this environment: Dozens of species of mammals, and reptiles, and amphibians and fish; and hundreds of species of birds that depend on the lake for homes and as a resting stop during migration. Some of the wildlife – like the Desert Pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius); Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia); and California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) are threatened or endangered and without the undisturbed and open spaces of the lake and surrounding land would have very few, if any, other places to go.

Researchers, concerned groups and individuals are working to show that an arid desert, with temperatures up to 120 degrees in the summer and as low as 20 degrees in the winter; with undrinkable water, and no reasonable way to grow food; virtually no natural shade; and over 100 years of people trying to create a vacation destination, but ultimately leaving, may NOT the best place to build the city of tomorrow. Recently, thousands of fish in the lake mysteriously died, for reasons possibly associated with warming climate or chemicals in the streams that flow into the lake – the lake has no natural way for water to flow out of the lake, so whatever comes into the Salton Sea, largely stays in the Salton Sea. And oh, and did we mention the Sea is right on the middle of the San Andreas Fault, an area of anticipated major earthquakes?

Salton Sea mud volcanoes WIKI

We almost forgot to mention the Salton Sea mud volcanoes. Yes, volcanoes that randomly spew hot mud.

So hopefully the Sea will be set aside as an area for wildlife and scientists and adventurers who enjoy this challenging lifestyle and unique environment. But for most people, living on a dry, smelly, salty sea isn’t much to see.


Michonne Says: Marmots like to eat salt, but this doesn’t sound like a very nice place. I bet there are no marmots there. And if there are, they’re probably tired of salt by now.

Posted February 3, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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