Tag Archives: state parks

Saving the Salton Sea

About 11 months ago I visited California to see friends, do some hiking/wandering and ending with a business trip. I spent three years in California while in law school so on this trip, I wanted to do some off the beaten track tourism and see some new things. At the top of my list was to pay a visit to the Salton Sea Recreation area. I had been hearing about the Salton Sea for years but an article in Vice had really piqued my interests.

The Salton Sea, past its prime

The Salton Sea Recreation Area sign has seen better days

So, what is the Salton Sea? It’s an inland lake in the Coachella Valley area inland in Southern California near Joshua Tree National Park. The lake was accidentally created in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were being dug from the Colorado River into the valley. However, there was an engineering error caused by a heavy rain and millions of gallons of water flowed into the previously dried out lake bed.

In the 50s and 60s, it was a booming tourist attraction that attracted families and celebrities like Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono. It was “marketed as a ‘miracle in the desert’” it would regularly attract over half a million visitors annually. It was a full service resort town complete with shops, hotels, yacht clubs, fishing and water-skiing.

Salton Sea in its Prime

Salton Sea in its Prime

Salton Sea post card from the 1950s

Salton Sea post card from the 1950s

However, the success of the area was short-lived. The Salton Sea lacks an outflow, which means that runoff and contaminants that enter the lake, have no exit or means of dilution. The Salton Sea is surrounded by nearly half a million acres of agricultural land and its runoff, includes salt, fertilizers and pesticides. By the 1970s, the salinity of the sea was so drastically increased that the water was becoming too hostile to support the life of most freshwater fish. Currently, the salinity is increasing at about a rate of 1% annually and it is more salty than the Pacific Ocean. This caused a die out of fish, elevated bacterial levels and algal blooms that began to rot giving off foul odors.

The Salton Sea Today

The Salton Sea Today

Today, only a few species can survive in the lake. The shores are littered with dead and dedicated fish and the beach is covered with barnacles and fish bones.

Dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea

Dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea

Beaches covered with the bones of dead fish and barnacles

Beaches covered with the bones of dead fish and barnacles

It wasn’t only the wildlife that suffered. Tourists stopped coming and revenue for resort areas dried up. Most people have left the area but a few still eek out a living. Many areas suffer from blight and vandalism with many vacant homes. I visited the community of Bombay Beach which is a prime example of such abandonment. There are still a few residents, but it is a desperate and desolate place.

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Vacant home in Bombay Beach

Graffiti in an Abandoned home, Bombay Beach

Graffiti in an Abandoned home, Bombay Beach

A kitchen of an abandoned home in Bombay Beach

A kitchen of an abandoned home in Bombay Beach

But, good news may be coming soon to the residents of the Salton Sea area. Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California announced this week, an initiative to institute a quarter-cent sales tax in the Coachella Valley. The money raised would pay for an earth dike to be constructed across the northern portion of the Salton Sea. The purpose of the Dike would be to create a new body of water the size of Lake Arrowhead that would be fed by runoff and preserve the northern shoreline. The cost of this restoration project could range from $225 million to $510 million.

For more information about the Salton Sea you can check out the following links:

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2014/10/20/orig-sinatra-hangout-becoming-toxic-threat.cnn.html

http://www.outsideonline.com/news-from-the-field/Restoration-Project-Proposed-for-Salton-Sea.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140218-salton-sea-imperial-valley-qsa-water-conservation/

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=639

Poconos Paradise

Last weekend I traveled the short hour and 30 minutes from New York to the Poconos to enjoy a bit of rustic relaxation and get out of the city for a few days. This was not my first visit to the Poconos so I was excited for some relaxation but not really prepared to be impressed. I was totally mistaken.

Picture Perfect afternoon in Stokes State Forrest

Picture Perfect afternoon in Stokes State Forrest

Somehow, we timed our trip perfectly to get the best of the autumn leaves without the frigid temperatures. Though we lit a fire in the fireplace every night and even attended a bonfire, we were able to eat dinner al fresco and spend most of our days outdoors.

In Brooklyn we build furniture out of pallets. In the Poconos they are used for bonfires

In Brooklyn we build furniture out of pallets. In the Poconos they are used for bonfires

On the first day, I spent four hours solo kayaking a distance of about 15 miles  through the Delaware Water Gap. The views were spectacular! In those four hours I saw only five other people using the river, and you couldn’t even hear cars near by. In my alone time I glimpsed turtles, fish, hawks and a majestic bald eagle gliding over the water.

The prettiest moment in my kayak

The prettiest moment captured from my kayak

We quickly learned that taking the back roads were the best way to see the leaves and absorb the beauty and peacefulness of the area. Personally, I love to drive the small winding roads (the faster the better), but the views and wildlife, made it worth slowing down.

River Road

Single lane road through Worthington State Forrect

Its now a week later and serious thunderstorms  in the area have taken down most of the leaves. Right before I left to catch my bus back to NY, I was driving down River Road for probably the 6th time in two days and happened upon this little bear.  Sometimes, you just get lucky I suppose. It seems like we were just in the right place at the right time in so many ways.

Visiting with a bear

Visiting with a bear

Getting directions from the locals

Getting directions from the locals