The Salton Sea
January 30, 2007 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Ah, the jonson tag. It gets used at last!
posted by jonson at 10:27 AM on January 30, 2007

Thanks for the post.
posted by stray at 10:28 AM on January 30, 2007

And for the record, my photos are terrible, documentary style artless things, but fortunately my friend Patrick (our own guruguy9) was along for the ride, and he's a pretty decent lensman.
posted by jonson at 10:30 AM on January 30, 2007

This may be a stupid question, but why so many churches and so much religious imagery? Why did that place attract those kinds of people?

Excellent post and photos. This seems to be a place that local state and federal governments have managed to almost literally sweep under the rug. Whenever I see photos of places like this or hear stories about them, I can't help but wonder what the last handful of people to leave thought about it before they left. Seeing their friends and neighbors leave, and no one coming in to replace them, I wonder if in that situation they felt like the stewards of the town, feeling an obligation to stay even though they'd prefer to leave.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:34 AM on January 30, 2007

The guy who built salvation is super nice. If you visit him he will be very grateful if you bring some old half full cans of still usable paint. Oh, and he wont try to convert you. He'll mostly just tell you how stuff was made.
posted by subtle_squid at 10:46 AM on January 30, 2007

built salvation mountain that is
posted by subtle_squid at 10:47 AM on January 30, 2007

Man, if it wasn't for the cat heads, meth people, and algae smell, I would totally move there.
Perhaps in my van.

Great job, jonson, thanks brownpau!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2007

Slab City (the Burning Man link) is a part of a pretty interesting social phenomena. It's populated by "Snowbirds", modern day nomads who spend their Winters in the sunnyer regions of the US. The Snowbird population is mostly made up of retirees. I have an obscure relative who's been making the anual trip south for at least ten years now. I'm guessing that we'll see an increase in this sort of thing as the majority Baby Boomers hit retirement age.
posted by lekvar at 10:57 AM on January 30, 2007

I used to live in Cabazon, and had no idea of the history behind the dinosaurs, other than they were used in Pee-Wee Herman's Big Adventure. Cool pics, jonson.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:59 AM on January 30, 2007

Stories like this are why I am addicted to Modern Marvels on the History Channel - especially the "Engineering Disasters" epidoses. That's how I learned about the Salton Sea and the still-burning Centralia Coal Mine Fire which strikes a similar chord with me.
posted by misskaz at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2007

Nelson went there a month or two ago as well. Here are his flickr shots.
posted by mathowie at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2007

My dad drove us around the Salton Sea for some perverse reason when I was 10 or so. It was a freakish, freakish place. Looks like it's even more so now. Yeesh.
posted by blucevalo at 11:15 AM on January 30, 2007

Eponymous film from 02 with Mr. Kilmer.
posted by lalochezia at 11:38 AM on January 30, 2007

As Jonson mentioned I have some photos from the trip (maybe more arty - you decide) here - updated once a day and will be doing Salton Sea and surrounding area photos for a few weeks.
posted by guruguy9 at 11:48 AM on January 30, 2007

Why has no one asked the question we are all thinking?
Where are the zombies? Do they only come out at night?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:55 AM on January 30, 2007

The cabazon dinos were built by Claude Bell as a means of attracting more traffic to his Wheel Inn restaurant. My uncle (an ironworker who lived in nearby Cherry Valley at the time) was a friend of Claude and drafted into either helping with or building the entire rebar skeleton of the first dino. It's been a long time and I can't remember all the details but it was fun going out and watching it going up.

Salton Sea was an amazing place back in the late 50s and early 60s when I was a youngster and my folks had a weekend place out there. When not demonstrating how it was impossible to sink in the water or showing us floating rocks, my dad would load us up in the car and take us exploring. We saw everything from old gunnery ranges and plane wrecks to mudpots and prehistoric fishtraps.
posted by buggzzee23 at 12:27 PM on January 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd never heard of this, and it's fascinating, so thanks brownpau and jonson!
posted by carter at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2007

Wow. I had no idea what the Salton Sea was about. How grim and Max Maxian.

That was riveting.
posted by mckenney at 12:50 PM on January 30, 2007

Crazy, I was just there last month and took some nigh identical photos.
posted by Tones at 12:55 PM on January 30, 2007

Fantastic report.

Thanks brownpau and jonson.
posted by bru at 2:05 PM on January 30, 2007

Thanks for saving me the effort of a self-link, #1. I had a great if short trip out there. Lots of fascinating things to photograph; the only thing that held me back was my shyness at photographing people.

Some film makers have recently made a documentary film about the Salton Sea, with John Waters narrating. Haven't seen it yet but I'm eagerly anticipating a copy.

It's three months to the Coachella Valley music festival. That's only an hour's drive from the Salton Sea, if that. Along the way you go through date palm groves and the town named "Mecca".
posted by Nelson at 3:26 PM on January 30, 2007

Those are some wonderful shots. Dang./ Reminds me of the Aral Sea — Russia
posted by alicesshoe at 3:32 PM on January 30, 2007

That Coachella music festival has an incredible line up and me, so faaar away.
posted by alicesshoe at 3:34 PM on January 30, 2007

"Ah, the jonson tag. It gets used at last!"

Pfft. My wife tagged mine with a RFID chip. Now she knows where it is at all times to an accuracy of three feet.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:56 PM on January 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

guruguy9 - Ooof, I had a link to your photos lined up to add to the post too, and I missed them. Sorry. Your shots are amazing.
posted by brownpau at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2007

No worries brownpau - thanks for the compliment!
posted by guruguy9 at 6:45 PM on January 30, 2007

Wow, what a trip jonson! Amazing story and eerie post apocalyptic Mad Max wasteland kind of a place.
posted by nickyskye at 7:15 PM on January 30, 2007

an accuracy of three feet

+/- 3 inches

yeah I did
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:54 PM on January 30, 2007

That's an amazing set of photos, jonson. Thanks for the post, brownpau.
posted by deborah at 7:59 PM on January 30, 2007

The Interstate 10 stop at Cabazon is hours away from the Salton Sea -- the desert metropolis of Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Indio & the southwest side of Joshua Tree NP stand in the way, among many other things.

The Salton Sea used to be part of the Sea of Cortez/Gulf of California, many moons ago when there were real dinosaurs sharing the land in culture-war harmony with early Christians. The below-sea-level basin filled again by accident in the early 20th century, due to failed Colorado River irrigation/flood controls.

It's an ugly land with a lot of failed little housing developments and marinas that mostly date from the post-WWII population boom in SoCal. But it is surrounded by some of the most incredible desert wilderness in the world.

The Anza Borrego desert (much is part of California's largest state park and the nation's second-largest state park) is a crazy world of mountains, badlands, wildflowers, cholla & ocotillo forests, all kinds of colorado/mexican desert wildlife such as bighorn sheep & ringtail cats ... it is one of the best places on the planet. And south of the Sea are agricultural/Mexican-American cowboy towns preserved in time.
posted by kenlayne at 9:29 PM on January 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is awesome.

I feel I've heard of the Salton Sea somewhere else recently, but I have no idea where. This is the least helpful comment ever.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:51 PM on January 30, 2007

Great post, and a great thread. What an amazing, hellish place. Once again jonson amazes me; the commentaries are great, but what impelled you to take the trip in the first place? I keep remembering that hideous hog rendering plant you posted about. I'm think our J is the king of the postapocalyptic American landscape.
posted by maryh at 11:24 PM on January 30, 2007

I was within 30 miles of all this as of Sunday, and will be again on Thursday. Perhaps I can find some time this next weekend after work to go down that way - I'm working at the horse show in Thermal for the next 6 weekends. This looks utterly fascinating. Thanks for sharing!
posted by po at 5:24 AM on January 31, 2007

I went there some as a kid in the late '50's. I remember trailer parks, wind, blowing sand, white caps, and playing on some huge derelict dredging machine that was in a small lagoon.

A few trailer parks here and there, and our hosts used to let their underage kids drive fast up and down the roads.
posted by Danf at 7:53 AM on January 31, 2007

"+/- 3 inches"

Mostly minus, yeah.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:06 AM on January 31, 2007

Excuse me. I don't mean to impose, but I am the Ocean.
posted by Merlyn at 10:52 AM on January 31, 2007

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