Monday, April 19, 2010

Welcome to Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach - A Chair at the Water's Edge
Bombay Beach Spa?
It’s easy to pick on Bombay Beach, California. It’s had its share of ups and downs on the east side of the Salton Sea. First and foremost, what’s the Salton Sea? The Salton Sea is a very salty lake that was created when the Colorado River overflowed in 1905 into the Salton Sink and continued for approximately two years. It’s almost twice the surface area of Lake Tahoe by comparison and is entirely below sea level. It was hoped that the Salton Sea could somehow become a major tourist attraction, a sort of next-Palm Springs. That never happened due to a range of problems like increasing salinity of the sea, pollution and nutrients pouring into it with no outflows, and the vagaries of weather. For more on Salton Sea facts and myths see this article. For more on the history of the Salton Sea's wet/dry cycles over thousands of years see this timeline.

Now, about Bombay Beach. First, it’s on the edge of the Salton Sea (remember, no outflows, pollution, and increasing salinity?) and was flooded in 1976 and 1977 by Hurricane Kathleen and Doreen, respectively. Next you have smell and fish kills - tilapia that die because of an algae bloom in the water (due to nutrient rich waters) and wash up on shore en masse. (It's kind of a catch 22, nutrient rich waters nourish an underwater forest that the tilapia dine on. Migratory birds, for which the Salton Sea is an important feeding ground, in turn dine on the fish.) Finally, add to this list of challenging conditions, brutally hot summers. It’s a bit of a hard sell but anything can happen in the next thousand years. To learn more about the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach check out Plagues and Pleasures, a documentary about the Salton Sea and surrounding locations.

For years now, the ruins of Bombay Beach seem to have become the main tourist attraction. And, that’s what attracted Travelmarx there besides the fact that ½ of Travelmarx grew up just down the road and there was family to visit :-). We stayed a few days in the Palm Springs area and then left the manicured lawns and neatly trimmed palm trees and headed south for the wilds of the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach. We met a guy who has been visiting Bombay Beach for decades and he said it’s actually been cleaned up quite a bit. Things are looking up.
Bombay Beach - Ruined Trailer Home
Dead Tilapia Near Bombay Beach

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