Wednesday evening we went to a theatre in Palm Desert to see the California Desert Chorale perform a selection from Handel’s Messiah as well as some classic and not so classic Christmas songs. The first half of the show was all Handel, and while it’s a bit long-haired for me, it was a great performance. The second half of the show consisted of various carols, including White Christmas and a new one for me – I’m Celebrating Chanukah in Santa Monica ??
The show was great, and at the intermission I struck up a conversation with the gentleman next to me who had lived in Palm Springs most of his life. He regaled me with stories of the various celebrities he met all over town in the ‘old days’. From Jane Wyman to Carol Channing to Janet Gaynor to President Ford, he used to see them all over town. These days, the stars that do live in town keep themselves far below the radar, except when they’re trying to sell a book. We missed out on a chance to see Capt. Stubing from the Love Boat a couple of weeks ago. I think we’ll survive the disappointment.
After Thursday’s pickleball session we took off to drive the circle route around the Salton Sea, which is nicknamed The Accidental Sea. This is now a land-locked body of water more than 200 feet below sea level and is just down the valley from Indio. In the ancient past this area was an inland sea, and in the late 1800’s there were mines in place that harvested underground salt deposits from the area. There was no great amount of water here though, but that all changed in 1905. Heavy flooding in the Colorado River basin (this is the river that has carved out the Grand Canyon, is held back by the Boulder Dam near Las Vegas, and irrigates huge portions of Arizona and California) caused the river to break through a levy, and for 18 months the entire flow of the river rushed into what was then called the Salton Trough. By the time the Corps of Engineers were able to stem the flow of the river they were left with a body of water 45 miles long, 20 miles wide and 50 feet deep. The existing mines were completely flooded, and 45 miles of train tracks had to be relocated.
As there is no outlet for the sea it’s had to rely on rainfall (there certainly isn’t much here) and a couple of small streams to maintain it’s level, but over the years it’s lost about 8 miles of it’s length, and about 12 feet of it’s depth, though it’s stabilized in recent decades. It’s also gotten saltier by about 1% each year to the point where it’s now about 25% saltier than ocean water. They have introduced various sport fish into the waters, but the rising salinity has all but wiped out every species except Tilapia which is thriving so far.
The decrease in lake level has made for some big beaches in some areas. It really does smell like the ocean we’re familiar with from our time on Vancouver Island, just warmer! The white ‘sand’ is actually crushed barnacle shells blown to this area by the prevailing winds. It’s actually quite a nice spot, although in some areas there are large piles of fish carcasses.
The Pelicans in the water are quite large, bigger than the ones we’ve seen in Mexico or BC.
It was a nice calm day, although the winds picked up later in the afternoon and evening.
With all the cranes, pelicans and gulls in the area, the fishing must be pretty good.
We drove further along and stopped in Bombay Beach. It was once a thriving resort destination, but is all but abandoned today and is classified as the poorest district in Southern California. The remaining trailers and cottages are mostly empty and derelict and are situated behind a large berm which protected the town from fluctuating water levels in the past. The berm isn’t necessary now, and the water is a long way from the town. The mountains in the background have much more colour than what we walked in a few days ago. We saw some evidence of mining activity on both sides of the valley. There is also a thriving agricultural presence on both ends of the lake, but not much along the eastern and western sides.
The boat launch at Bombay Beach is unusable, and is completely land locked.
The winds picked up a bit by the time we drove to the western side of the Sea, and we just managed to stop in time to catch the sunset. Within seconds the far side of the shore was dark.
This is the Marina area of Salton City.The marina is landlocked and empty at this time of year, although the lake is advertised as the fastest lake in the US as the salinity causes boats to sit higher in the water, and the thicker air below sea level gives better performance.
Our GPS showed a ton of roads in the area, and as we drove through we could see signposts everywhere in the area, but there were VERY few homes. Some were abandoned, but some were actually quite new and many of the older ones were in good condition. They were offering lots priced at less than 10K, and you’re hardly an hour from downtown Palm Springs, so it seems to be attractive to some as a retirement destination. Not for us though.
We’re off to find a hike for the day. We hope you’re having a good day, and getting ready to enjoy time with your Family over Christmas.