If you visit Palm Springs and have a day to venture out a little further, you should keep the Salton Sea on your list. The Salton Sea is one of the most dramatic and unusual places that you will ever see. I am not sure if this falls in the Ghost Town category as there are pockets of places that are still thriving and alive around the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea also called as “The Accidental Sea” was a man-made accident that began in 1905 when the Colorado River breached an Imperial Valley dike. It took the engineers nearly two years to control the flow into the formerly dry Salton Sink and stop the flooding. This resulted in the formation of one of the world’s largest inland sea – The Salton Sea.
Salton Sea Attractions
There are quite a few stopovers along the shoreline but we will be highlighting only the ones that are well known and worthy of a stopover.
There are also quite a few stops that have vanished altogether or have been cleaned up over the years with no traces of them ever existed. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have visited this unique place over the years and have had the opportunity to record/photograph them and cherish those memories, before they all disappeared.
The Salton Sea still has a lot of potentials and would make a great place to explore. Take a look at some below for interesting and unique locations for photographic opportunities at this dying city.
A word of caution/warning, Salton Sea will stink like Sulfur and rotten flesh from all the dead fish. The shoreline is covered with petrified fish that died gasping for breath due to industrial runoffs and pollution and with no outlet. At some places, the entire shoreline is covered with fish bones instead of sand.
Also, the streets that appear on the map suddenly ends and lead you into an unpaved road and/or dirt and sand. The neighborhoods along both sides of the Salton Sea shore are ghost towns filled with gutted homes. These houses had walls covered with graffiti and had decomposing furniture
The Salton Sea is about a two-hour drive from where we live. Whenever we visit, we usually make our first stop over at Mecca (GPS Coordinates: 33.57003, -116.0903) by the Arco Gas station to feed our car and ourselves. There is a Starbucks to caffeinate and Subway to grab something for breakfast and lunch to go.
From here you can start your trip either North via HWY 86 or South on HWY 111. As most of the attractions are on the Southside, we usually take the 111.
The Below POI’s are not in any particular order. You can plan your trip according to which locations you want to visit and in what order you want. Also, the Images posted here are collected over the years and should be used only as a reference.
North Shore Beach and Yacht Club
GPS Coordinates: 33.51955, -115.93756
Driving along 111, the first stop will be the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club. This club was abandoned for a long time, but has since been restored and is a community center.
GPS Coordinates: 33.34787, -115.72961
Probably one of the most interesting spots along the Salton Sea shoreline is the Bombay Beach. Bombay Beach is home to the self-proclaimed world famous Ski Inn and the lowest elevation bar in the western hemisphere. It was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation, and also on the video game series Grand Theft Auto. Sadly, Bombay Beach is also notorious for not so desirable things like being a meth capital (not quite sure how true this is).
Bombay Beach was completely flooded and almost totally destroyed. Luckily some parts of this region survived the flood and now filled with structures that have been neglected or abandoned. You would find graffiti-filled walls and small buildings that are in total ruins or about to be cleared out.
Occasionally you will also see some artifacts left here.
Lots have changed over the years since our first visit to Bombay Beach. Almost all the old decomposing buildings that used to be there have been destroyed due to vandalism or natural calamities. Fortunately, we managed to get some pictures before we lost the chance.
This is the best place for Sunset and astrophotography.
The Alien Outpost
GPS Coordinates: 33.37524, -115.69097
As you head towards Niland on HWY 111, you will see a tower like structure with a spaceship-like object perched on the top. I don’t know much about the history of this place but we like to call it The Alien Outpost or The Rocket Ship spot.
Slab City and East Jesus
GPS Coordinates: 33.26304, -115.46601
The other popular destination in the Salton Sea is the Slab City. It is famous for being off the grid and somewhat less populated and has been claimed to be the last free place in America. Here you will see a Sculpture garden called East Jesus where you will see a lot of interesting artifacts made out of anything and everything. I will let the few sample pictures below do the talking.
GPS Coordinates: 33.25414, -115.47264
A short drive away from Slab City is the Salvation Mountain. This labor of love for God was built by Leonard Knight, a local resident of Niland who wanted to create something special to show his dedication and devotion to his faith that not only he but everyone, could enjoy.
This adobe is made of clay, straw bile, tires, scavenged wood, glass and paint (some claim that close to 100,000 gallons of paints were used).
Salvation Mountain was proclaimed as a national treasure and was also featured in the 2007 film “Into the Wild. Whether you are religious or not, this is an interesting stopover. Sadly the creator Leonard Knight passed away Feb of 2014.
The Abandoned Spa
GPS Coordinates: 33.21946, -115.57981
As you continue on along HWY 111 turn right on Davis Road an unpaved road will take you to another interesting location a former dry ice plant turned into a spa (now abandoned and neglected) to take advantage of the geothermal features in the surroundings. This Abandoned spa is on private property so you are at your own risk if you decide to venture into the structure.
GPS Coordinates: 33.20064, -115.57818
A short drive from the Abandoned Spa is a natural and another worldly phenomenon, the Mud Volcano. An extensive display of geothermal activity raising steam pushes the mud to create a miniature volcano. From a distance, you can hear the noise like the sound of a coffee percolator and occasionally spout of geothermal water or liquid clay.
Docks to nowhere
GPS Coordinates: 33.19965, -115.59637
Drive a little further out on the West Schrimpf Road you will see Docks to nowhere. This is a little difficult to find so you have to look out for the Dock. This used to be a marina now the docks are farther away from the water. There are hunting blinds in this area and a very nice view of the Salton Sea from the causeway.
Red Hill Marina
GPS Coordinates: 33.19552, -115.61429
From Dock to nowhere take a right on Garst Road you will see another favorite location of ours called the Red Hill Marina where you will find a lot of petrified trees like the Three Sisters, The Tree of Life, Standing Tall these are the names used by many who visited Redhill marina used to identify the trees. We learned that this dry salt flat is being transformed into marshland and the project is underway. Also, an interesting fact about the Red Hill Marina is it is an ancient volcanic plug laying dormant for thousands and thousands of years. This is another favorite spot for stargazing and astrophotography.