Last weekend my husband and I did a Salton Sea tour through the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert, led by College of the Desert professor Kurt Leuschner. For those who don’t know Kurt, he is a birding, wildlife and ecologist extraordinaire. We saw so many birds, and learned so much –including debunked myths about this amazing place.
Below are some photos and takeaways. First some history and basics: The Salton Sea is a shallow (25 feet at deepest), saline (50% saltier than the ocean) lake located on the San Andreas Fault east of Palm Springs. Below sea level, this area has a long history of being water-filled, and the current Salton Sea was created in 1905 when a diversion structure of the Colorado River failed. Since then it’s become a vital haven for migrating birds — and home to 420 bird species and 350-400 million tilapia — despite increasing in salinity and retreating in size. Today the 360 square mile sea is facing further demise, due to an agreement to provide San Diego with more water.
Photo Gallery (with good descriptions):
- One myth that Kurt debunked is the sea’s supposed toxicity. The Salton Sea is not toxic! You can eat the fish and swim in the sea, you can even launch a boat here if you would like.
- There are many ways to tour the lake – from Palm Desert we went east through Coachella/Mecca to the northern part and went south around the sea clockwise, and back up to catch Interstate 10. Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge and Salt Creek (closed due to mud during this visit but fantastic at dusk when all the birds congregate) are must do’s.
- For wildlife and human health reasons, it’s important to save the Salton Sea – here’s an Audubon article on the subject. One way to help is to order a Salton Sea license plate