Desert Southwest

Bombay Beach Trailer

PHOTO: Salt-decayed trailer, Bombay Beach, California

Bombay Beach and the Salton Sea

Kayaking the Salton Sea to broken-down and beautful Bombay Beach.

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Bombay Beach, California


n a short time from now, the sun will rise, and the sky will burn red. I am two-hundred and twenty-eight feet below sea-level, paddling by headlight from an abandoned harbor on the Salton Sea. Although I understand that the color of the sea is green, I cannot yet see it.

Certainly I can feel the weight of the salt-inundated water on my paddle. This sea, the largest inland body of water in California, and certainly one of the largest inland seas in the Americas, did not exist a century ago. It was 1905, and farmers had been irrigating crops in California's Imperial Valley by circumventing canals out of the Colorado River. But floodgates clogged, irrigation routes broke, and in two years, the salton sink had become a sea, albeit an accidental one.

Landowners were angry and confused. Apparently, the snakes were also unhappy about losing their land, and their retreat to higher ground caused land to be filled with 'hundreds of 'em.' The smell is rancid; not that clean smell of fresh cut-fish in a harbor, but a wafting smell of decay, windless plumes of fish-stink rising from the sea.