A seaside resort in the desert. What a world!
Millions of years ago the Salton Sea (née Lake Cahuilla) was part of the Gulf of Mexico, but as the Colorado River continuously displaced soil over 5 American states and two countries on its way to the Pacific Ocean eventually dammed the Salton Sea and isolated it from the Gulf. From time to time, during high flow, the Colorado River would break this silt dam and change course, again flooding the low salty basin in California known as the Salton Sink and reconnecting it to the Gulf of Mexico. Over and over again this cycle repeated millennia, and who knows, will probably happen again.
As one can imagine, Lake Cahuilla was a rich source of sustenance for the Cahuilla indians, and people have always lived near its shores. Over time the name Lake Cahuilla was westernized and named the Salton Sea, for the natural salt despots in the basin and the series of salt mining operations that worked there. Much mythology is associated with the Salton Sea, most notably the story of the Lost Ship of the Desert, but that is a story for another day.
In the 1950’s Bombay Beach became a thriving seaside resort. There was a yacht club and boating. People would swim and sun them selves on the beach. It was a thriving vacation destination. But it couldn’t last. Unlike a coastal seashore, the Salton Sea is an isolated body of water in a desert landscape. Evaporation caused its shores to recede dramatically, concentrating the pollution and salt in the water, creating a dead fish stew. Resort-goers abandoned the community. Floodwaters came, engulfed the remains of the seaside playground, and have since receded again, leaving an otherworldly, post apocalyptic city.
Nevertheless, Bombay Beach has its fans. Although the community is practically a ghost town (population 295 in 2010), it has its die hard fans who remember good times in the 50’s and 60’s with their families at the “Salton Riviera”. Vacation rentals are available and some come to stay for weeks at a time. There are no docks to put in boats and there are no amenities except The Ski Inn restaurant/bar and a lightly stocked Bombay Market. But the town has its own lively culture and a friendly community. It is a photographer’s paradise, many movies are shot there.
Fans of ghost towns are used to dried up wooden buildings displayed on a parched landscape. Bombay Beach is a ghost town totally unique. Its an Atlantis resurfaced on a beach full of dehydrating fish carcasses in the middle of the desert in the lowest community in America. What a weird and wonderful world where something so crazy can exist.