Abandoned Salton City: Once a lush Resort Oasis, Now a Wasteland Once

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Abandoned Salton City

Salton City is without doubt one of California’s most bizarre landmarks. This once-thriving resort destination was frequented by Hollywood stars. Now it appears that Salton City is a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Salton was once a planned luxury resort, but the plans have been abandoned.

(Photo Credit: ROBYN BECK/ AFP via Getty Images)

Salton City is like being in a post-apocalyptic universe. It is also just a short drive away from Palm Springs, a golfing resort town. Palm Springs is an incredible attraction by itself and a great place to start exploring Salton City and Slab City as well as Joshua Tree National Park.

The California Development Company started digging an irrigation canal at the beginning of the 20th century to transport water from the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley farms.

Salton Sea Formation

The Salon Sea is the result one of the most devastating environmental disasters California has ever seen. The Colorado River burst through a canal headgate in 1905. It diverted part of the river into Salton Basin for 2 years before repairs were made. It is now a shallow, highly salinified lake measuring 15 by 35 miles.

Created: In response to an ecological catastrophe in the year 1905

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons via CC BY-SA 3.0)

California lost 95 percent of its inland lakes and wetlands by 1900s, which fueled a resort boom. Salton became a vital habitat for millions of migratory bird species. The lake was poisoned by rising salinity and agricultural runoff in the 1970s.

The “Salton Sea” was created when the Colorado River flooded the canal. The team that sealed the leakage made the Salton Sea California’s largest body of water non-coastal.

Salton Sea Day in the Sun

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: Randy Heinitz/ CC BY 2.0)

Salton Sea was a flourishing resort town by mid-twentieth centuries. The destination attracted 1.5 million tourists annually and was known as the “Salton Riviera”, or “miracle of the desert”.

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos/ CC BY 2.0)

In the 1950s and 1960s, vacation homes began to appear all around the Salton Sea region. Celebrities and boaters alike flocked to the resort town. The idea of owning a beachfront property located in the middle of nowhere appealed to many.

In the 1950s, a new town was built. Salton City was established on the Salton Sea’s west shore. Developers created 25,000 lots and contractors paved more than 250 miles of roads. Infrastructure for water, electricity, and sewage was built throughout the development.

(Photo Credit: Kathy Drasky/ CC-BY-2.0)

It was also planned to include a business district and schools, churches, parks. There is also a 18-hole golf course, luxury yacht clubs, and California’s largest marina.

Salton City’s success was short-lived. In the 1970s, thousands of fish drowned and floated to the surface of the lake. Salton City was faced with a problem because people are not going to want a lake full dead fish.

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: GregManninLB/ Wikimedia Commons via Public Domain)

Researchers and scientists quickly discovered the source of this problem. The agricultural runoff from nearby farms was causing the salton sea to be polluted.

This runoff caused algae to grow in the water. Algae dies when it sinks to seafloor where there is no oxygen. Hydrogen sulfide gas is formed when bacteria eats the dead algae.

Hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic and not suitable for tourist destinations. All of the dead fish was consumed by birds. These birds became ill and began to die at alarming rates, further adding to the horrifying scene on the beaches of the Salton Sea.

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: mst7022/ CC BY 2.0)

Salton City’s Ascension and Apocalypse

In the 1950s and 60s, the lake was a popular tourist destination. There were many communities that grew along its shores. The most ambitious project was Salton City, Imperial County.

The population of this town was 5,611, an increase from 978 in 2000. This expansion masks what really is going on. It was designed and built to be the largest resort community worldwide, housing 12,000 homes for a population of around 40,000.

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: moominsean/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Salton City was abandoned by people in the 1970s. Even worse, several tropical storms caused water levels and flooding to rise, causing extensive damage to existing structures. In 1976, the entire Salton Sea region was submerged by flooding caused by Hurricane Kathleen.

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Salton City was almost abandoned by the 1980s. Salton City was almost completely abandoned by its residents. Resort developments were stopped in their midst, and many RVs and boats were left in the decaying city.

Birds and fish began to die at alarming rates by the 1990s. Their carcasses littered Salton Sea shores. Over a period of four months, 14,000 birds perished in the region. Nearly 10,000 birds died in the area from pelicans, and the large carcasses of these birds had to be burnt for weeks.

Abandoned Salton City
(Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos/ CC BY 2.0)

Salton City has become a haunting, post-apocalyptic ghost city. The toxic elements of the lake also destroyed buildings from the once-thriving resort city. The beaches are far away from the water, and the palm trees are dead sticks in ground. It is a terrible area.

Read our next Article here: 1890’s Abandoned Squire’s Castle Ohio: Castle in Cleveland

Salton City is now a “worst financial, environmental, and health downturn in modern human history” instead of being a exclusive resort.

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