The Salton Sea is about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles, but its landscape could be from another world. Once-bustling marinas in California's largest lake, located along the San Andreas earthquake fault, are now bone-dry.
The area has likely flooded and dried out several times through the ages, but a look at its history since the early 1900s also reveals many changes packed into the last 100-plus years. In the early 1900s, irrigation canals diverted Colorado River water into a dry lakebed in southeastern California. The valley was overrun with water from snowmelt and downpours in 1905 and the resulting inflow eventually created the Salton Sea -- referred to as California's accidental lake -- in a depression between mountain ranges.
You wouldn't know it by seeing the area today, but it was at one time a popular resort for sport fishing, boating and other recreational activities in the mid-1900s. But over the years, the lake with no outlet in a region with little annual rainfall developed a high concentration of salt, making it less of a tourist destination. The evaporating sea also can produce an awful stench, caused by high levels of hydrogen sulfide, that often wafts across the region during hot weather.
As for its future, California's Salton Sea Authority is overseeing restoration efforts. A 10-year plan to protect public health and the area's habitat was released in March 2017.