Salton Sea California History

Hollywood stars are a part of the Salton Sea California history. In the 1920s, the Marx brothers and other celebrities moored their yachts here. Ads for the lake dubbed it the “French Riviera” of California. Perhaps not as grand as it was advertised, it was a popular place for beach goers, water skiers and golfers from nearby Palm Springs.

The history of Salton Seas, however, actually reaches back to the Ice Age. In the Imperial Valley lies the Salton Sea. This saline lake, which lies below sea level, was formed by the Colorado River. At its formation, the Salton Sea sink was the northern end of the Gulf of California. It was dammed up over time and separated from the Gulf.  

In the early 1900s, the Salton Sea was formed in its present state due to a flood by the Colorado River which overflowed into the New River and Alamo River and carried the water into the Salton Sea. The flooding overcame the town of Salton and the Torres-Martinez Indian land. The resulting lake became an inland resort for not only Hollywood celebs but for families wanting to cool off in the summer heat. Today’s visitors find a strange lake with tree stumps, brown water, and algae blooms floating on the surface.

The main draw to the area now is for birdwatchers. Birdwatchers come to Salton Sea California to see over 400 species of birds. At the southern end of the Salton Sea is The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge protects the breeding grounds and winter sanctuary for migrating birds. The almost 33,000 refuge was established in 1930 as a wildlife sanctuary. Migrating birds, such as the Pacific Flyaway, stop here. Almost a third of the American White Pelicans call the Salton Sea home. In 1998, the refuge was renamed to honor Congressman Sony Bono who worked to protect the Salton Sea California area.

Although no longer a resort attraction, Californians debate the future of the Salton Sea. The salt content has been rising in the Salton Sea since the fifties. One recent report recommended a restoration project that would cost almost nine million dollars. In tough economic times, the struggle between environmental concerns and financial limits is ongoing.

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