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Visions of broken dreams, abandoned hopes,
dead fish, and lost spirits haunt this bizarre, sad, creepy, and visually
In the Southern Californian desert lies an amazing oddity... an inland sea that lies well below sea level. In the dim reaches of the past, before the North American and Pacific plates locked in a titanic embrace, the passion of which still rocks California and threatens to leave wrack and ruin in the wake of their next major parting, the Sea of Cortez reached up into this valley.
But the writhing of these two geological lovers finally pushed their terrestrial bed sheets into wrinkles that dammed the valley off from the sea to the south. Once sea creatures swam in what is now parched desert known as Anza Borrego Desert Park. Their shells line the walls of dry arroyo beds where visitors in 4WD rigs now pass by unaware of the life that once teemed here.
Without its source of water, and with the increasing warmth of the interglacial climate, the now trapped sea receded until the body of water we call "The Salton Sea" remains. And it is slowly dying too.
The only inflow of water is the nitrogen rich runoff from fertilized farm irrigation which, with the increasing rate of evaporation is depleting oxygen and increasing salinity that is killing the fish to where the shore is lined and in some places formed of what looks like sand but is actually the crushed bones and bodies of countless fish. When the air is hot and still the odor is unimaginable.
But the fish are not all that has died here. In the early part of the 20th Century this was seen as the next major resort spot. Las Vegas did not yet exist and here was a giant body of water in a warm, sometimes hot climate just waiting for swimmers and boaters and gamblers and sun lovers. Towns were platted and streets paved, signs made, real estate offices opened, motels and hotels opened along with resorts and spas and all manner of recreational businesses, including even a casino with reported ties to the underworld. New residents came to the area to be the support for this boom-waiting-to-happen.
But the movie "Field of Dreams" lied. You can build it but they ain't coming. And they did not come by the droves. By the 1950s most of the places were abandoned. People moved on to the next dream. Their houses, buildings, equipment all just left in place are now being slowly eaten by the caustic salty sands. All that really worked more or less as planned were the geothermal power plants. The whole area sits on the southern end of the San Andreas Fault at a place where steam vents still rise from the deep magma chambers far below and residents are now used to constant small tremors. The heat and steam rising from deep underground has been harnessed by several plants but there are still mud "volcanoes" in the area belching hot mud and steam.
And the birds still come every year to the wildlife reserves somewhat unconcerned by, in fact exploiting, the ruins and abandoned reminders of the temporary human occupation.
It is a photographer's paradise, at least if the photographer likes the bizarre and often sad images of decay and deterioration that abounds in the area. Photos in this gallery were taken over several years with, I hope, more to come. Thus far they have been taken with the following cameras, all digital...
OK, enough chit-chat, let's get to the images.
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