Author Topic: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures  (Read 459 times)

JFanaselle

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1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« on: January 08, 2019, 06:05:01 PM »
The wife and I spent a day exploring the eastern side of the Salton Sea this past weekend. The rain put a damper on some of our efforts, and after our last "incident" in the area, we decided to steer well clear of any areas that could be muddy. But we still had a wonderful day of exploring and checking out some great and historical sites. Here's how our trip went:

We started out the day by driving around for an hour two in the area of the town of North Shore. Like most Salton Sea area towns, this was once projected to be a resort mecca, with a large beach club, hotels, and pads for homes. The sea had other plans, and the resort idea pretty much went belly up. The rise and fall of the lake level over the past 30 years devastated much of what used to be here, and recent efforts have cleaned up most of the evidence that there used to be a lot going on here. A few years ago, there was a playground almost completely submerged in mud, along with a large abandoned hotel. Those are both gone, and the abandoned North Shore Beach Club has been restored by the County of Riverside and now serves as the town's community center. Unlike the other towns along the sea, there is still a pretty good sized population here (almost all of whom live on the other side of Highway 111), as it's just south of the communities of Mecca and Thermal, which employ thousands of farm workers. I didn't take many photos of this area, but we did find a cool old rock structure that was quite photogenic.

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JFanaselle

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2019, 06:20:20 PM »
Next, we headed further south with the plan of checking out the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. We didn't realize that the recreation area is a paid area, even just to enter the property and check out the visitor's center. So we passed, as we only planned on spending a few minutes here anyway and didn't want to pay $7 for that.

We headed southeast into the desert to check out the Dos Palmas Preserve, which is basically a natural spring/oasis that was caused when seismic activity along the San Andreas fault ripped the earth deep enough to expose underground water and allow it to percolate to the surface. A camp/ranch at the site served as a watering hole/rest stop for stage coaches traveling along the Bradshaw Trail, and was privately owned until a few decades ago. This is also the site where Herman Ehrenberg was murdered back in 1866. Ehrenberg, who is the namesake of the town of Ehrenberg in western Arizona, was a very successful land surveyor and geologist who was often hired by mining corporations to tell them where to invest their money and develop mining operations. He was traveling on a stagecoach from the La Paz area in western Arizona on his way to Los Angeles or San Francisco to meet with investors and had several thousand dollars worth of gold in his possession. Someone shot him through the heart at the ranch, and the murder was never solved. The ranch keeper stated he was murdered by a wandering local Indian who had fled, but Ehrenberg's traveling associate (who was also at the ranch) believes the site keeper was actually responsible for the deed.


Today, the site is operated by the BLM and the Nature Conservancy as a wilderness preserve. You can only access the area on foot, and have to park about a mile away from the main building/home on the site and walk the rest of the way. The site is pretty modern, since it was lived-in until just a few decades ago. There are old air conditioning units in the windows, electrical conduit and cable TV wires running along the outside of the structure, and some furniture/items still locked inside. The area around the building is really cool, with several natural ponds, tons of wildlife and plant life, and even little pupfish that swim about. We spent about 2 hours walking around and exploring the preserve before it started to rain pretty good on us, so we headed back to the car.

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0317

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2019, 06:36:43 PM »
super cool dock and pond
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JFanaselle

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2019, 06:46:40 PM »
After a quick lunch, we headed further south to check out the town of Bombay Beach. Bombay Beach is an interesting little place. With a population of about 300 people, it is often used as a symbol of the failed American dream, as most of the town's residents came here with dreams of living in a resort mecca and ended up living in a desert $h!t hole. The west end of the town has suffered the same flooding fate as North Shore, and the ruins have served as the backdrop or inspiration for countless movies, documentaries, music videos, and video games. It used to be a very secluded and desolate place with friendly locals who loved to share tales of the past and present. Now, it's a popular destination for hipster artists who love to make exhibits out of the flooded buildings and leftover destruction. I was a bit disappointed with how "disturbed" the area is from what I had expected based on my research. The majority of the ruins have been separated by a large levee that was constructed to protect the rest of the town. There were about 15 or 20 vehicles parked in a dirt lot just east of the levee, and easily 40 people walking around and checking out the "ruins" (which were basically just art sculptures made from whatever debris remained and even a lot of stuff that had obviously been hauled into the area). We didn't stay long, and I didn't bother snapping many photos. I did take one cool shot of an old sea wall or pier structure that still looked pretty original. I also shot a cool photo of the old Southern Pacific railroad bridge that crosses Salt Creek next to Highway 111, just south of Bombay Beach.

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From there, we headed further south and then east into the desert to see if we could find any remains of the old Eagle Mountain Railroad. For those that don't know, I'm a huge fan of railroads. The Eagle Mountain Railroad was one of the last privately constructed and operated railroads in the post-WWII era. It was constructed by Kaiser Steel to serve as their logistics link between their Eagle Mountain Iron Mine east of the Coachella Valley (north of what is now the community of Desert Center off of I-10) and their refinery operations in Fontana, CA. Believe it or not, the steel operations that ran this railroad actually served as the birth of the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system. Henry Kaiser employed hundreds of workers at the mine who lived in a makeshift mining camp in the middle of the desert. A doctor moved to the area and set up an office in Desert Center, thinking he'd make a killing by treating the workers who lived out there and had no where else to go (another cool fact - his office was the first facility between Arizona and Los Angeles to offer an air conditioned facility to escape the heat). Well it turns out that many of the miners would come to him when they were sick or injured and ask for treatment with a promise to pay the doctor when they received their paychecks from Kaiser. Unfortunately, the miners almost always accidentally drank away their entire paychecks at one of the bars on their way to pay the doctor and he went unpaid for most of his care. He eventually decided to close up shop and move back to the big city, and when Kaiser caught word of this, he knew it would be devastating to his workforce. He met with the doctor and asked what could be done, and ultimately decided that he would keep 5 cents from each workers' paychecks to pay the doctor in advance for his care and treatment. Essentially, he paid him to be the town's healthcare professional, and to care for anyone who needed it whenever they needed it. This also prompted his workforce to visit the doctor more often, and ensured his team stayed as healthy as possible. As the town of Eagle Mountain developed into a full-scale company town with over 4,000 residents, the Kaiser healthcare system expanded and Henry Kaiser expanded the model to include many of his other mining and business interests around the country and the world. Eventually, Kaiser Permanente was formed as a spinoff, and survives to this day despite Kaiser Steel having gone belly up many years ago.

Anyway, as some of you saw in a post I made several months back, the Eagle Mountain Railroad is in the process of being removed by a company that has taken over ownership of the Eagle Mountain mining site. The company is trying to build a electric generating station that would pump water between the two massive open pit mines, which would allow them to essentially "store" wind and solar electricity and re-generate it at night and during peak times. Part of the requirement of the acquisition was that the company either restore the railroad to working condition, or pay to have it removed. They unfortunately chose the latter, and this amazing piece of history has been slowly disappearing from east to west over the past year.

We were pleased to find that much of the western end of the railroad line remains intact. We found a cool bridge that crosses over the Coachella Canal, and it is even still painted with the Kaiser Steel logo. We didn't make it far enough east to see if the huge trestle bridge over Salt Creek still remains, but I'm planning to head back to the area soon and will check it out. Once we finished exploring the railroad, the weather was getting worse and the sunlight was quickly diminishing, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the Palm Springs area where we stayed for the night.

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Sage Bromax

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2019, 09:31:00 PM »
Nice little music video that I think was filmed in Bombay Beach, but it could also be one of the desolate towns on the western shore:

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 07:39:19 AM »
Dude if you ever want a safety Buddy , I'd love to tag along
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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2019, 08:13:58 AM »
Excellent write up Joe...thank you.

Where did you source the info on Kaiser Steel and the history of the Desert Center area?
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JFanaselle

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2019, 09:01:25 AM »
Man... it's been many years since I researched it all. I may have been in high school and learned most of it through encyclopedias. I've also followed many online groups dedicated to life in the town of Eagle Mountain for over a decade, as I've always been fascinated by what it must have been like to live there. The stories that people share of life in the desert are amazing. Most of them were just kids at the time, but it sounds like life in the town was pretty awesome.

Your question prompted me to find some up to date info, and it looks like my original information was either slightly incorrect, or I "mis-remembered." The area was in-fact the birthplace of Kaiser Permanente, but it was not born from the steel works operation itself. Rather, it was born from Henry Kaiser's involvement with the construction of the Colorado River aqueduct first. I read somewhere a long time ago that while surveying and construction the aqueduct is when Kaiser discovered the iron deposits in the area, and that's what ultimately led to his investment to create the Eagle Mountain Mine and the Eagle Mountain Railroad, and the company town of Eagle Mountain. After the aqueduct construction wound down in the late 1930s, Kaiser kept the doctor employed and tasked him with bringing the same healthcare model to many of his other remote industrial projects. It ultimately boomed into a spin-off when he had over 90,000 shipyard workers employed during WWII (which is also when the steel operations boomed and the Eagle Mountain mine started), and eventually opened to enrollment as a total healthcare company in the late 1940s. Their website has a little blurb about the history of how it started, but only talks briefly about the spawn of the concept in Desert Center: https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/about-us/history/

FrankB

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2019, 08:50:07 PM »
Nice little music video that I think was filmed in Bombay Beach, but it could also be one of the desolate towns on the western shore:


Cool video.  The Behind the Scenes video that is linked at the end is also a good video. In one of them one of the guys mentions Salton Sea Beach, which is on the west shore, but he could have been mistaken or using the term somewhat generically. 
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 08:54:12 PM by FrankB »

FrankB

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2019, 09:07:43 PM »
Nice pictures and write-up Joe.  It's been a while since I've been out there.  There is so much to explore around the Salton Sea.  I remember going camping there in the late 1960's, and there was all sorts of talk about how it was going to be some wonderful resort spot for years to come, so on and so forth.  Of course, as you noted, it never happened.

A few of us from SCCX went wandering along the eastern shore back in February of 2008.  The North Shore Yacht Club had not yet been renovated, and was fun to explore.  I have not seen it since the renovation.  I heard that they filled in the pool.  Bombay Beach was pretty beat up even back then, and the iconic trailer that everyone used to take pictures of was significantly more deteriorated than it was in all the cool photos we had seen. It was a disappointment even back then.  When I went back again in March of 2009 Bombay Beach was so bad I hardly even took any pictures, and we got out of there pretty fast. Both times though you could drive up over the levee and into the area on the water side.  In fact, the inhabited part of the town looked so sketchy that it never even occurred to us leave our vehicles on the town side of the levee where we would not be able to see them.

I don't want to distract from Joe's pictures and stories in this thread, so here are some links if anyone wants to see pics of what it looked like 10 years ago.

https://frankbaiamonte.smugmug.com/So-Cal-Club-Xterra-SCCX/Salton-Sea-Feb-2008/

https://frankbaiamonte.smugmug.com/San-Diego-DSLR/Salton-Sea-Road-Trip-Mar-2009/



 

JFanaselle

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2019, 09:22:29 PM »
Yeah you can still drive up over the levee, and we did in-fact. But then I regretted doing so, as I could barely even drive around because there were so many people walking about. The cars that were all parked on the "town" side of the levee were all minivans and sedans and I guess they were too scared to drive out there. The town is just as sketchy as ever though... Pretty much exactly as you described it.

JFanaselle

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2019, 09:31:19 PM »
Pretty cool photos of your adventures out there, too. You are correct that the pool at North Shore is gone. The submerged playground is also gone, and the abandoned motel was also completely razed and hauled away (only the concrete slab remains). They must have torn that motel down just after your 2009 trip. I had read somewhere that it was actually torn down in 2008, but clearly that's not true based on your photos.

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2019, 02:47:14 PM »
 I think all of these pictures your guys are posting are super cool. As much time as I spend down there in Anza Borrego I have never really explored any of those areas.
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FrankB

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Re: 1/6/19 Salton Sea adventures
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2019, 10:08:40 PM »
I think all of these pictures your guys are posting are super cool. As much time as I spend down there in Anza Borrego I have never really explored any of those areas.

You really should go out there and look around.  There is a lot to see, especially if you like weird So Cal desert sort of stuff - and who doesn't like that.

Slab City and the graffiti covered concrete structures behind it are cool.  So is Salvation Mountain (too bad Leonard is no longer with us to give a personal tour). 

I think by now Bombay Beach is probably no longer worth a stop, but on the other hand it is still a place to see what a post apocalypse landscape might look like. My personal feeling on Bombay Beach (after having been there a few times) is that the residents on the dry side of the levee want to be left alone, and I'm fine with respecting their privacy.  As for the water side of the levee, it's worth a quick stop.  Nearby there are several interesting "compounds" you can check out too.

I have not seen the renovated North Shore Yacht Club - the old building was really cool with all the graffiti and skateboarders in the pool. The architecture is actually historically significant.

One caution - if you happen to have as a passenger an Indian engineer working in the US on some sort of restricted visa, be sure he has all the right papers with him to travel around.  Maybe things have changed now, but spending an extra half hour at the Border Patrol checkpoint is not fun.