By Waleed Rashidi
Why you must go: Though it was the prime destination pick of Angelino vacationers just after World War II and well into the 1970s, with boating, hotels, fishing and marina clubs, the Salton Sea has all but a tarnished, near-vacant reputation of late. After some massive flooding wrecked much of the man-made resort’s infrastructure in the late ’70s—topped with the fact that many developments planned a half-century ago never came to fruition—the Salton Sea became that long forgotten desert oasis, left to its own devices over the past few decades. Crossing the barren landscape to the West Shores, Salton City is largely a remote, desolate village, with few establishments, hundreds of streets and just a sprinkle of residents. It’s still a wondrous sight to be witnessed, with an aroma and insect count that’s hard to forget. However, that’s just one section of this gargantuan pool. Travel south on the 86, through the farming towns of Westmoreland and Brawley and head back up the 111. First, you’ll be struck with the greenery that’s the arable land of the Imperial Valley, mere miles away from the most arid desert climes imaginable. Just after passing through Niland on the 111 (one of the sea’s former “support” cities, now just a compact residential community), the even more sparsely populated East Shores begins to reveal its majestic sheen in a way that the Salton should be remembered. Gone are the flies and stinky funk, replaced with clean beaches, natural shrubbery, clear air and a real calm setting for some serious alone time along the water. Make a stop at the official Salton Sea State Recreation Area for the picnic tables, informative visitor’s center and a beach that’s largely empty and waiting for your presence. And just south of Desert Beach are a few ruins of the days gone by—a hotel, a beach club of some sort—making for interesting roadside attractions and reminders of a time when the living was real good in this ‘hood.
Where to eat: We’re not entirely sure on this one. Gaston’s Café in Niland, towards the south end of the sea, is no longer in business. Food sources on the East Shores are real slim, so you’re best advised to fill the stomach and gas tank in Brawley before heading north to that side of the sea.
What else to check out: Salvation Mountain, a man-made mountain proclaiming the love for God (amongst many other messages), situated just northwest of Niland.