(for the video report, scroll down)
This week’s mission was to check several water crossings in the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge area at the southernmost area of Salton Sea. We needed to see how wide the creeks/canals were, see if they were crossable on foot, find out if the mud was too dangerous in the area and map alternate routes around the water crossings if they were not crossable. Most importantly, we were testing the feasibility of using a small portable bridge to cross the mid-sized creeks.
The Satellite Maps Are Wrong! Sorta..
According to the satellite imagery available from Google Maps, Apple Maps and Bing, the first crossing looked to be the largest and most difficult to cross. As expected, it was one of the widest crossings, but unexpectedly, it was bone dry. My first complaint was that the imagery used is so old that it’s not useful but when we reached the third crossing I realized how quickly things change at Salton Sea. Only 4 weeks ago crossing number 3 was far too deep and wide to jump over or walk through and where it met the see it widened to almost 100-yards of mud and silt. Today that crossing was only inches deep at it’s deepest point and the 100 yards or more of mud and silt was mostly bone dry.
Those satellite map images may have only been a month old, but due to the dynamic nature of the water flows at Salton Sea, they’ve just changed.
Testing the bridge
The bridge worked as designed and we proved that this simple design would work well for smaller creeks and canals up to about 10 feet wide. We left the bridge at this particular crossing resting atop a raised concrete drainage pipe in hopes that it would survive the winter. A few weeks before The Big Event in 2015 we will check to see if this bridge is still here, and deploy any additional bridges that we may need. Of course, after completing the walk around the entire shoreline, the team and I will backtrack and clean up and dispose of all the bridges we use.
We have now mapped approximately 90% of the southernmost shoreline, including the water crossings scouted today and alternate routes. Today’s mission was only 6.3 miles but it was the second hottest day of the year with temps eventually reaching 115°F – all adding to the challenge.