Camping At Salton Sea In 1978

My family and I camped at Salton Sea dozens, if not hundreds of times from 1977 until about 1987.  Back then everyone didn’t have a cellphone camera to take with them everywhere they went. If you wanted pictures you actually had to plan ahead and buy film and lug around a big boxy camera with you. After you took your pictures, before you could see them you had to drive your film (limited usually to only 12 or 24 images) down to the ‘developer’ and have them processed and printed. This was costly, and took days or weeks depending on the developer you dropped-off your film with.  Because of this, and because we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, we rarely, if ever brought a camera with us.  All these years I had assumed there were no photos of me at Salton Sea as a child.

Yesterday, while talking with my older sister about my plan to walk around the Salton Sea, and all the people following my adventure on Facebook, out of the blue she happened to ask me if my Facebook fans & followers might want to see “those pictures I took of you at Salton Sea in 1978”.. My jaw dropped – Sure, my Facebook fans might want to see them BUT I wanted to see them!!

My sister recounted the story to me of one of our first trips to Salton Sea. It was summer of 1978, which put me around the age 11 and we were at our usual spot at Corvina Beach. On this trip my sister brought along a friend and decided to bring her camera, a small “110 film” Instamatic type camera. Slowly, I began to recall this particular camping trip, but even now can’t remember her taking any photos.  Looking back at these pictures brought back a lot of memories and made me realize even more how much Salton Sea has changed in the last 35 or 40 years.

Setting Up Camp

This picture is of my mom and dad setting up the awning/shade for our campsite.  There weren’t (still aren’t) any trees at Corvina Beach and that awning was the only shade we would have – something very important in July when temperatures can easily hit 110°F, and are known to top 120F. Just to the right of my mother (tying down a strap on the awning) is my sister’s friend, and just to the right of him you can see me, avoiding doing any work to get things set up.

picture of Randy Brown at Corvina Beach, Salton Sea in 1978

Setting up the campground – Randy on the right

Fishing at Corvina Beach

Not long after getting the campground setup, we all grabbed our fishing poles and threw our lines into the water.  Back then we were going after Orangemouth Corvina which could grow to 40Lbs.  It seemed that every week the people fishing next to us would pull in several corvina in the 15-25 pound range and an occasional 35+ pounder, but we never managed to catch one more than 6 or 7 pounds.  Along with the corvina we would also get dozens of perch, sargo, croaker and tilapia – some weekends we came home with nearly 100 fish.  For bait we used shrimp or nightcrawlers (all from Skips Market, still on Highway 111, one of the very few businesses that has survived!) but I recall that we had just as much luck using cheap canned-corn.

This photo is of my father standing about 10 or 20 yards off-shore, fishing pole in-hand.  About 75 yards further out you can see a “5 MPH” speed-limit buoy (I was not allowed to take our small raft out further than those buoys!).  What strikes me in this photo is the depth of the water.  Out only 20 yards or less from shore and the water was up to my dad’s belly.  Today, 20 yards out and you’ll barely be knee-deep.

Randy Brown's father fishing in the water at Salton Sea in 1978

My dad fishing in the water

Relaxing Around The Campground

As much as I loved to go fishing in Salton Sea, I also spent a lot of my time just lazing around the camp.  In this picture of me sitting in front of our “pop up” Apache trailer, my sister caught me being my usual “look at me, I’m awesome!” self.

Picture of Randy Brown at Salton Sea in 1978

Me being me

The Shoreline of Salton Sea

One of the pictures that my sister took was of the “cliffs” in front of our camping area.  These small cliffs, ranging from about 1 foot, to as high as 20 feet, run along the south section of Corvina Beach.  I can remember that when we camped here in the 1970’s and 1980’s we could throw our fishing lines into the water while standing on the cliffs, but I could not remember exactly how far the cliffs were from the water line.  This picture shows that in 1978 the water came right up to the cliffs.

Picture of the Salton Sea shoreline in 1978

The water level in 1978

Oddly enough, when I went back to Salton Sea for the first time in over 35 years in 2014, I took almost the exact same picture, from almost the same spot – within a few hundred yards.

In my 2014 photo you can see that the waterline has dropped significantly – at least 100 yards or more from where it was in 1978.

The water level at Salton Sea in 2014

The shoreline in 2014

Sunsets At Salton Sea

One thing that has not changed in over 35 years is the beautiful sunsets from the eastern side of Salton Sea.  Although it’s difficult to tell in this old and faded picture, this sunset was apparently beautiful enough at the time that my sister thought she had to get a photo of it.

Corvina Beach sunset in 1978

Sunset at Corvina Beach in July 1978


Thank you to my big sister for finding these great memories and only photos of me as a kid at Salton Sea!


  1. My family camped alot at the salton sea. Those same years. Can’t wait to find the pictures. We started at the Bombay beach then later started going to Helens across the lake I guess. my parents ended up retiring at the fountain of youth park above bombay. Great memories. I really enjoyed your posts. Thank you.

  2. My family moved to salton sea beach when I was 3 (1984) and 30yrs later The Salton Sea is still our home and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have seen these same changes first hand. I remember back when u couldn’t find a spot to park on the shoreline boats lined up as far as the eye could see families fishing, swimming, skiing, camping.. Hundreds of thousands of people would flock here weekends, holidays ALL THE TIME.. The salton sea was the place to be. Now all the boats are gone, the excitement is gone, the swimming, skiing, fishing has vanished.. Tierra del sol, and the weekenders that come out here to ride their motorcycles during the holidays is all we have left. what saddens me the most is seeing r beautiful shorelines disappear it is becoming harder and harder to get out to the water. As the shoreline gets further and further away are hopes and prayers for this beautiful place continue.. Im not giving up hope this is my home. Thank you so much for sharing the salton seas beauty with others we need more positive, caring people like you out their..

  3. Such great memories that I also share. Launching our first boat at Red Hill and catching my first corvina. Sadly, it is almost all gone. No place to launch a small boat now and you can’t get within 100 yards of the shoreline. Such a travesty that so much money has been spent on studies, but nothing actually done.

  4. I can remember driving from San Diego with my dad and 2 brothers to camp at this beach during the late 70’s. I must have been only 5-6 and remember fishing from the cliffs and having a sandstorm come through. The sand hitting my face felt like needles! All the pics of the pylons and trees sticking out of the water, being able to walk several yards out into the water and never getting deeper than your waist, all bring back fond memories. As a kid, I enjoyed exploring the naval base and collecting spent bullet casings that littered the old base. Sad to see it in such despair. Thanks for documenting this place that hold a special place in my heart with my late father!

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