To watch the video report, scroll to the bottom of this page
This week’s mission was to the very northern section of Salton Sea, where the Whitewater River ends. This marks the very last area of Salton Sea that we have not yet scouted or mapped out. We still have several more scouting and mapping trips to make to smaller, specific areas, but after this trip, I can say that in a general sense, I have been to every section of the Salton Sea shoreline. This section of Salton Sea we affectionally refer to as “The Butt Crack”.
The mission objective was to check the northern shoreline and confirm road access in the northern areas north of 81st Ave on the western shore over to Jerome Way on the east shore. We expected the shoreline to look like most other northern areas and be covered in barnacles, but we got a few surprises.
The first surprise was the amount of mud along the northwestern shoreline. As mentioned in the video (bottom of the page) the mud stretched for a mile or two, and was hundreds of yards wide between the desert and the shoreline. The second surprise was the lack of barnacle shells covering the beach.
The beach in this area was actually very nice! As you can see in the photo above, there were a few dead fish, but they were all ‘fresh’. There were virtually zero old/rotten fish like in most sections of beach, and this meant that there was very little of that “smell of adventure” otherwise known as “that rotten porta-potty Salton Sea stank“.
There were also some decent little waves, unlike we’ve seen on any other trips. In the picture above and below, you can see that some of the waves were 6 to 8 inches high.
There are also a few duck blinds about 100 yards off shore. Not a surprise to see duck blinds but these are the first we’ve seen so far off shore into the water.
The Whitewater River
The big surprise of the day is that the Whitewater River is not dry!
We’ve driven over the Whitewater River on Highway 86 a dozen times and never seen a drop of water in it! Today we even drove half-through the riverbed at the end of Lincoln Ave, and it’s bone dry! It turns out (thank you Facebook followers!) that what we thought was Whitewater River water entering Salton Sea is actually just farm runoff from a irrigation canal that runs along the western side of the dry Whitewater Riverbed. No matter the source, this water coming into the sea is a large obstacle that will have to be crossed. After much debate on the way home, we decided that instead of walking up to the roads to cross by bridge, it will be faster and easier to cross on foot. It’s 40 or 50 feet wide but does not look more than 2 feet deep, and like all of the other canals we’ve checked, the water is not flowing very swift. We will be returning to this spot in a few months with our water crossing equipment to confirm that it can be crossed on foot (that will be an interesting video!)
Yet another surprise was the number of birds, both alive and dead.
As you can see about half-way into the video (bottom of the page) there were a lot of birds in the area – possibly as many or more than we see in the southern Sonny Bono Refuge areas. Sadly though, there also seems to be a lot more dead birds on the beach. In our 5 mile hike from the car and back, we saw hundreds of bird skeletons, many more than on all other trips combined.
There was also evidence of other wildlife.
Even before we got near the beach, while walking down the canal road, the area was covered in fresh footprints of some very large animals, many like in the picture above. Our first fear was that these could be left by giant mountain lions, but again, our expert Facebook followers ID’d these prints as canine. A very big canine!
Highway 111 / Grapefruit Blvd
After checking the Whitewater River/Canal we made our way east to the Highway 111 side. We discovered two excellent (meaning less than 100 yards from shore) road-access locations and confirmed that the water crossings in the area are all small enough to hop over or walk around. Sadly, we then came across the last surprise of the day.
It was a bit disturbing to find this less than a 1/2 mile from the shore. The label on the drum identifies this as methylene diphenyl diisocyanate. MSDS describes methylene diphenyl diisocyanate as not particularly dangerous or toxic but it is a bit infuriating to think that some idiot decided it was ok to dump his here in the desert.
A bit further south, just off of Jerome Way we came across an interesting abandoned property.
Lunch at Salton Sea
Of course no trip to Salton Sea is complete without lunch at the world famous Ski Inn at Bombay Beach!
I ordered my usual, cheeseburger and fries, and Blake ordered his usual, the patty-melt with fries. However the food became secondary to my search for the “Save Salton Sea $1 bill“. For those of you that have never been to The Ski Inn, the walls and ceilings are covered in $1 bills that people have written messages on and taped up. Based on a suggestion from our Twitter follower “Coachella Events” I was urged…or challenged to find their $1 “Save Salton Sea” bill that they put up in 2013. After looking at thousands of dollar-bills on the walls and ceilings, and with some help from the owners, and a couple of other customers, I found it!
We finished lunch, with new-found pride in our dollar-bill finding skills and headed back north toward home, bringing the most surprising mission yet, to an end.
Video report of the Whitewater River area scouting mission