Friday, February 04, 2011


AN UNLIKELY SEA!----that blue stripe behind me---the SALTON SEA---35 miles long --about 15 wide--less than 50 feet deep---saltier than the ocean--less salty than the Great Salt Lake---the most productive fishing area in the world----OF JUST ONE SPECIES OF FISH---Tilapia----all others have died out as the sea grows steadily more salty---and get this--- tilapia are a fresh water species---introduced here--from asia--that have learned to survive. So numerous are they---that they can be caught by simply dragging a hook through the water.

ITS BIGGEST SURPRISE IS THAT IT (THE SEA) EXIST AT ALL. Until 1905 it was a dry lake bed where salt was mined. And then---and then---an accident occured----an overfull Colorado River burst its banks---racing down a west-running farming canal---creating a brand new river--surging down, down, down ---260 feet below sea level filling the area with water. It evaporates at the rate of about 6 feet a year and would disappear in 10 years---EXCEPT---that now the farmers of the Imperial Valley allow the runoff of their fields to go there---almost exactly equaling the evaporation rate---so the water level holds more or less steady. Nutrients leached into it from the farms creates incredible algae blooms--food for zillions of fish----but then---but then, the growing algae depleats the oxygen level----until---- AAAAHHHGGGGG----JILLIONS OF FISH DIE---wash ashore--stink to high heaven for awhile---then next farming season---the survivors restart the whole process. With my camera shy companion, I'll go down there and show you.
I'm camped up her--on a plateau I call Overlook----below me---the BADLANDS.
Down by the sea, I examine a fish carcus. Behind me, the remains of a marina---innundated by one freakish year of high water. Developers once hoped to create a Lake Mead kind of place here but the salty water and dead fish smells did not draw the tourist---or investors. Now only a strange few live along its shores.
Last season's casualties---by the millions---litter the shore line. Who do you think could benefit from this wierd cycle of boom and bust?
THESE HAPPY THOUSANDS---that's who---White Pelicans---a large percentage of the species live here. Of course gulls, ducks and a few hundred other species cash in here---often enroute to elsewhere.
On another day---My "tribe" visits the south eastern shore to view a natural wonder---burping along its shores. That's one of us atop the peak---a very interesting Alaskan.
In the right setting he will divulge some of his northland adventures. My favorite is his year's living aboard a log raft in a remote Alaskan bay---built a house on it.
These mounds are what we've come to see. Each a natural tiny mud volcano---erupting because here the earth's crust is thin----and hot. No surprise then, that 4 geothermal power plants operate nearby.
I Risk a facefull of mud to get a close look.
at this.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: The creation and management of the Salton Sea is an interesting and complicated story of unintended consequences and adaptation. Clever minds have proposed several ingenious "solutions" to its challenge. The Sonny Bono wildlife reserve at its south end features huge settling ponds to detoxify farm runoff before it enters the sea--- a great start---the ponds burst with life and food for millions of birds---additional food is grown on the spot for them. A win win for them and us viewers.


john patrick said...

Nice story, Randy!

Anonymous said...

Keep it up, Randy. Excellent. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What's on the agenda, Randy? Where to next?