by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved

Salton Sea

Park Brochure

brochure Salton Sea - Park Brochure
Our Mission Salton Sea State Recreation Area The mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. At the Salton Sea, millions of migrating birds and generous fishing limits entice more than 30,000 visitors each year. California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park at (760) 393-3059. If you need this publication in an alternate format, contact CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 For information call: (800) 777-0369 (916) 653-6995, outside the U.S. 711, TTY relay service Salton Sea 14/15 StateNovarese Recreation Park Name BdArea 90% 100-225 State 12/15 Park Road Address North Shore, CA 92254 City, CA ##### (760) 393-3059 or (760) 393-3810 (###) ###-#### © 2008 California State Parks (Rev. 2017) A long the northeastern edge of the Salton Sea lies one of the world’s most important winter stops for birds traveling the Pacific Flyway. Salton Sea State Recreation Area is a birdwatcher’s delight. Birds begin arriving by tens of thousands in October. By January the wings of more than 400 species of migrating birds form living clouds across crystal clear skies. By May most of them have continued to their ultimate destinations, but while they make use of the Salton Sea’s rich offerings, the birds are an unforgettable sight. Typical of the Colorado Desert area, average low and high temperatures in spring and fall range from about 50 to 85 degrees. July and August are the hottest months, with 75-degree mornings and afternoons well over 100 degrees. Winter days average 60 degrees, but nights can drop to freezing. PARK HISTORY Native People Thousands of years ago, Cahuilla and other California Indians occupied these lands. Originally, the Salton The Salton Sea Sink held a much larger body of water — ancient Lake Cahuilla — well above sea level. This huge freshwater lake, full of fish and teeming with abundant wildlife, covered the entire valley. Archaeological evidence of the ancient lake’s existence comes from early house pits, middens, and various artifacts found along former sandbars, creeks, and washes. As the lake shrank, the native people moved their villages down from the mountains and settled in the areas once covered by water. Their fishing camps generally followed the contours of that ancient lake, and they built fish traps of stones in the lake’s shallower waters. The Cahuilla may have met Europeans in 1540 when Melchior Diaz explored the area for Hernán Cortés. Later, Juan Bautista de Anza crossed the Salton Sink looking for a trade route in 1774. Historians estimate that as many as 10,000 Cahuilla once lived here. Their first encounter with Anglo-Americans came in the 1840s when they permitted travelers to pass through their lands. By the 1850s, the Cahuilla lands had been taken by new settlers, and the indigenous people lost the resources they needed to survive. Finally, the introduction of diseases to which they had no immunity nearly decimated the Cahuilla. Today, about 3,000 Cahuilla descendants live on reservations administered by elected tribal councils. The Cahuilla have revived their traditional ceremonies, languages, and crafts, and they are passing these skills on to future generations. Brown pelican White pelicans Coachella iver rR Flo od Salton In 1905, the flooding Colorado River was accidentally diverted into the Salton Sink, thus creating the current Salton Sea. ed S ou Ch n Pa c if ic e st le ol a M ou So uth ern nt Pa cif ic l o r ad o Levee Block El Centro Ri Co er w R. R. ns R iv Imperial Ne ai er Riv Alamo ns un ta i CALIFORNIA oc te R .R . tr Salton Sea Borrego Coyote Mo THE SALTON SEA, 1905 er th Ro sa Sa M nta ou nt ain s a pi ins a O Mo roc un o t Whit ew a te CALIFORNIA v er Mexicali NIA BAJA CALIFOR C ial Imper Yuma Blocked Intake er Gila R i v anal ARI Levee Cut ZON A SON ORA an M R iv S or vi sa e er F r on lu al y rd Al H a Colo rado R ive Levee Breach THE SEA’S GEOLOGICAL HISTORY Geologically, the Salton Sink is a complex of faults, hills, and ancient drainages —  essentially a landlocked extension of the Gulf of California. The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is approximately 35 miles long, 15 miles wide, and 235 feet below sea level. Unlike most lakes, it has no natural outlet flowing to the ocean; whatever flows in, including agricultural runoff, does not flow out. Water is lost through evaporation and through percolation into the ground. The sea is bordered by the Santa Rosa and Coyote Mountains to the west, the Orocopia Mountains to the north, and the Chocolate Mountains to the east. This present body of water is only the latest of many lakes that have filled this basin over millions of years — sometimes for centuries at a time. The remains of both freshwater and sea creatures can be seen high in the surrounding hills and mountains. The Salton Sink basin was originally part of what is now the Gulf of California. Flowing from the Rocky Mountains to the gulf, the Colorado River scoured out the formations of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. In wet times, the river would fill the sink; at other times, it would bypass the sink, causing the lake to shrink or even to disappear. lo od Pl ai n Alluvial Flood Plain © 2008 California State Parks Gulf of California New Liverpool Salt Company train, ca. 1895 Sometimes the gulf waters would flow inland to meet the river, depositing salts, water, and silty sediment. Gradually the deposits formed a delta (a fan-shaped plain), southeast of the Salton Sink. THE “ACCIDENTAL SEA” During the late 1800s, the California Development Company (CDC) envisioned an agricultural empire in the Colorado Desert. But they needed water to irrigate the fields and orchards they planned. By 1901 the Colorado River had been tapped for this purpose; in two years it was irrigating more than 100,000 acres in what was even then being called “the Imperial Valley.” However, the CDC had not provided an effective method for dealing with irrigation runoff, silt buildup, or high water levels. In 1905, after an unusually wet winter, the Colorado River broke through a poorly constructed canal cut; for about 16 months, the river’s entire volume poured unchecked into the nearest low spot — the Salton Sink. Water inundated entire communities, the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Torres Martinez Reservation, and the New Liverpool Salt Company that mined the pure salt deposits from beneath the lake. The Southern Pacific had re-routed forty miles of track, but another flood season could jeopardize the new route. In 1907, the railroad built a trestle and gathered tons of fill matter and boulders that they dumped into the streambed. When the last loads were dumped, cars and all, the water subsided. By then the lake had flooded nearly 350,000 acres in the alluvial plain. The Salton Sea is so large that from some vantage points, the earth’s curvature hides the opposite shore. By the 1950s, the Salton Sea had become a popular resort area. Yacht clubs, large marinas, and a championship golf course attracted celebrities; however, by the 1970s, recurring floods had marred the dream of a desert Eden. PLANTS AND WILDLIFE Over centuries the fragile ecosystem of the Salton Sea has provided sanctuary to an extremely diverse collection of wildlife and the critical habitats that nurture them. The sea holds millions of fish that feed masses of wintering birds, including herons, egrets, brown and white pelicans, and kingfishers. Birds of prey species arrive in the fall — among them peregrine falcons, osprey, and ferruginous hawks. Adjacent fields and wetlands support huge flocks of snow geese, many kinds of ducks, Wintering birds sandhill cranes, and the state’s largest population of burrowing owls. Resident birds include Gambel’s quail, greater roadrunners, and endangered Yuma clapper rails. The vegetation includes drought-tolerant desert scrub, creosote bush, several varieties of desert saltbush, fan palms, and tamarisk (a non-native tree that chokes out native plants and soaks up the limited fresh water). Cottonwoods and willows grow alongside freshwater streams, springs, and salt marshes. Great blue heron THE PRESENT SALTON SEA to other uses, the sea is a critical refuge The Salton Sea currently for many declining supports significant species — including segments of many migratory mountain and snowy bird populations that eat plovers and longfish. Unfortunately, the sea’s billed curlews. rising salinity threatens its Federal, state, tribal, vital importance to more and local entities, as well than 400 bird species. With as concerned interest less than three inches of groups and individuals, rainfall per year and limited are working together to fresh water inflow, the sea is try to save the Salton now about 50 percent saltier Sea. In 2003 the California than the ocean itself. legislature passed the The Salton Sea lacks any Salton Sea Restoration outlet, with inflow from Act, directing the State to only a few sources — the Fishing is popular at the Salton Sea. “undertake the restoration Whitewater River to of the Salton Sea the north, the Alamo ecosystem and the permanent protection of and New Rivers to the wildlife dependent on that ecosystem.” the south, runoff Recent budget allocations and grant monies from surrounding from various sources have followed to help agricultural fields, and some Tilapia save this extraordinary resource. municipal effluent and storm water. Growing concentrations of salt have RECREATION caused all but the hardy tilapia and desert At least 30,000 annual park visitors enjoy pupfish to stop reproducing. As salinity such activities as camping, picnicking, increases, dissolved oxygen in the water fishing, boating, water sports, kayaking, bird decreases, making the sea unsustainable for watching, and hiking the trails. The camp most species of fish. Fewer fish to provide store near the headquarters visitor center food for migrating birds could eventually rents kayaks and sells supplies. mean fewer birds overall. Bird Watching — Marsh birds, shore birds, CAN THE SEA BE SAVED? and waterfowl of nearly every description stop over to replenish themselves. Annually, The Salton Sea presently supports a as many as 1.5 million eared grebes and significant number of threatened or nearly half of California’s population of endangered bird populations. With nearly white-faced ibis have been counted at the 95 percent of California’s wetlands converted sea. Cormorants and cattle egrets maintain year-round nesting colonies. From November through February, park staff offer guided kayak tours and other programs, where visitors may see a variety of water-dependent bird life. Fishing — Although rising salinity limits the diversity of fish that thrive here, fishing is still excellent. Tilapia (similar to crappie) abound and have no catch limits. As a solution to the sea’s salinity is developed, there may be hope for the return of the locally famous corvina and sargo. Both shore and boat tilapia fishing are equally successful. A fishing jetty is available at Varner Harbor. Boating — The Salton Sea is called the fastest lake in the U.S. because its high salt content allows boats to be more buoyant, while its below-sea-level elevation gives engines greater operating efficiency. Obey all posted speed limits. Camping — Five campgrounds offer more than 200 campsites, including some with full hookups. To reserve a campsite, call (800) 4447275 or visit the site at • Headquarters — This area has two campgrounds. Headquarters, near the visitor center and camp store, has more than a dozen sites with hookups. New Camp has access to hiking trails, a fishing jetty, the main boat ramp, sanitation stations, and a boat washing area. Flush toilets, showers, and some hookups, plus a group camp without hookups, are on site. • Salt Creek Beach — Salt Creek flows to the north of this prime birding spot, a primitive kayak campground with chemical toilets. • Corvina Beach — a primitive kayak campground with chemical toilets and water. Beach access has a sharp underwater drop-off. • Mecca Beach — a large, developed campground for swimmers, boaters, and anglers, with easy beach access, flush toilets, showers, and full hookups at some sites. Hiking — Nature trails loop around each campground. The best hiking can be found along the shoreline. ACCESSIBLE FEATURES Camping — New Camp has accessible parking, campsites, restrooms, and showers. Picnic Area — Varner Harbor has one accessibly designed picnic site. No water is available. Accessible parking and a portable toilet are nearby. Fishing — No designated accessible fishing facilities exist in the park, but many visitors fish from the Varner Harbor picnic area. The visitor center and camp store are accessible. Accessibility is continually improving. For details, visit the website at http://access. NEARBY STATE PARKS • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 200 Palm Canyon Drive Borrego Springs 92004 (760) 767-5311 • Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, 5172 Hwy. 78 Borrego Springs 92004 (760) 767-5391 • Mount San Jacinto State Park 25905 Highway 243 Idyllwild 92549 (951) 659-2607 PLEASE REMEMBER In desert country, carry extra water and other essential supplies, and stay on authorized roads. In case of trouble, remain near vehicles and in shade until help arrives. • Except for service animals, no pets are allowed on beaches. Animals must be kept on a six-foot leash, and in a vehicle or tent at night. Please clean up after pets. • All park features are protected by law and may not be disturbed or collected. Use trash receptacles. • Do not gather firewood — dead wood must be allowed to decompose naturally. Firewood is sold at most campgrounds. • Each angler over the age of 16 must possess a valid California fishing license. This park receives support in part through a nonprofit organization. For more information, contact Sea and Desert Interpretive Association 100-225 State Park Road, North Shore, CA 92254 (760) 393-3810 Maintenance Shop to Indio Salton Sea he Park Entrance rn 10 Dr H E A D Q U A RT E R S & NEW CAMP CAMPGROUND D E TA I L ut State Recreation Area Parkside 111 So Park HQ Sector Office Pa cif Ra ilro ad d l Al an ic er m A Ca OR O na l MECCA Ave O PI A U T A Varner Harbor 5 mph (no wake) IN S Whitewater Cove P North Shore Parkside Dr New Camp 0 Hot Mineral Spa Road ad Reserve Sites MECCA BEACH CAMPGROUND D E TA I L 111 Upper Loop Lower Loop to Corvina Beach 1.3 miles C AREA M ll BOMBAY BEACH Am IN E S he Pa a T A ac rn U N in O A al Co he O cif T lla Br ic an ch ilro IN Ra A M C T an ut M ar O N C So A N. IMPERIAL ad S Salton WILDLIFE S22 Legend H U n L S to Anza Borrego Desert SP Johnson’s Landing . Dr O i O ca er R SALTON CITY ilro 111 Salton Sea R E C R E AT I O N SALTON SEA BEACH A Full Hookup Sites A T P Ra N ic A 50 Meters cif Bat Cave Buttes Salton Sea Beach 200 Feet 0 Day Use S TAT E DESERT SHORES 0 Pa Salt Creek Beach P rn Fish Cleaning Pay Here he to New Camp, Headquarters 1.5 mile ut SEA New Camp to Mecca Beach Campground 1 mile 200 Meters Corvina Beach 86 Fishing Area Parking 500 Feet So see detail map at right Mecca Beach S A LT O N Dos Palmas Preserve 0 Salt Creek see detail map above right Brawley Ave Playground P NORTH SHORE Trail Lincoln St N Desert Cahuilla Wetlands 111 Fish Cleaning Boat Wash Area Park Headquarters and Visitor Center O ch an er R i v ewat hit W 111 er S P Hookups 1-15 M Br Coachella C rth 66th Headquarters Campground Salton Sea No 111 195 Roa Rd yon rk Can a Pa Box St Sneaker Beach to Blythe te to Indio ic Day Use 10 Sea AREA WISTER Freeway UNIT Highway 111 NILAND Paved Road Hiking Trail 86 S A LT O N S E A Railroad Garst Rd M I L I TA R Y Accessible Feature R E S E R V AT I O N Boat Launch Obsidian Butte SONNY BONO S A LT O N S E A REGION NWR Campfire Center Campground Camp Host 0 1 0 2 3 2 4 4 to Ocotillo Wells SVRA 5 Miles 6 Fishing 8 Kilometers CALIPATRIA 78 Information Nature Trail Park Headquarters P SAN BERNARDINO Picnic Area Primitive Campground Murrieta Restrooms Store Swimming Wetlands Wind Warning Light 5 Del Mar 20 Mi SONNY BONO S A LT O N S E A REGION NWR 10 20 30 Km Joshua Tree NP 10 195 78 Cuyamaca Rancho SP SAN DIEGO 86 Salton Sea New Ri ve IMPERIAL r WILDLIFE AREA F I N N E Y- R A M E R UNIT Bannister Road 86 Salton Sea SRA Cleveland NF 15 10 0 Borrego Springs Salton City 76 S22 RV Camping Showers Mt San Jacinto SP Lake Palm Perris 215 SRA Springs 111 Indio San Bernardino NF Parking RV Sanitation Station 0 San Bernardino NF Riverside Benson Landing Joshua Tree Vendel Rd Marina Sinclair Road er Alamo Riv Boating WESTMORLAND 111 111 78 AnzaBorrego Desert SP Ocotillo Wells SVRA 8 © 2008 California State Parks (Rev. 2017) El Centro 86 CA MEX GUNNERY BRAWLEY 86 RANGE to 8 , El Centro 78

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