Planning our return trip from Southern California last month, we were looking for a good camping destination for our first day’s drive. The Salton Sea State Recreation Area on the northeast shore of the Salton Sea was an appropriate distance from our starting point, but reviews of the area on the Internet were mixed. Some even contained complaints about odor and bones of dead fish. Not all reviews were totally negative, however. One review suggested it was not worth the visit unless you happen to like birdwatching. Acting on that faint and perhaps backhanded praise, we reserved a campsite for one night.
At the very least, staying there would extend the range of elevations at which we have camped. Our previous highest and lowest camping elevations were 10,700 ft above sea level in Wyoming and 5 ft above sea level in Louisiana. The Salton Sea would lower the range to 200 ft below sea level.
Here is a photo of the Salton Sea taken from near our campsite shortly after sunrise the morning after we arrived. The near shore is about 100 yd away; the opposite shore, over 8 mi away. Although the beach in the foreground appears white in full sun, it is certainly not white sand; rather, it consists mostly of crushed fish bones and barnacle shells bleached by the sun.
In the background of the above photo are the Santa Rosa Mountains. The peak slightly to the right of center is Rabbit Peak, 19 mi away and 6600 ft high. Near the right edge of the photo is Toro Peak, the highest point in the Santa Rosa Mountains. It is 29 mi away and 8700 ft high.
Viewed from our campsite, the sun sets behind the Santa Rosa Mountains. I took the photo below the evening we arrived.
In case you are curious, the “blob” in the sky near the center of the above photo is a pelican flying over the water and toward the left. The image below is a tight crop of the photo showing the pelican’s profile.
Our verdict on the Salton Sea? It was great. There were many wading birds of several species on and above the water, some of which will appear in future posts to this blog. Donnette even discovered many songbirds in the bushes near our campsite. Perhaps because of the season, we only noticed a very slight odor of dead fish for the first hour or so after arriving; thereafter, we did not notice it at all. The only disappointment we experienced was not being able to stay at the Salton Sea longer because of campsite reservations for the next few nights in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
The location from which these photos were taken is shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.