Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE!!
Wasn’t that such a Buzzfeed-esque/clickbait title? I feel like I could have perhaps pushed it a little further by adding “OMG!” or “…You won’t believe #4!”
Anyway, if you don’t want to read about my Salton Sea road trip, just watch my video of it here. It’s short, upbeat, and gives you the gist of things:
That’s all. Thanks for reading.
Just kidding. I guess since you’re still reading you want to know the four things you absolutely, undoubtedly, no-question-about-it, must see at Salton Sea before you die.
Salton Sea is about three hours southeast of Los Angeles and used to be a top vacation destination for Californians. Over time, the sea has slowly shrunk, and died, turning the once pristine beach community into a smelly ghost town.
1. The Big, Smelly, Great Sea
The shrinking sea that smells like rotten eggs is definitely a must. Different locations have different amenities. If you go to the Salton Sea Recreation Area ($5) you’ll see a nice-looking beach*, with beautiful picnic tables and a visitor center. You’ll also see piles of dead fish. Or a fish on a stick!
*only from afar
If you go to Bombay Beach (free), however, you’ll first enter a town where you’re unsure if there’s anyone left living there (there are). It’s tiny, but fascinating. A few houses and trailers are in okay condition, while others are completely abandoned and falling apart. The beach itself follows the latter. Rusted machinery, a pier, and random furniture litter the shoreline in each direction.
If you follow the coast of the sea down to the southern tip, you’ll find the city of Niland. Niland is a town that also looks like it is abandoned, yet isn’t. It takes about 30 seconds to pass through, and there’s a gas station, a motel, a restaurant, and a broken pay phone. We tried to stay at the motel, but there was no answer when we arrived. Luckily, the restaurant we tried for lunch not only answered, but they were serving lunch until 2pm, and provided edible food.
3. Slab City/East Jesus
If you love hippies in the desert making art out of junk, you’ll love this place! The hippies also provide free tours in East Jesus. Definitely go there. The art is literally made out of junk. I wasn’t being rude. The rest of Slab City is unique too, as I was never quite sure what I was looking at. Again, you’ll find trailers, “homes,” art installations, and communal gathering areas for those individuals who enjoy living off the grid.
4. Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain is probably the most popular stop for people visiting Salton Sea. It’s, in my opinion, the most impressive piece of work in this area as it was created by one man, Leonard Knight. Salvation Mountain is a hill that’s been painted in colorful Bible verses and Christian sayings. There are rooms, passageways, stairs, and painted cars and trucks to explore. Knight died a few years ago, but many people volunteer to keep the site from turning into the rest of the area.
Although my Salton Sea road trip was an enjoyable one and I find the abandoned/post-apocalyptic theme of the area fascinating, it was also kind of depressing to see. Everything is dead or dying, and you’re essentially driving through a barren wasteland. The remains of what used to be an exuberant and thriving community are found everywhere. You can find homes that still have food in the pantry as though, one day, everyone rushed out and left for good.
To end on a less depressing note, I might be getting a new camera lens soon. And last night, I ate six slices of pizza.
Go trip yourself!