The Salton Sea is about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles, but its landscape could be from another world. Once-bustling marinas in California's largest lake, located along the San Andreas earthquake fault, are now bone-dry.
The area has likely flooded and dried out several times through the ages, but a look at its history since the early 1900s also reveals many changes packed into the last 100-plus years. In the early 1900s, irrigation canals diverted Colorado River water into a dry lakebed in southeastern California. The valley was overrun with water from snowmelt and downpours in 1905 and the resulting inflow eventually created the Salton Sea -- referred to as California's accidental lake -- in a depression between mountain ranges.
You wouldn't know it by seeing the area today, but it was at one time a popular resort for sport fishing, boating and other recreational activities in the mid-1900s. But over the years, the lake with no outlet in a region with little annual rainfall developed a high concentration of salt, making it less of a tourist destination. The evaporating sea also can produce an awful stench, caused by high levels of hydrogen sulfide, that often wafts across the region during hot weather.