Bombay Beach definitely ranks amongst the weirdest if the weird destinations in the entire west. When touring the Salton Sea region of southern California, this unique destination simply must be experienced no matter whether you happen to be a nature lover, historian or just a fan of strange outdoor art. Bombay Beach is a place where the modern world came to a crashing halt and the remnants of civilization have been subjected to the elements to create a fading dream of glorious lifestyles of the past. Surreal is the best word for describing the arrested state of decay in this famous resort community that is leftover from the golden years of overloaded station wagons hauling ski boat trailers. The end of the world nature of Bombay Beach has attracted alternative artists through the years, so this little spot on the map certainly currently is a visual feast for the eyes.
Back in the mid 1900s, the Salton Sea was a very popular place to be and many famous stars frequented the Bombay Beach resorts. This landlocked body of water attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors annually back in those days, which easily rivaled the numbers in the busiest national parks. Camping, boating and fishing were the prime attractions, while just the thought of sunbathing on a sandy beach during the mild winter months was enough to captivate visitors from northern states. Being so close to Mexico created a festive atmosphere with parties that never end, just like in the neighboring Baja California destinations.
Sadly, the Salton Sea golden years came to an end because of environmental resource mismanagement. The Colorado River water that fed this landlocked sea was cut down to a trickle, local draining projects scavenged even more water and eventually the salinity increased to the point of being toxic. The Salton Sea eventually became a dumping ground for pollutants via unchecked industrial drainage system runoff and the dangerous chemicals still remain in the beach mud. As a result, the fragile wetland areas were destroyed, bird nesting areas were abandoned and the fish died. Even the beach mud is toxic enough to cause long term illness in humans. Further neglect by federal and state authorities guaranteed that the days of fun in the sun tourism would never return, so with no livelihood to depend on, most of the local businesses and residences were abandoned.
With all this in mind, it is easy to see why Bombay Beach compares to a heavily bombed war zone in modern times. The Salton Sea environmental disaster still is far from being over, yet Bombay Beach still remains a prime attraction in this region. This old community has gone full swing from once being a premiere resort area, to turning into a living ghost town with only a few hundred residents composed mainly of retirees and modern artists that keep Bombay Beach on the map.
It is the local residents that have resurrected Bombay Beach as post disaster area haven for eccentric outdoor art displays kindled from the ruins of the ancient beach front resorts. The properties here are indeed privately owned and many are occupied, so it is best to respect the landowner rights of the residences. Other buildings are merely a shell of what they once were and these spots tend to be the target of visiting graffiti artists, which certainly adds to the charm. Everywhere one looks there are unique junkyard art displays, odd looking murals and gigantic sculptures that would be a perfect fit nowhere else but this place. The beach area in town is totally bonkers, because this is where some of the most thought provoking artistic statements are on full display.
Bombay Beach certainly is a great destination for weekend warriors, because this burnt out seaside resort is an adult playground full of colorful sights and sounds that are guaranteed to captivate onlookers. There are a couple of local businesses worth checking out and there are popular annual events to keep an eye out for on the calendar. Long gone are the days of boaters, anglers and Hollywood stars, yet this little community remains very much alive because of the artistic theme, which is far removed from the mainstream. The post apocalyptic nature of this environmental disaster area certainly conveys an alternative view of modern times, so be sure to chalk Bombay Beach high on the list when planning a Salton Sea touring venture!
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