The Salton Sea State Recreation Area covers a vast amount of beachfront property along the northeast shoreline of this big body of water. The Salton Sea is located in a very unforgiving desert region, so a visit will truly be a unique environmental experience. The cool weather seasons are best for a planned trip and the moderate San Diego winter temperatures carry out this way, so this definitely is the best time of year for checking out this famous southern California destination.
Many years ago the Salton Sea was a haven for fully loaded station wagons pulling boat trailers and this prime time destination was always crowded on weekends. After several decades of severe drought in the west due to climate change, the Colorado River has turned into a trickle this far south and the water level of the landlocked sea has declined dramatically. As a result, the salinity levels have risen and many of the age old wetland areas are threatened. Restoration projects have slowly made headway, but without sufficient water replenishment this famous landmark remains in peril. Currently only small craft boating is functional in the Salton Sea, but the old boat launch sites are high and dry. Sea faring visitors now have to carry their boats to the water, so those who haul light watercraft are in luck.
The Salton Sea State Recreation Area features one public beach area after another from Mecca all the way south to Bombay Beach. Each beach access offers unique themes, which include natural areas, picnic sites with shaded gazebos and developed campgrounds next to the water. Most are fee sites, but there are also a few dispersed camping areas to be found in the neighboring public lands. The access fees are cheap by modern standards and part of this is due to the state nearly abandoning this park not too long ago. The official visitor centers are currently closed, but fortunately there are cellular data signal hot spots in this area, so it is easy to find information.
Birding definitely is the number one activity during the cool weather seasons. Everything from birds of prey to huge flocks of White Pelicans can be spotted along the shoreline. Coyotes and other scavengers roam the beaches, so keeping the food secure will be necessary to do. Civilization can be found in the north and west ends of the Salton Sea, so stocking up for a lengthy venture is not a bother. Spending some time gazing at the many Date Palm farms in the north end is definitely a pastime and this is a good place to capture a one of a kind photo image, so be sure to pack a camera for the ride. There are some good side trips to take on while camping in the State Recreation Area, which includes the metal sculptures in neighboring Borrego Springs, Anzo-Borrego Desert State Park and of course Joshua Tree National Park. The surreal Bombay Beach and Slab City are also in this neck of the woods, so boredom will be a word seldom heard.
One of the most interesting ways to get to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area begins at the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. Box Canyon Road crosses Interstate Highway 10 from there and it runs downhill through a very lengthy scenic desert dry wash to the landlocked sea. This travel route is pictured in the Flickr photo album and dispersed camping is allowed, but a 4x4 with wide tires will be needed for going off road. The geology along this pathway is intriguing to view, since the San Andreas Fault Line runs through this region and it goes under the body of water. Towering desert mountains provide a mesmerizing backdrop, while the views across the water extend so far that the curve of the horizon can be noticed. The Salton Sea certainly still is a beautiful place to experience, so be sure to chalk this spot up high on the list of winter destinations!
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