I could hear the crunch of grinding shells with each step of my hiking boots. Muddy colored water lapped the shoreline. Crusty mounds of mud gave the beach a bumpy surface. And, dead fish washed ashore lay with open-eyed stares; their bleached white scales gave them a ghostly appearance.
My excitement about visiting this place quickly faded as I tried to find some reason why anyone would visit this recreational area – Bombay Beach – on California’s Salton Sea. I had no desire to slip off my shoes and test the water. So I tried to find some redeeming qualities for the place.
My conclusion: The uniqueness of the Sea and the habitat for birds had to be the draw. What’s unique? The Salton Sea is the largest inland body of water in California. It covers 360 square miles at an elevation of minus 227 feet below sea level. And the birds were abundant. In an unusual display of uniformity, sea gulls stood in single file on the water’s edge. Pelicans and ducks floated on the undulating water.
Later, I read that the Salton Sea is an important part of the Pacific flyway for migratory birds. So important that it’s called “California’s Crown Jewel of Avian Biodiversity.” Its habitat supports the second highest count of different bird species in the nation. Only the Texas Gulf Coast is higher.
So I was late in coming to realize the Salton Sea’s alluring aspects. As the day progressed and our drive along the Sea continued, I would come to appreciate the wonder of this place.
February 5, 2009