When looking for boondocking locations in California the Pacific Coast’s Sandy Beaches and Joshua Tree National Park have to top your list. But we think that that although these are must see locations that there is a forgotten treasure that should be on every adventures bucket list.
One of the best locations for boondocking in California is the Salton Sea.
We were not even considering or looking for boondocking in California so our stop at the Salton Sea was a nice surprise. We had just spent a week at Disneyland and were planning to spend 3 days driving to Texas. By the time we got to Joshua Tree National Park our little boy was tired and fidgety, and parents were tired from a week of hustle and bustle at Disney, so we pulled over to take a short walk.
It was clear three days of driving, pulling over at a rest area each night, was just going to lead to misery, so we did what we can now do as Full-Time RVers. We changed our plans. I wanted to boondock. Sebastian wanted somewhere we could swim. So we searched google maps and campendium for lakes nearby and found the Salton Sea. We’d never heard of it before but were up for a little exploration.
This is not your Typical Seaside Vacation
We loaded back up and headed to the Sea. The Reality was not unpleasant, just unexpected.
Our “something is not quite right here” radar started going off by the time we got into sight of the water. Abandoned and run down buildings indicated something other than the quaint seaside towns to which we were accustomed. Our visions of beaches, water activities and quaint little seaside towns were quickly smashed upon arrival at our Campground. Dead fish bones, decayed bird carcasses millions of tons of barnacle husks – which look like white sand from a distance but are way more painful to walk on – lined the beach.
What is the Salton Sea?
The Salton Sea is California’s largest Lake which was created as the result of an engineering disaster in 1905. The sea occupies the Salt Basin in southern California. Every 400 – 500 years it goes through a cycle of being a dry lake bed and a fresh water lake. It was a freshwater lake back in the 1600’s but at the beginning of the 1900’s it was a dry lake bed and location of salt mining.
In the late 1800’s canals were built to bring irrigation water from the Colorado River. In 1905, before the canals were completed, flood waters breached the canal and for nearly two years a large portion of the Colorado River poured into the Salt Basin creating the modern day Salton Sea.
History of the Salton Sea
Things to do at the Salton Sea
- Bird Watching – With over 400 species of birds there is bound to be a new bird to see.
- Hot Springs – Some paid, some free. The Slab City hot springs can be a bit of a “homeless shelter”, but if you are into that kind of a thing go for it.
- Visit Bombay Beach – An almost ghost town turned into a eccentric artistic community
- International Bananna Museum
We loved our side trip to Bombay Beach. Our first time through we got out quick because we didn’t know what was going on and worried we might not be welcome. After a little research we went back and had a blast exploring this unique little ghost town. You’ll have to watch the video to get the full effect.
We think the Salton Sea may be one of the most underrated boondocking locations in California – at least for one visit. If you’ve never been to Bombay Beach, this little “ghost town” is going to blow your mind.
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