The Accidental Sea

The Accidental Sea by Ransom Riggs is a fantastic documentary that explores the area surrounding the Salton Sea in California. It was shot entirely on a Canon 5D Mark II.

In 1905 flooding and engineering mistakes diverted the Colorado River flow into one of the lowest desert basins in California. It wasn’t until the completion of the Hoover Dam in 1935 that water stopped making its way into the Salton Sea. Everyone had assumed that the ecological accident Salton Sea would dry up, but after two years it remained.

Entrepreneurs quickly established businesses around the Salton Sea to capitalize on the tide of tourists. The community built up around the water flourished until environmental conditions shifted. With no rivers flowing out the isolated body of water in the middle of the desert could not refresh itself. Water salinity increased to the point that it became saltier than seawater. Massive fish die-offs, algae blooms, and elevated bacteria levels drove people away.

As you can see from the barren streets in the Google map above, there are a few structures still baking in the harsh California sun. ┬áThe state has an extensive 25-year proposal to rejuvenate the area, but given California’s current economic woes, they may not be able to afford the $9 billion price tag. Until then urbex photographers like Riggs will be able to appreciate the decaying beauty around the Salton Sea.

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