Salton Sea

Photos: Randy Ronquillo and Troy Doney
Words: Emily Draznik

The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. Though once a part of the desert, this body of water was created around the turn of the century by a happy accident whilst trying to divert the Colorado River. During the 1950’s and 60’s, this newly sprouted beach town experienced a tourist-boom while attracting big name celebrities like The Beach Boys and Sonny Bono. At one point it garnered more visitors than Yosemite national park. Surrounded by acres of agricultural land, the Salton Sea is fed by water runoff. But with that came pesticides,
fertilizers, and salt.

In its present state, what remains is a melancholy reminder of Mother Nature’s power.

By the 1970's two tropical storms flooded this man-made marvel and drove out the tourists, locals and residents throughout the area. The sea’s polarizing temperatures during the summer and winter, on top of the ever-increasing salt content, began to suffocate the fish and they would wash to shore. In its present state, a third of all of the structures remain abandoned and what remains is a melancholy reminder of Mother Nature’s power. Naturally you have to be there to truly experience it, so we sent photographers Randy Ronquillo and Troy Doney to survey the damage and to lend us their artistic eye on this Californian
Atlantis of sorts.


Randy: Troy and I are good friends and we often pick random locations to shoot photos. We've both gone to the Salton Sea numerous times for shoots together or on separate occasions. This time we had no particular agenda and just wanted to get out of San Diego for the day and head out to the Salton Sea. We also wanted to get out there before the heat rolls in later in the year. Starting in San Diego we went through Julian, Ocotillo Wells and Niland while en route to the Salton Sea. Every time I'm out there I can't help but wonder what it was like in its hey day and what direction is it going for the future.


From there these two photographers tried to capture the surviving beauty within the destruction of the Salton Sea and its neighborhoods. The images they caught highlight a sad charm juxtaposed against the decay. Instead of focusing on the environment on the whole, each snapshot zeros in on the details that exist within its chaos. There were hints of color that Randy and Troy managed to pick out from its washed out landscape, while found objects asserted themselves as another strong theme. The mystery behind each seemingly random object leaves much to ponder. The state of the Salton Sea lies in a political purgatory. Presently it is unseen, as if the once bustling beachside town could possibly be restored back to its glory days. Until then we’d recommend making a trip if you’re looking for a reality check or are simply one of those urban explorer types. It will definitely be
a trip to remember.