The most famously dilapidated of all the sad, dilapidated towns lining the Salton Sea is a tiny city called Bombay Beach. Once a haven for vacationers and billed as a "Palm Springs with water," it now looks more like a post-apocalyptic film set than a desert oasis. Years of pollution from nearby farms and the raw sewage flowing north from Mexico have turned its waters into a toxic soup where it is estimated that no fish will be able to survive by the year 2030. Half of the city has literally been eaten away by the salty, corrosive mud washed in by seasonal flooding and the other half is practically vacant. The few occupied houses left are so abandoned-looking that they have to post NO TRESPASSING signs in the windows so curiosity seekers won't just walk inside and start looking through the cupboards.
Being a ghost town junkie, I visited while in Palm Springs last weekend and ventured into some of the abandoned houses to take photos. It was shocking to see how much stuff had been left behind--everything from bills, magazines, and old tins of food, to shoes and in one case, a pair of underwear. The whole town is enveloped in an eerie silence, made even more oppressive by the 115 degree heat. Walking through the deserted streets, you still feel like you're being watched. And in one case, we actually were--by a suspicious looking townie who kept circling the block in his Saturn, no doubt wondering what in the Sam Hell we were doing there.
Another charming feature of this god-forsaken resort town is that the "beaches" of the Salton Sea don't have any sand--just the pulverized bones of millions of dead fish. And there are dead fish everywhere--they litter the beaches and produce the most pungent odor of decay that gets stronger the hotter it is. So in July, it's pretty hot and pretty stinky.
If nothing else, The Salton Sea should remind us that if we shit where we eat, bad things happen.