Address: 225 State Park Rd, Mecca, CA 92254
Hours: Much of Salton Sea is accessible all the time. The state park's visitor center is open Friday through Sunday only in the summer.
Summary: This huge recreation area on the sea's north shore draws thousands each year to its playgrounds, hiking trails, fishing spots, and boat launches. Ranger-guided bird walks take place on Saturdays; you'll see migrating and native birds including Canada geese, pelicans, and shorebirds. On Sundays there re free kayak tours.
You might think the Salton Sea is a mirage when you first see it from a distance, an optical illusion formed by shimmering heat waves rising from the desert floor. In fact, it's one of the world's largest inland seas, 45 miles long and 25 miles wide and in some places you can't see the opposite shore because of the earth's curvature. At 227 feet below sea level, it's also one of the lowest spots on earth.
The Salton sea has a strange history. In 1905, spring floods escaped irrigation canals, gushing into an ancient lake bed. By the time engineers got the flood under control, the Salton Sea was born. Today, all that water sits landlocked, with only a trickle of fresh water flowing in and none going out, except by evaporation. As it dries up, minerals become more concentrated, making it 30 percent saltier than the ocean.
It has become a major stop for migrating birds and a popular site for campers, boaters and anglers.
Things to Do at Salton Sea:
Fourteen miles of the northeastern shore is a state park, with several beaches and campgrounds.
- Boating: Because of the high salt content, boats float better than in fresh water and engines operate more efficiently at the low elevation, earning the Salton Sea a reputation as one of the fastest lakes in the U.S. Power boat races are held here in December. If you bring your own boat, you'll find seven marinas and plenty of room to run around.
- Fishing: Increasing salinity in the Salton Sea basin has limited the types of fish found there, and most of the catch are Tilapia (for which there are no legal limits). Fishing is best from June through September and you need a valid fishing license.
- Bird Watching: The Salton Sea lies on the Pacific Flyway, attracting over 400 species of migratory birds (almost half of those known in North America) which pass through between October and January. During the season, Rangers offer guided tours in the park's interpretive boat to view them.