The Salton Sea is California's largest inland body of water, a vast oasis that stretches some 35 miles between the Coachella Valley to the north and the Mexican border to the south. It's a place of uncommon natural beauty, a quiet sanctuary surrounded by inhospitable desert.

But things are not quite what they seem at the Salton Sea. The lake is shrinking. The fish are dying. The birds are sick. And the once-thriving communities and tourist resorts along the shore are mostly abandoned.

The Salton Sea has become one of the most vexing and complicated ecological problems in the American West. Dwindling inflows and rising salinity are transforming the place from a peaceful refuge into a toxic wasteland.

Restoration proposals abound, but lawmakers have mostly turned their backs on the problem. As the Salton Sea continues to dry up at an alarming rate, time seems to be running out.

These photographs are a work in progress. They attempt to capture the stark beauty of the place while also documenting some of the effects of environmental devastation and decline. They were taken over the course of several visits dating back to 2006.

The toned black-and-white photographs presented here were originally prepared for a 2009 water exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. I'm currently at work on an expanded series of color photographs from the Salton Sea with the working title, "Vanishing Oasis."