The Salton Sea is California’s largest inland body of water, a vast oasis that stretches some 35 miles between the Coachella and Imperial valleys. 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 air reeks. 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.
For years 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.
My photographs of the Salton Sea are a work in progress. They try 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 a decade, starting in 2006.
The toned black-and-white photographs presented here were originally prepared for a water exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. Others have appeared in books and magazines. I’m currently at work on an expanded series of color photographs from the sea with the working title, “Vanishing Oasis.”