After hiking Ladder Canyon and
crossing over the San Andreas Fault a few times, we made our way to the Salton
Sea to see the amazing geothermal mud pots and mud volcanoes that I had read about.
The picture above is of the mud
volcanoes, also called mud gryphons, and the picture below is of the
Under the Salton Sea lies a vein of
molten magma about 20 miles long, four miles wide, and at least one
to two miles thick lies perhaps as close as 4,000 feet from the
Earth’s surface along the southeast shore. Temperatures in the
Salton Sea Geothermal Field can reach 680 degrees less than a mile
below your feet.
The ground has sunken to form the mud
pots. Warm mud bubbles in them like a witch's cauldron.
The bubbling is caused by carbon dioxide being cooked off of the
carbonate minerals by the magma and rising up from below the water
table through vent points along earthquake faults. The
bubbling makes awesome gurgling noises and the bubbling is
mesmerizing to watch.
The mud volcanoes, also called mud
gryphons, make loud burping noises and spew warm mud intermittently
in all directions. We touched the mud and it felt fabulous. It
was very warm and ultra smooth - seems like a perfect place for a
This is what the mud volcanoes look like
here's a video of them burping and spewing
There are also bubbling holes of
water. I felt the water and it was surprisingly cold. I
expected it to be hot or warm like the mud pots.
There are also lots of hot air vents
shooting up. with all this bubbling, gurgling, burping,
spewing and venting of gases there is definitely a strong odor
there. It's not a sulphur smell though, more of a gasoline
salt crystals seeping up and stuck in
footprints in the mud
The field where all the mud pots and
mud volcanoes are is about the size of a football field and is in
the middle of no where. Actually, all of the Salton Sea is in
the middle of no where. I'll post more on that in a minute.
Fascinating place. Anyway, the field is kind of hard to find
because it is so remote and down a couple of miles of dirt roads but
is so worth the trip!
If anyone in the area wants to visit
the site, it's at the corner of W. Schrimpf (dirt road off of Hwy
111) and Davis (also a dirt road). Schrimpf Road dead ends
there and so you can't miss it. From Hwy 111, head towards the
Salton Sea and you'll run right into them. Bring shoes you
don't mind getting muddy and also bring a pair to change into
Last week we went to learned a lot
about the Mars surface while touring the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
and, then after this weekend's outings to Ladder Canyon and the
Salton Sea, we feel that we have perhaps walked on the Mars surface.
Funny how things planned independently end up working together and
really reinforce learning.
While driving to the mud volcanoes,
we took some time to explore the Salton Sea area. It's a
modern day ghost town. It's miles and miles and miles of closed down
buildings, ransacked homes, and abandoned RV trailers. Totally
feels unreal, like being in some apocalypse movie. Make sure
you have a full tank of gas because there is basically none anywhere
to be found out there.
Bombay Beach - submerged RVs
The town of Bombay Beach was mostly
made up of abandoned trailer homes but there wee a few holdouts
still living there amongst the mess.
Running on fumes only, I did
eventually find one lone gas station in the town of Niland next to
this creepy abandoned child day care center. Clown faces are
always so creepy to me.
I was hoping to get to
Slab City but it was starting to get dark so we just gave up and
turned around and headed home. I'll find them next time I'm
out that way, for sure! Definitely have to check those places
In the1800s, the area was a dry
salt basin and was used for mining salt.
In the early 1900s, irrigation canals
were built off of the nearby Colorado River so that a farming
community could be built in the area. The plan was to make the
area an agricultural oasis in the desert and worked superbly for a
few years but then too much silt and seasonal heavy rainfall and
snowmelts that flowed into the Colorado River eventually resulted in
a dike break and the Salton Basin began to flood. For two
years, the Colorado River continued to fill the basin and without
any sort of outlet, since it is below sea level, the water level
just kept rising and swallowed up the town of Salton.
Eventually, 3 million dollars were spent by the railroad company to
stop the water flow and the Salton Sea was formed.
Fishermen were drawn to the area
because the lake was so huge and full of freshwater fish.
Unfortunately, it was short lived because the rainwater run off
flowing back into the lake kept bringing in more salt deposits and
raising the salinity levels until finally all the freshwater fish
died off. So they tried to introduce some salt water fish
varieties like salmon, halibut, oysters and clams, etc but they
didn't survive either. Eventually they found that
gulf croaker, sargo, orange corvine and tilapia did survive. The
Salton Sea is saltier than the Pacific Ocean.
"As the fish began to thrive, it fueled a recreation boom in the
1950s and the inland desert sea became an inviting sport-fishing and
vacation destination. In no time, its coastline developed numerous
resorts and marinas catering to water skiers, boaters, and
fishermen. Billed as "Palm Springs-by-the-Sea,” restaurants, shops,
and nightclubs also sprang up along the shores. The lake enjoyed
immense popularity, especially among the rich and famous as movie
stars and recording artists flocked to the area. From Dean Martin,
to Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and the Beach Boys, the lake became a
"The fancy resorts, businesses
and homes flooded numerous times and
the salt and fertilizer run off
eventually accumulated to toxic levels and destroyed the health of
the lake. Algae fed on the toxins and began a cycle of
decay. As algae fed on the toxins, it created massive amounts of
rotten smelling matter floating upon the surface of the lake and
suffocated many of the fish."
"Within just a
few years, the resorts had closed, the marinas were abandoned, and
those who could afford to, had moved, leaving in their wake,
abandoned businesses and homes, and scattered junk."