If you drive east-northeast from San Diego, past the mountains and well into the desert, you'll run into the Salton Sea.
The area was a below-sea-level basin until the turn of the 20th century when flooding on the Colorado River forced irrigation canals to overflow and fill the sink with water. For a while, the area was home to several blossoming resorts and a favorite stop for fishermen and migratory birds. But by the 1960s, increasing pollution and salt levels were turning the lake into an environmental disaster.
It's a troubling place today. When we arrived at the lake's west bank in the town of Salton City, the thermometer was hovering around 113. Near the edge of the water, the salty rotten stench was nearly unbearable, and the steamy-thick air only worsened the effect.
Wonder what I'm photographing in the pic above?
Dead fish. Their bodies and bones were everywhere along the water's edge in various stages of decay.
Rex had trouble navigating in flip-flops through a pile of barnacle shells.
We saw few signs of life except for a few noisy birds and some tiny fish. Apparently, the salt levels in the lake are higher than those in the ocean. The indestructible tilapia seems to be the only creature that still thrives in the waters.
We watched the sun set from our motel in Indio, a city just north of the lake and on the extreme southern tip of the Palm Springs urban sprawl that fills much of the Coachella Valley.