Salton Sea State Recreation Area

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About Salton Sea State Recreation Area

Don’t be salty about the Salton Sea. It’s actually a giant saltwater lake rather than a sea, and it’s quite beautiful here, once you get past the interesting smell. There are tons of water activities to enjoy here, especially since this lake is mega fast thanks to all that salt. Anglers can catch hundreds of tilapia in a day, and birders will never want to leave this lake. This lake is way below sea level and is also the largest lake in California! Get your salt on!

Campgrounds in Salton Sea

Headquarters Campground

1. Headquarters Campground

This bustling campground has it all: parking, hookup sites, the park headquarters (of course) and visitor center, and plenty of boating, fishing...

Jolene
Jolene: Be prepared for dry dusty air. Watch out for snakes.
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Photos

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Salton Sea
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Salton Sea
hipcamper
February 19th, 2015
Salton Sea
hipcamper
February 19th, 2015
Salton Sea
hipcamper
February 19th, 2015
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Hipcamp Staff's photo at Salton Sea
Hipcamp Staff's photo at Salton Sea
Hipcamp Staff's photo at Salton Sea
Eric E.'s photo at Salton Sea

7 Reviews

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Hipcamper A
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Boaters, head out into the middle of the water where you can get away from everything-- the smell, other people, you name it. You’ll have the place to yourself.

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Hipcamper A
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Back in the day, it used to be The Up and Coming Spot, but now it’s kind of a desert ghost town/fish graveyard/post-apocalypse film. Makes for cool photo ops though!

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Hipcamper A
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This is a beautiful place, perfect for the particularly adventurous!

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Hipcamper A
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Don’t wear flip flops if you plan on walking in the sand because it is made up of shells and other

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Hipcamper A
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mummified things.

Hipcamper Jesse

Camped at Mecca Beach campsite on a Saturday in June and nearly had the place to ourselves. Warm in the mornings and during the day but cooled down at night. Site was beautiful but once you walk toward the shores you get the dead everything smell. Campsites are far enough away from the water that its not a big problem. Be sure to take a day trip to Salvation Mountain.

Hipcamper Jolene

Be prepared for dry dusty air. Watch out for snakes.

History of Salton Sea State Recreation Area

Thousands of years ago, Cahuilla and other California Indians occupied these lands. When
they first arrived, the Salton Sink held a much larger body of water — ancient Lake Cahuilla — well above sea level. Cahuilla oral traditions tell of a huge freshwater lake, full of fish and teeming with abundant wildlife. Archaeological evidence of the ancient lake’s existence comes from early house pits, middens and various artifacts found along former sandbars, creeks
and washes. Tradition also tells that this enormous lake covered the entire valley. As it shrank,
the people moved their villages down from the mountains and settled in the areas once covered by water. Their fishing camps generally followed the contours of that ancient lake, and they built fish traps of stones in the lake’s shallower waters. The Cahuilla may have met Europeans in
1540 when Melchior Diaz explored the area for Hernán Cortés. Later, Juan Bautista de
Anza crossed the Salton Sink looking for a trade route in 1774. Historians estimate that as many as 10,000 Cahuilla once lived here. Their first encounter with Anglo-Americans came in
the 1840s when they permitted travelers to pass through their lands. By the 1850s,
the Cahuilla lands had been taken by new settlers, and the indigenous people lost
the resources they needed to survive. Finally, the introduction of diseases
to which they had no immunity nearly decimated the Cahuilla. Today, about 3,000
Cahuilla descendants live on reservations administered by elected tribal councils. The
Cahuilla have revived their traditional ceremonies, languages and crafts, and they are passing these skills on to future generations.

During the late 1800s, the California Development Company (CDC) envisioned an
agricultural empire in the Colorado Desert. But they needed water to irrigate the fields
and orchards they planned. By 1901 the Colorado River had been tapped for this
purpose; in two years it was irrigating more than 100,000 acres in what was even then
being called “the Imperial Valley.” However, the CDC had not provided an effective method for dealing with irrigation runoff, silt buildup or high water levels. In 1905, after an unusually wet winter, the Colorado River broke through a poorly constructed canal cut; for about 16 months,
the river’s entire volume poured unchecked into the nearest low spot — the Salton Sink.
Water inundated entire communities, the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Torres Martinez Reservation, and the New Liverpool Salt Company that mined the pure salt deposits from beneath the lake. The Southern Pacific had re-routed forty miles of track, but another flood season could jeopardize the new route. In 1907, the railroad built a trestle and gathered tons of fill matter and boulders that they dumped into the streambed. When the last loads were dumped, cars and all, the water subsided. By then the lake had flooded nearly 350,000 acres in the alluvial plain. The Salton Sea is so large that from some vantage points, the earth’s curvature hides the opposite shore. By the 1950s, the Salton Sea had become a popular resort area. Yacht clubs, large marinas and a championship golf course attracted celebrities; however, by the 1970s, recurring floods had marred the dream of a desert Eden.