Dispatches From the Highway

THE SALTON SINK/SEA – [I prefer Mark Knopfler singing Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing”.]

I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I encountered the Salton Sea. In the case of most folks, very few know the history behind the Salton Sea or of it’s coming into being by accident:

In 1900, the California Development Company began construction of irrigation canals to divert water from the Colorado River via the Imperial Canal into the Salton Sink, a dry lake bed. After construction of these irrigation canals, the Salton Sink became fertile for a time, allowing farmers to plant crops.

Within two years, the Imperial Canal became filled with silt from the Colorado River. Engineers tried to alleviate the blockages to no avail. In 1905, heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell, overrunning a set of headgates for the Alamo Canal. The resulting flood poured down the canal and breached an Imperial Valley dike, eroding two watercourses, the New River in the west, and the Alamo River in the east, each about 60 miles (97 km) long. Over a period of approximately two years these two newly created rivers sporadically carried the entire volume of the Colorado River into the Salton Sink.

The Southern Pacific Railroad attempted to stop the flooding by dumping earth into the canal’s headgate area, but the effort was not fast enough, and as the river eroded deeper and deeper into the dry desert sand of the Imperial Valley, a massive waterfall was created that started to cut rapidly upstream along the path of the Alamo Canal that now was occupied by the Colorado. This waterfall was initially 15 feet (4.6 m) high but grew to a height of 80 feet (24 m) before the flow through the breach was finally stopped. It was originally feared that the waterfall would recede upstream to the true main path of the Colorado, attaining a height of up to 100 to 300 feet (30 to 91 m), from where it would be practically impossible to fix the problem. As the basin filled, the town of Salton, a Southern Pacific Railroad siding, and Torres-Martinez Native American land were submerged. The sudden influx of water and the lack of any drainage from the basin resulted in the formation of the Salton Sea.

The continuing intermittent flooding of the Imperial Valley from the Colorado River led to the idea of the need for a dam on the Colorado River for flood control. Eventually, the federal government sponsored survey parties in 1922 that explored the Colorado River for a dam site, ultimately leading to the construction of Hoover Dam in Black Canyon, which was constructed beginning in 1929 and completed in 1935. The dam effectively put an end to the flooding episodes in the Imperial Valley.
[some credit due to Wiki].

Just thought y’all might be interested in a little nugget of American History. FB

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