The Salton Sea 

The Salton Sea 


This exhibit highlights the many issues concerning the Salton Sea.  From environmental and biological concerns to geology, the study of the Salton Sea spans a variety of topics.  Resources in the Science Library include theses on environmental problems, a guide to the birds of the Salton Sea, various maps, and even a few early 20th Century works about the Salton Sea's history and geology.

The evolution of the Salton Sea began in 700 AD when Lake Cahuila formed in the Salton Sink, due to an overflow of the Colorado River.  In about 1500, the Colorado River flooded again, increasing the volume of the lake to 26 times its current level.  This cycle of dry and wet climatic seasons characterizes the history of the Salton Sea.  In the early 20th Century, the fishing industry grew in the Salton Sea and the government takes interest in preserving the area by creating a wildlife refuge in 1930.  The Salton Sea State Park was established in 1955, beginning the sea's history as a recreational area.  However, the rising salinity levels in the sea become a concern, and are acknowledged in 1968 with the publication of Imperial Valley by Tracy Henderson.  Despite efforts in the later half of the 20th Century to address the problem, salinity levels in the sea reached 40 ppt by 1985, climbing to 45 ppt in 1995, making it 25% saltier than the ocean.  The fate of the Salton Sea in 1990s was certainly grim, with die-offs of thousands of grebes, white and brown pelicans, fish, the loss of its status as a premiere recreational area, and the increasing instances of odors coming from the sea.  

In the last ten years, there has been renewed interest in finding a solution to the many problems of the Salton Sea.  The sea is an important migratory spot for many species of birds and serves as a habitat for fish, including the endangered desert pupfish.  The Salton Sea Authority (SSA) was established in 1993, and through the Salton Sea Reclamation Act of 1998, the SSA and the Bureau of Reclamation are able to produce to plans for restoration of the area.  Below, you will find more resources available in the Science Library and information on restoration efforts and the current status of the Salton Sea.

More Pictures of the Salton Sea (click for larger images):

View of the western shoreline                                          Detailed view of the western shoreline, showing numerous bones of animals Salton Sea State Recreation Area, established 1955



Fish carcass found on the shoreline        Detail of water in the Salton Sea               Western Shores boat launch


Salton Sea Shoreline  
All photos by Carla Reeske.


Book 1 Birds of the Salton Sea: Status, Biogeography, and Ecology / Michael A. Patten, Guy McCaskie, and Philip Unitt.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2003. 
QL684 .C2P38 2003


Alternative Futures for the Salton Sea / edited by Kathryn Vincent. 
Riverside, CA ; The University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS), c1999.
GE155 .S35U93 1999   

Ecology and Conservation of Birds of the Salton Sink: An Endangered Ecosystem / edited by Indra K. Vasil.
Camarillo, Calif. : Cooper Ornithological Society, c2004.
QL672 .S78 no.27 2004

Detailed Study of Water Quality, Bottom Sediment, and Biota Associated with Irrigation Drainage in the Salton Sea area, California, 1988-1990 / by James G. Setmire, et al. 
Sacramento, Calif. : For sale by the U.S. Geological Survey, Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor], 1993.
GB701 .W3752 no.93-4014

The Imperial Valley and the Salton Sink / by H. T. Cory. 
San Francisco : J. J. Newbegin, c1915
TC425 .C6C67

Reconnaissance Investigation of Water Quality, Bottom Sediment, and Biota Associated with Irrigation Drainage in the Salton Sea Area, California, 1986-1987 / by James G. Setmire, John C. Wolfe and Richard K. Stroud.
Sacramento, California : Dept. of the Interior, US Geological Survey, 1990.
GB701 .W3752 no.89-4102 

The Salton Sea: Proceedings of the Salton Sea Symposium, held in Desert Hot Springs, California, 13-14 January 2000 / edited by Douglas A. Barnum, et al.
Dordrecht ; Boston : Kluwer Academic Publishers, c2002. 
QH105 .C2S23 2000 

The Salton Sea; a Study of the Geography, the Geology, the Floristics, and the Ecology of a Desert Basin /  by D. T. MacDougal and Collaborators.
Washington, D.C., Carnegie institution of Washington, 1914.
QK903 .M25 1914

The Salton Sea : an account of Harriman's fight with the Colorado River / by George Kennan.
New York : The Macmillan Company, 1917.
TC425 .C6K5 1917

Routes to desert watering places in the Salton sea region, California / by John S. Brown. Prepared in cooperation with the Department of Engineering of the State of California.
Washington : Govt. Print. Off., 1920.
TC801 .U2 no.490 A-D 1920-1922

More Information on the Salton Sea

Salton Sea Restoration

Salton Sea Authority

Salton Sea State Recreation Area

SDSU Center for Inland Waters Salton Basin-Colorado Delta Website

UC Riverside Theses on the Salton Sea and Related Topics 



This exhibit was created on November 2006 and designed by Carla Reeske.

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Last modified: 11/29/2006 1:46 PM by by C. Reeske

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