Salton Sea 101

In 1905 and 1906, California’s largest inland body of water—the Salton Sea—was formed when Colorado River levees broke below the California-Mexico border.  Great floodwaters filled the depression previously known as the Salton Sink—which, at its peak, covered upwards of 400 square miles—creating an immediate sanctuary for birds and opportunities for future development.

During the past 100 years, numerous real estate development schemes arose along the shores of the Salton Sea.  Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, President Eisenhower, Jerry Lewis, and the Beach Boys all frequented the area and during the 1960s tourists visited the Salton Sea in numbers that, at times, exceeded tourism in Yosemite.

By the 1980s, however, the Salton Sea’s biologically overburdened system resulted in the near abandonment of the area’s resorts and communities with shoreline flooding, massive fish and bird die-offs reflecting the escalating environmental harm.

The future of the Salton Sea is uncertain.  It remains a major habitat and stopover to more than 400 resident and migratory avian species; but rapidly increasing salinity and an impending water transfer to ever-expanding Southern California communities complicate the future environmental picture.

Kim Stringfellow’s detailed visual and historical account conducted from 1998 through to the Sea’s centenary in 2005 highlights one of California’s and indeed, America’s most fascinating and complex landscape histories at a time when the management of an entire regional ecosystem is at risk.

About this project

Greetings from the Salton Sea is a book and installation project by Kim Stringfellow. The book, Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005 was originally published by the Center for American Places in 2005 and is now available in paperback. This publication was funded, in part, by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts with additional grants from San Diego State University.

Limited edition photographic prints from this project are available for purchase. For more information, please visit:

Click here to read the Project Statement.