Whether you’re into wildflowers, fascinating geologic history or quaint mountain villages, the early spring is the perfect time to head for the Anza-Borrego desert area and the interesting attractions nearby.
Wildflower season is expected to be better than usual this year because of the heavy Southern California rains. Anza-Borrego desert is known for a colorful wildflower display that usually gets under way in late February, and there are many nearby points of interest.
How about an inland “sea” that was once promoted as a major water recreational area only to fall into near oblivion because of the water’s increased salinity and a major die-off of fish and birds? The Salton Sea is just one of the interesting sights in this area, and worth going an extra 30 miles east of Borrego Springs to see what remains.
Anyone flying over the desert east of San Diego will remember this vast body of water that stands out in stark contrast to the surrounding California desert. Drive up-close and it seems almost like a Great Lake. In fact it is the largest lake in the state measured at 376 square miles.
Unfortunately, the water here is saltier than the ocean and is so toxic that most species of fish have died. High levels of selenium also have been found in the sea and this is thought to have contributed to the mortality of the local bird populations.
While this may not sound like the recipe for a fun vacation experience, the area is fascinating to explore as you walk on beaches made of barnacles and see where major beach developments of the 1960s have rotted away, giving portions of the small waterfront community of Salton City almost a ghost town look and feel. One sign we saw was advertising a three-bedroom home for $30,000 and conversation with locals revealed that, while a dying sea may not seem all that attractive for recreation, it sure reduces the local cost of living.
Our visit was just a quick look at the sea along the Salton City shoreline—the closest point to Borrego Springs—but there are in fact several recreational opportunities on the northern and eastern shorelines of the sea. Some state park beaches have been closed for budgetary reasons, but there still are good access points for kayaking, boating and other forms of water recreation.
Visiting on a weekend, we also were struck by the enormous influx of off-roaders who set up virtual cities of RVs on many open camping areas on the outskirts of Salton City and on the way back to Borrego Springs. Visit the local AM/PM on a weekend and you’ll be completely immersed in this culture with 75 percent of the customers dressed in protective riding gear.
About 30 miles back toward San Diego is Borrego Springs, an area that looks a lot like Palm Springs did before it was fully developed. A couple of resorts and a handful of lodgings cater to warm-weather lovers and golfers but, for all intents and purposes, Borrego Springs still seems like a backwater town with more acreage devoted to golf courses than commercial buildings. The area attracts seniors who have found affordable winter homes as well as boomers who want an inexpensive vacation.