Salton Sea

From Openwaterpedia
Salton Sea

The Salton Sea State Recreation Area is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California's Imperial Valley.

One of the world's largest inland seas and lowest spots on earth at -227 feet below sea level, Salton Sea was re-created in 1905 when high spring flooding on the Colorado River crashed the canal gates leading into the developing Imperial Valley. For the next 18 months the entire volume of the Colorado River rushed downward into the Salton Trough. By the time engineers were finally able to stop the breaching water in 1907, the Salton Sea had been born at 45 miles long and 20 miles wide – equaling about 130 miles of shoreline.

Salton Sea State Recreation Area covers 14 miles of the northeastern shore and has long been a popular site for campers, boaters and anglers. Increasing salinity in the Salton Sea basin has limited the number of types of fish that can be found there, and most fish currently caught are Tilapia. Varner Harbor within the Salton Sea State Recreation Area provides easy access to the sea for boating and water skiing. Kayakers, campers, birdwatchers, photographers and hikers can enjoy the site's many recreation opportunities.


  • The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake. It is the third largest saline lake in the nation.
  • The Sea has no outlet.
  • Its surface elevation is 227 feet below sea level.
  • The average depth of the Salton Sea is 29.9 feet, its deepest is about 50 feet.
  • The Sea’s watershed is 8,000 square miles.
  • Annual inflow is 1.3 million acre-feet with an annual salt load of 4 million tons.
  • About 1.3 million acre-feet of water


Salton Sea is located 30 miles south of Indio on Highway 111. It is about a three hour drive from the Los Angeles or San Diego areas. From Los Angeles, take Interstate 10 east to Indio, take 86S exit then turn left at Avenue 66, then right onto Highway 111. Go south about 12 miles to the Salton Sea SRA Headquarters entrance. From San Diego take Highway 78 east, then left (north) on Highway 86 . Turn right at Avenue 66 and then right onto Highway 111. Go south about 12 miles to the Salton Sea SRA Headquarters entrance.

Open Water Swimming

Crossings of the Salton Sea by professional marathon swimmers occurred frequently in the 1950's and 1960's including a 17-hour double crossing by Dr. Wilfred Slater that was later broken by Amy Hiland in May 1956 in 14 hours 57 minutes.

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