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California Photography Hot Spot Locations. Areas, spots, where to do photography, California, Ca.

Home> The Salton Sea, Ca. Photography Hot Spot

 The Salton Sea, California Photography Hot Spot

Photography Hot Spot Location – The Salton Sea, Southern California

The Salton Sea is a bird photographer’s paradise.  It is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys.  The modern sea was accidentally created by the engineers of the California Development Company in 1905. To increase water flow into the area for farming and irrigation canals were dug from the Colorado River into the valley. Due to fears of silt buildup, a cut was made on the bank of the Colorado River to further increase the water flow. The resulting outflow overwhelmed the engineered canal, and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the new sea, before repairs were completed. It was once a thriving resort community until the fish started dying and the smell was just everywhere. That’s when everyone left.

Sunset here is pretty incredible as you can see the colors burst in the image above, but there is a smell of dead fish that you can get used to as you explore this post-apocalyptic looking town. We were a little nervous in this desolate city. It’s filled with old beat up trailers that are falling apart, and you wonder if anyone is living in some of them. We don’t scare easy at all, but we had a strange feeling here. You are also right near the Mexican border, and the thought of that made us spook a little.  DO NOT drive into Mexico. It’s way too dangerous.

We drove all the way around the lake. I had to hit the wildlife refuge on the southern side. The photo of the salty looking dry area was the south side. The northern side was just filled with birds. There are plenty of birds everywhere. I just like the north shore best. Seems to be more there and less driving in between.

We met a man here named Jose. We called our photo file, five years ago, “The Salton Sea with Jose.”  He showed us around at sunset when we were trying to find the right spot to get to the sunset on the water. It was in a farming area around the lake. Jose told us that If we had gone out there alone at night, there was a good chance that we might not come out, so don’t be like us and go wondering in the dark alone.

There is also a cool road that runs away from the sea there that is just incredible. Coyote Road off of the midway point along the north shore of The Salton Sea.  It’s the images with the clouds rolling in above.  That is a road you must travel down. It would be great if you could get clouds like that but that doesn’t often happen here in the high desert.

The Salton Sea Photography Magazine extra
The Salton Sea Photography Magazine extra
INFO - PHOTO MAGAZINE EXTRA - photography magazine extra, photography, where to do, how to do, travel photography, Pam Goodyer

Photography Information

Lens: Generally, this area is a wide angle lens location and a zoom lens for birding location.

Gear:  To get started doing your photography bring your tripod and your circular polarizing filters. The CPL will make your puffy white clouds burst and deepen the blue sky color around them.  It will also take the glare off the water and replace it with the reflection. Bring your tripod too.  If there is not enough light when you are shooting, you will want to use it to get the depth of field, (higher F-stop). Don’t forget your ND filter in case of you want to shoot moving waters.

Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filters, tripod, shutter release, wide angle and zoom lens.

When to Go: Winter. This is the desert that is all I have to say. There is an ongoing drought in California. I have not been here this year, so I don’t know how low the waters are.

Off Season Jun. – Sept.  70-115 degrees – Very hot, water, hat, sunscreen, best fishing season
On Season Oct.-May  50-70 degrees- Best time to visit the park for any activity

Read more on our Photography Techniques Page

If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you can buy one here.


The salton sea photography magazine extra pam goodyer, birds, california, photography locations, where to do photography hot spot, travel photography magazine
Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Park and Area Information:

Entrance Fees:   Day use – $5.00  Boat Launch $3.00


Day use area for
Fishing, visitor center, picnic, birding, sightseeing
Headquarters full RV hookups
New Camp developed campground
Boat Launch

These park areas will be subject to summertime Off-Season closures (Jun-Jul-Aug-Sep.) :

30 miles south of Indio on Highway 111.  Located on the north shore of the Salton Sea, 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.
Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Hotel Information:

Pam’s Picks  – We like this one because it is for the mature crowd. If you have a ton of kids in tow see our other pick.

Glamis North Hot Springs Resort
10595 Hot Mineral Spa Rd.
Niland, California 92257

food and dining photography magazine extra


There is a Subway on your way in at the very north tip of the Salton Sea. There isn’t much food out here so be sure to grab something. I always bring snacks and of course water. Lot’s of water. This is the desert you know.  They are not always open so be prepared!

Subway – North Side

90480 66th Ave

Mecca, CA 92254

Buckshot Deli & Diner – North Eastern Side

8120 CA-111

Niland, CA 92257

Alamo Restaurant – West Side

2100 Marina Dr

Thermal, CA 92274

camping photography magazine extra, photography, where to do, how to do, travel photography, Pam Goodyer



These park areas will be subject to summertime Off-Season closures (Jun-Jul-Aug-Sep.) :

Mecca Beach campground    
Corvina Beach
Salt Creek primitive campground

Open during the In-Season Oct.-Nov.-Dec.-Jan.-Feb.-Mar.-Apr.-May.
Visitor Center  – Summer Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fri, Sat, Sun.
– Off Season hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fri, Sat, Sun

weather photo magazine extra


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Salton Sea

Coachella Valley Water District is a founding member of the Salton Sea Authority. Two CVWD board members concurrently serve on the Salton Sea Authority board. The District has been a part of efforts to restore the Salton Sea for decades. The Coachella Valley Water District supports a practical, reasonable solution to what is a complex environmental challenge at the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea was created between 1905-07, as Colorado River floodwaters collapsed Imperial Valley irrigation facilities and poured for 18 months into an area known previously as the Salton Sink. The area’s elevation is the 2nd lowest in the United States, surpassed only by Death Valley.

Scientists predicted the desert’s intense heat would completely evaporate the sea in 8 to 14 years. But agricultural drainage of more than one million acre-feet a year – mostly from Imperial County farms, and to a lesser extent from the Coachella and Mexicali valleys – have sustained the Salton Sea for decades. The sea, 34 miles long and between 9 and 10 miles wide, was designated an irrigation drainage repository in 1928.

In the decades that followed, it became a popular recreation area: well stocked with marine fishes and among the most visited tourist attractions in California. As the largest body of water entirely within the state, it has become a crucial stop for migratory birds seeking food along the Pacific Flyway.

Concerns about the sea’s future began to surface in the 1960s as a variety of factors contributed to significant drops in its popularity as a recreation destination. Regional urbanization in recent decades has reduced the amount of agricultural drainage to the sea, resulting in a receding of its shoreline. Because the Sea is fed by farm drainage and has no outlet, as water evaporates it leaves the salts behind. As a result, the sea is now saltier than typical ocean water.

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