I thought that a most unusual name for a town, and rolling down the fresh blacktop of highway 111 with the eastern shore of the Salton Sea glimmering in the distance I wondered how it came to be called Brawley. Did ancient Californian’s back before the Rio Colorado was dammed and diverted have huge brawls aboot cattle there? Did rustlers sail up the Sea of Cortez, and brawl with the cowboys of the Imperial Valley? These were questions worthy of google, but would have to wait until after exploring Bombay Beach…
Back before the Sea became the poster child for ecological disasters, Bombay Beach was the place to be. Resorts peppered the shore line. Speed boats pulled water skiers. The fishing was good, and lots of the nearby Hollywood famous came out for the power boat races. The high salinity of the sea afforded the boats higher speeds, and race boats were still being run as late as 2009.
Salt Encrusted PierToday the town is mostly deserted, with only a few residents trying to maintain order, and upkeep. Breaching the levee two dead snow geese lay at the edge of the parking area. Hundreds of half eaten Tilapia littered the beach, a tourist from some far away land locked state commented that he may never be able to get the smell out of his car…
Out at the water’s edge gulls, avocets, and curlews worked the shore line. A lone brown pelican did a fly by. Further south flocks of what I first thought were Snowy Egrets, and turned out to be young Great Egrets hung out on the dirt roads and fields.
Young Great Egrets
They all were flexing their wings, feeding and making sure the wind didn’t blow them further south to Niland and Slab City.Mostly abandoned and decaying comes to mind when I think of Niland, but out beyond the gas power plant and the waste water treatment plant, lies Slab City, a virtual paradise for end of road squatters.
One such squatter Leonard Knight, armed with only a few simple hand tools gallons of supposedly lead free paint, an endless supply of paint brushes, lots of free time, and a god delusion larger than any Sherwin Williams paint store I have ever seen, created on public land his own personal environmental disaster salvation mountain….
Leonard Knight"s Truck And Edifice In The Background
People came and went, while we took in Leonard's future super fund clean up site. Pilgrims climbed up and down the painted desert, all under the watchful eyes of faithful volunteers who shouted warning aboot not stepping on the flowers or following the yellow brick road. It must lead to reason?
Slab City Toll House
Question Everything. A more ironic statement for Slab City I do not think could be found.
And Brawley the nicest town here in lower California, with supermarkets, excellent lodging, restaurants tidy houses an entire Wikipedia, page and a surprise desert dust storm….