|Thursday, March 23, 2006
We slept well and were awakened to the hoot of an owl as dawn was breaking. It turns out a great white owl has made its nest in a Joshua Tree not far from our campsite. We made an early departure and drove through Joshua Tree National Monument on our way south to Yuma, AZ. The contrast of snow-capped mountains surrounding the arid Yucca Valley desert was very picturesque in the early morning sun.
Our route to Yuma took us past the Salton Sea. It is a former fresh water lake dried up over 500 years ago when the Colorado River empted into this basin on its way to the Sea of Cortez. The river took a new path that bypassed the lake and it went dry. However, when the WPA was constructing the Hoover Dam in 1905, the lakebed was accidentally flooded creating a fresh water lake that measured over 40 miles in length before the flooding could be stopped. Up through the 1950s, this was a very popular vacation spot for southern Californians. By the 60s the lake was evaporating faster than fresh water runoffs from the surrounding mountain and agricultural lands could replenish. The sea is now saltier than the ocean. It also has an overabundance of algae (caused by farm runoffs) and emits a stench from algae blooms that can be very noticeable in hot weather.
At the south end of the sea we drove through some desert that, due to irrigation, is now very rich agricultural land. Since we are both from parts of the USA that have been farmed by using natural rain, farming by irrigation still astounds us. To see parched desert interspersed between huge fields of lush lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, and other verdant crops boggled our sense of logic.