Q:

How did the Salton Sea form?

A:

Quick Answer

The Salton Sea was formed through the unabated massive flooding of the Colorado River that accidentally broke through irrigation channels and inundated the large desert basin known as the Salton Trough or Salton Basin. The incident occurred in 1905 and continued for 18 months before the engineers managed to stop the deluge. The Salton Sea has been preserved since then by runoff from nearby agrarian regions such as Mount San Gorgonio and Mexicali Valley.

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How did the Salton Sea form?
Credit: U.S. Geological Survey CC-BY 2.0

Full Answer

The Salton Sea is considered to be the largest lake in California that forms part of the state's Imperial Valley near the Gulf of California. It lies -227 feet below sea level and encompasses an area that is 45 miles long by 20 miles wide. The lake's shoreline stretches for 130 miles, providing 14 miles of recreational beach fronts for activities, such as camping, fishing, boating and bird watching.

Geologists have determined that the area now occupied by Salton Sea has been naturally flooded by the Colorado River several times in the past. The present-day Salton Sea is the result of an oversight in human engineering that originated in the early 20th century when the Imperial Valley was converted into agricultural lands. The California Development Company created diversion gates to tap into the water supply of the Colorado River for irrigation purposes. However, the omission of building sluices to control the flow of water resulted to the eventual collapse of the canal gates and the breaching waters freely flowed into the basin to create the Salton Sea.

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