Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach, California | C.1950

Photo Credit: Devon Carlson

Created by an irrigation accident in 1905, Salton Sea was California’s largest man-made lake. Today, the abandoned town may look apocalyptic to some, but to others, it’s an artist’s paradise.

Located at the southern tip of California, Bombay Beach was once a vibrant community on the Salton Sea. The town’s golden era occurred through the 1950s-1960s, becoming a haven for fishing, boating, and lazy days for hard working Angelenos along with celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and even the Beach Boys frequenting resorts around that time.

Unfortunately, the man-made lake eventually succumbed to pollution. Over-irrigation from its waters increased the saltiness of the Salton to uninhabitable levels, ultimately destroying its ecosystem. With the water becoming unusable and even dangerous, Bombay Beach soon felt the effects and the population whittled down. Though the mass exodus left “Bombay Beach Ruins” scattered around the former town’s beaches and neighborhoods, Bombay’s demise has given rise to a new population: artists.

Mixed amongst the remains of cars and resorts, new art installations started to take hold in the community in the early 2010s, embracing the surrounding “ghost town” environment. An abandoned home was even refurbished into an open-air “Bombay Beach Opera House” featuring a cardboard piano. Since 2016, a Bombay Beach Biennale has been held each year to showcase new pieces amongst the town’s ruins, bringing thousands of visitors into the now 200 person town. While beginning to make a comeback through its “desolate” art installations, just don’t expect the phone booths to…..wait….is that ringing?

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