Bombay Beach – Bombay Beach, California - Atlas Obscura
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Bombay Beach, California

Bombay Beach

Version of the French Riviera destroyed by the sea. 

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau measured the population of Bombay Beach, a census-designated place in Imperial County, California, at just 295 people, which was down from about 366 ten years earlier. The community is so small because the rising Salton Sea drowned part of this trailer community and it never recovered.

The Salton Sea is an incredibly dangerous one for those living in the surrounding communities. Bombay Beach, along with a number of others located along the east shore of this body of water, deals with rising and falling water levels. A berm protects the west end of what remains of the town, but a large portion of it that was once destroyed has been abandoned. Now, it’s either sitting under water or stuck half-buried in mud.

The ruins of Bombay Beach attack many visitors who enjoy touring ghost towns or otherwise forgotten plots of land, and photographs. It is one of the lowest settlements - as far as altitude is concerned - anywhere in North America. In addition to amateurs, Bombay Beach attracts a number of professionals. The town once hosted the crew of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations for the Travel Channel and was the filming location for part of the fictional made-for-TV movie The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake.

Before it was destroyed by the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach was meant to be a playground for rich vacationers in the 1940s and ’50s. It was designed to be the California version of the French Riviera. But the rising salinity in the Salton Sea created major bird and fish die-offs and a series of floods from tropical storms in the 1970s. The area never recovered. The few remaining residents today live in trailers, where they hide out from the blazing sun.