Carcass Beach – Calipatria, California - Atlas Obscura

Calipatria, California

Carcass Beach

At this deceptively beautiful beach, nothing is what it seems.  

The white sand beaches of Carcass Beach are deceiving for it is not sand but rather the ground-up bones of birds and fish that lend the beach its color. Located on the southern coast of California’s Salton Sea, Carcass Beach is known for being covered in, well, carcasses. The sand is dotted with the bones of ill-fated fish and birds.

Salton Sea was formed back in 1905 when an irrigation canal from the Colorado River broke during a heavy rainstorm. The water of Salton Sea is as deceiving as its white sand. While the waters may appear an inviting blue, in fact, it is a mere reflection of the sky above as the sea is truly brown and murky. 

The reason Salton Sea’s waters are murky is because the basin lacks an outlet, which means the waters of Salton hold the fertilizers, pesticides, and salt from the surrounding soil. The result is a body of water that is 30 percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean and unsustainable for most life.

Know Before You Go

The easiest way to reach the beach is from a nearby town, such as Brawley or Calipatria, or from a town a bit farther away such as Julian or San Diego. From San Diego, the drive takes about two hours nonstop. From Julian, it will take 90 minutes, but the road has many curves and grades. Swimming in the Salton Sea is not advised.

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