The Accidental Sea
The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California's Imperial and Coachella Valleys.
The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California. Like Death Valley, it is below sea level. Currently, its surface is 226 ft (69 m) below sea level. The deepest point of the sea is 50 ft (15 m) higher than the lowest point of Death Valley. The sea is fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo Rivers, as well as agricultural runoff, drainage systems, and creeks.
The sea was created by a flood in 1905, in which water from the Colorado River flowed into the area. While it varies in dimensions and area with fluctuations in agricultural runoff and rainfall, the Salton Sea averages 15 mi (24 km) by 35 mi (56 km). With an estimated surface area of 362 square miles (940 km2) or 376 square miles (970 km2), the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. The average annual inflow is 1,360,000 acre·ft (1,680,000 dam3), which is enough to maintain a maximum depth of 52 ft (16 m) and a total volume of about 7,500,000 acre·ft (9,300,000 dam3).