Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California (Paperback)

William deBuys

ISBN 10: 0826324282 / ISBN 13: 9780826324283
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Paperback. In low places consequences collect, and in all North America you cannot get much lower than the Imperial Valley of southern California, where one town, 186 feet below sea level, calls itse.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 307 pages. 0.975. Bookseller Inventory #

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In low places consequences collect, and in all North America you cannot get much lower than the Imperial Valley of southern California, where one town, 186 feet below sea level, calls itself the Lowest Down City in the Western Hemisphere, and where the waters of the Colorado River sustain a billion-dollar agricultural industry. The consequences of that industry drain from the valley into the accidentally man-made Salton Sea, California's largest lake and a vital stopping place for migratory waterfowl. Today the Salton Sea is in desperate environmental trouble.

A second river also ends in the Salton Sea. It is a river of dreams, the remains of which may be seen in the failed real estate developments that sprawl beside the sea. As the ending point of both the real Colorado and this river of dreams, the Salton Sea has become emblematic of much of the history of the American West. Its troubling story is masterfully told here in William deBuys's narrative and Joan Myers's austerely beautiful photographs.

The story of Southern California is fundamentally a story about the control of nature. Beginning with the Yuman-speaking tribes encountered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, deBuys traces the subsequent exploration and development of the region through the Gold Rush of 1849, the government-sponsored surveys that followed, and the inept tinkering with the river by an assortment of irrigation and development interests that resulted in the floods that formed the Salton Sea nearly a century ago. He introduces us to a gallery of rogues and dreamers who saw a great future for this arid wilderness but could never refrain from interference with the forces of nature.

The floods that produced the Salton Sea created a vast desert oasis, but the agricultural exploitation of the region, combined with evaporation, poisoned that paradise. The stark beauty of the desert, the engineering feats that have transformed the landscape, and the eerie spectacle of Salton City and its ruined beaches and abandoned yacht club are the subject of Myers's photographs, made over a period of more than ten years. In the last section of Salt Dreams, deBuys acquaints us with the human and avian denizens of the region, all struggling for survival as the twentieth century draws to a close. The history of chicanery and greed recounted in deBuys's narrative and his empathy with the desert dwellers he and Myers have come to know--hardworking laborers and entrepreneurs who live on both sides of the Mexicali border, eccentrics hiding out in the Salton Desert, pelicans dying of avian botulism--are crucial to an understanding of the border issues of today and the impassioned environmental debate on whether--and how--to save the Salton Sea.

Review: William Smythe, a Southern California booster, was not alone when in 1900 he expressed his hope that "the great brown waste which lies on the borders of two republics... will some time be as densely populated as the lands of the Nile, as rich in industry as the Kingdom of Holland."

A century later, the coastal desert of Southern California has indeed become a rich and populous place. The interior desert, however, along the U.S.-Mexico border, is as empty and poor as ever. Historian William deBuys and photographer Joan Myers explore that country, its virtual capital the salt-choked Salton Sea, in the pages of this fine book, which offers a deeply learned but readable study of the politics of water and land use in the arid Southwest. DeBuys remarks that for Europeans and Americans the land has always seemed a geographic tabula rasa, subject to making and remaking, a landscape in which dreams can come true--one of them being to remake an unforgiving desert into an agricultural treasure house. Those dreams, however, can turn into nightmares, as speculations fail and dunes reclaim what is rightfully theirs--for, as deBuys notes, "in low places consequences collect." Desert rats and students of California history will find many rewards in these pages. --Gregory McNamee

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Title: Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down ...
Binding: Paperback
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Book Description University of New Mexico Press, United States, 2001. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. In low places consequences collect, and in all North America you cannot get much lower than the Imperial Valley of southern California, where one town, 186 feet below sea level, calls itself the Lowest Down City in the Western Hemisphere, and where the waters of the Colorado River sustain a billion-dollar agricultural industry. The consequences of that industry drain from the valley into the accidentally man-made Salton Sea, California s largest lake and a vital stopping place for migratory waterfowl. Today the Salton Sea is in desperate environmental trouble. Beginning with the Yuman-speaking tribes encountered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, deBuys traces the exploration and development of the region through the Gold Rush of 1849, the government-sponsored surveys that followed, and the inept tinkering with the river by an assortment of irrigation and development interests that resulted in the floods that formed the Salton Sea nearly a century ago. He introduces us to a gallery of rogues and dreamers who saw a great future for this arid wilderness but could never refrain from interference with the forces of nature. Seller Inventory # AAC9780826324283

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