Salton Sea

A vital stopover for migratory birds.
avian species depend on the Salton Sea
square miles of lake evaporated since 2003
acres—size of Audubon's Bombay Beach Habitat Restoration Project

The Salton Sea, in California’s arid southeast corner, is the state’s largest body of water and a vital oasis in a punishing environment. More than 400 bird species, both resident and migratory, depend on the 35-mile-long lake as critical habitat along the Pacific Flyway.

Masses of migrating birds still flock here—that should underscore how important this body of water is to wildlife and drive home the need to protect and restore habitat it.
Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea Program Director, Audubon California

Colorado River floods have periodically filled and evaporated from the region for millennia, most recently when an irrigation canal broke in 1906. For years, the lake that ensued was replenished only by agricultural runoff, but 21st century changes in water use patterns have caused it to shrink rapidly. Fish-eating birds, including American White Pelicans and Cormorants have largely abandoned the area as rising salinity levels have killed the tilapia and other fish they prey on. The retreating waterline has exposed miles of dried playa, or lakebed, which sends windblown clouds of noxious dust into surrounding communities, causing some of California’s highest rates of asthma, COPD and other respiratory illnesses.

Audubon works together with government agencies, conservation organizations and partners in local Indigenous and Latino communities to restore habitat at the Salton Sea and to give local residents a voice in the policies that affect their region. Our 800-acre Bombay Beach Habitat Restoration Project is a model for future restoration efforts at this essential body of water.

For more on the Salton Sea, visit Audubon California's site. Download our latest fact sheet here: Salton Sea fact sheet.