A few years ago, I took a weekend trip to the census-designated place Bombay Beach (it’s most definitely not a city, town, or village), located on the Salton Sea, in Southern California’s Imperial County.
Extra brief history lesson: as a direct result of the spillover from a badly planned state irrigation system, the Salton Sea was formed in 1905. In spite of the farcical origin of the shite, the Salton Sea quickly became a getaway destination for Los Angeles and San Diego residents. Thus, with a growing population, farming activity greatly increased in the region. Bombay Beach, established in 1929, was one of the seaside communities created to handle the influx of visitors.
By the 1970s, however, agricultural pesticides and other chemicals contributed to the demise of the man-made Salton Sea recreation area, creating an incredibly saline – and dystopian – point of interest.
In addition to being on the coast of the United States’ own Aral Sea, Bombay Beach, in the former “Winter Tomato Capital of the World” of Niland, California just so happens to house another unusual claim-to-fame: the Ski Inn.
The Ski Inn – named for water skiing in the heydays of the Salton Sea -opened in the 1950s, and bills itself as the “lowest bar in the Western Hemisphere.” Unless a bar opens up in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, the Ski Inn, at 223 feet below sea level, might actually own that record.
It’s one of the last remaining vestiges of the once prosperous Salton Sea resort area, and counts as an unusual part of its décor, a collection of dollar bills taped around nearly the whole interior of the bar.
If you’re ever in the area, you’ll be glad the Ski Inn is still open. Shops and their hours of operation are limited, so go on in, pay the friendly folks a visit, and grab a burger and a brewskie. Directions are here.