Recreation at the Salton Sea

Visit the Sea for bird watching, boating, camping, hiking or hunting!

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For those less familiar with the Salton Sea, it is not normally thought of as a modern day recreational destination. However, the Salton Sea is a popular site for campers, boaters, anglers, hunters and more. The southern shore is home to the Sonny Bono wildlife refuge, and many state managed duck and geese blinds for waterfowl hunters. Along the north shore of the Sea, 14 miles of shoreline have been designated for recreation, known as the Salton Sea State Recreation Area (SRA). This area provides access to kayaking, boating, camping, bird watching, photography and hiking [1].

Untitled.pngEntrance of the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. Learn more at

Campers can find standard and RV sites at the several locations along the Salton Sea shore; including the SRA, Oasis Palms RV Resorts, and others shown in the map above. Many of these campground sites are equipped with solar heated showers, private toilets and trail access. The balmy winter weather at the Sea—average temperatures from November to February range from 56° to 68° with little chance of rain—makes it a very popular destination for campers to escape winter storms in the northern states. If people desire to camp either at an RV site or a standard site at one of the areas that offer full hookups and amenities (Mecca Beach and New Camp) reservations are highly recommended [2].

ResourcesCampingMap of Salton Sea Camping Sites. Note that due to budget cuts and maintenance needs, the Bombay Beach campground and upper loop of the Mecca Beach campground have been closed until further notice. Map obtained from Salton Sea Authority.

Boaters and anglers can find easy access to the Sea through the Varner Harbor located at the Salton Sea SRA. The fishery at the Salton Sea is still thriving with tilapia, croaker, corvina and other sport fish. Currently there is no limit to the number of tilapia (a perch-like fish) that can be caught, and people catch them by the hundreds. Croaker (an excellent food and sport fish) are caught along the northern shore and corvina (another sport fish) along the southern shore. Occasionally even mullet and striped bass have been seen at the Sea [3].

Kayaking the Salton Sea. Photo by Charles Graham via California’s Adventure Sports Journal

Kayakers can bring their own kayaks and paddle on the Sea, or take a kayaking tour from the Friends of the Salton Sea SRA and the California State Parks[4]. Tours are designed for entry-level kayakers, with no prior experience required, and take place most Sundays at 12:00 pm. Since these tours can only accommodate a total of 16 people, reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. There will be a special First Day Kayak tour held on January 1st at 12:00 pm for people to bring in the New Year with the pelicans. Make your reservations now at 760-393-3810!

Along with bird watching, the Salton Sea is a very popular destination for hunting duck and geese. In order to hunt at the Sea, an advanced reservation issued by the California Department of Fish and Game and a permit issued by the Wister Check Station are required, which designates your assigned blind. Duck season, including mergansers, runs from October to January. Regular season dark geese also run from October to January, however late season white-fronted geese extend from the first Friday in March for the next five consecutive days. During the late season, hunting is only permitted on private property. White geese season runs from the first Saturday in February for the next 32 days [5].

To some, the Salton Sea is considered a once popular recreation destination and nothing more than a dream of the 1950s. But the Salton Sea is still a recreation wonderland for many. No matter your sport, bird watching, boating, camping, hiking or hunting, the Salton Sea has it all. Tell us your favorite Salton Sea activity in the comments!

Written by Stacia Dudley

[1] . “Salton Sea SRA.” California Department of Parks and Recreation. Accessed December 20, 2015.

[2] “Book a Campsite at SALTON SEA SRA, CA.” Reserve America. Accessed December 22, 2015.

[3] “The Salton Sea.” DesertUSA. Accessed December 22, 2015.

[4] “Salton Sea SRA – Kayak the Sea.” California Department of Parks and Recreation. Accessed December 22, 2015.

[5] “Waterfowl Hunting.” California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Accessed December 22, 2015.


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