A few years ago, I took a weekend trip to Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea, in Southern California’s Imperial County.
The Salton Sea was formed in 1905 from the spillover of a badly planned state irrigation system, and quickly became a weekend getaway from SoCal residents. With a growing population, farming activity greatly increased in the region. By the 1970s, however, agricultural pesticides and other chemicals contributed to the demise of the man-made Salton Sea, 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 has an unusual 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.