The Coachella Canal

Frink Travel Blog

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Coachella Canal, carrying water to Palm Springs
This is the actual reason I'm out here - working on a project to keep deer and bighorn sheep from falling into the Coachella Canal. It took about 8 hours to do what I was trying to get done each day, so the remaining daylight hours were open for exploring. I was by myself, no big bosses to yell at me, a rental truck with unlimited mileage and a big tank of gas that they owed me from the last trip...

The canal is way out in the most remote corner of the Anza Borrego desert in southeastern California. It carries water to Palm Springs and the golf courses and agricultural fields of the Coachella Valley from the Colorado River, a distance of about 70 miles. They had recently modified the section I was working in, making the sides so steep and slippery that animals used to coming down for a drink would get trapped in the fast moving water and not be able to climb back out.
Tiny flowers sprouting from the rocks
The solution was to design a series of artificial pools, fed by the canal, for the animals to drink out of as an alternative. We're monitoring how that goes for about a year.

After two years of drought, it finally rained this winter and the desert has exploded with wildflowers and new growth. It's amazing how many seeds are laying dormant in the sand, waiting years for enough water to fall to activate them and bring them to life for a few short weeks. The rain came in thunderstorms, so instead of the whole desert being green, there are huge stripes of flowers, the shape of the clouds that passed over and dumped rain.

This visit is kind of strange, but pleasant. It's usually 40-45C out here and the dry remains of the plants crumble at the touch.
The Coachella Canal, looking south (along the left hand side of the Salton Sea here)
Leaving the air conditioned truck can be torturous, the hot air and heat radiating from the sand actually hurts, its so hot. This time though, the weather was perfect, the sweet perfume of the flowers wafted through air, and happy insects buzzed and crawled , feasting on the brief bounty of food and water.

The canal traces a twisting course along the foothills of the Chocolate and Orocopia mountains, following a precise contour of the land, so as to stay at a constant level, with just enough drop to allow the water to flow in one direction. While it's a manmade scar across the desert, the turns and curves show that it's still at the mercy of the form of the land. At irregular intervals, the canal ducks under the large dry streams and washes that cross it. It's an unusual concept, a creek crossing a bridge above a canal... The flash floods through the washes would otherwise quickly fill the canal with sand during storms. 99% of the time floods aren't an issue here though...

The canal is kind of... nowhere, but I'll tag it "Bombay Beach" which is basically a trailer park out in the middle of the desert, on the shore of the Salton Sea.. but more about that later.
Elke2globe says:
So interesting, great job your doing there!
Posted on: Mar 24, 2008
mellemel8 says:
gorgeous wildflowers and blog
Posted on: Mar 17, 2008
TRE69 says:
Great blog & pics!
Posted on: Mar 16, 2008
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Coachella Canal, carrying water to…
Coachella Canal, carrying water t…
Tiny flowers sprouting from the ro…
Tiny flowers sprouting from the r…
The Coachella Canal, looking south…
The Coachella Canal, looking sout…
The Chocolate Mountains, dry and d…
The Chocolate Mountains, dry and …
Those resorts consume a LOT of wat…
Those resorts consume a LOT of wa…
These are kind of scary- the canal…
These are kind of scary- the cana…
Huge carp patrolling the green wat…
Huge carp patrolling the green wa…
Wildflowers have sprung up in the …
Wildflowers have sprung up in the…
I hardly recognized this now green…
I hardly recognized this now gree…
The mountains are still brown and …
The mountains are still brown and…
A lonely, abandoned railroad leadi…
A lonely, abandoned railroad lead…
Old steel trestle crosses the canal
Old steel trestle crosses the canal
...still in good shape, preserved …
...still in good shape, preserved…
Wasp condominiums under the bridge
Wasp condominiums under the bridge
A black phoebe has somehow attache…
A black phoebe has somehow attach…
Ghost-flower in full bloom.  These…
Ghost-flower in full bloom. Thes…
Beetles enjoying the blooms
Beetles enjoying the blooms
A nearly 2 meter racer alert on a …
A nearly 2 meter racer alert on a…
You have to raise your head up to …
You have to raise your head up to…
Then he lives up to his racer name…
Then he lives up to his racer nam…
On another embankment, these enorm…
On another embankment, these enor…
OG beetle hanging tough
OG beetle hanging tough
A snappy salute to the camera
A snappy salute to the camera
The males were trying to woo their…
The males were trying to woo thei…
Bright blue desert sky
Bright blue desert sky
Infested with wildflowers
Infested with wildflowers
Hmm, something lurking behind this…
Hmm, something lurking behind thi…
Oh yeah, theres a hidden special …
Oh yeah, there's a hidden special…
A tiny poppy
A tiny poppy
Chia!
Chia!
Even the leaves are pretty
Even the leaves are pretty
Humans have been here too.... a hu…
Humans have been here too.... a h…
a car every couple miles, they see…
a car every couple miles, they se…
Seen better days...
Seen better days...
Taking a break in this fine trailer
Taking a break in this fine trailer
All things in the desert must be o…
All things in the desert must be …
Cows on the truck are far from the…
Cows on the truck are far from th…
No faceless, bubble-headed aliens…
"No faceless, bubble-headed alien…
These palo verde trees are always …
These palo verde trees are always…
Delicate phacelia flowers
Delicate phacelia flowers
These are pretty much just big shr…
These are pretty much just big sh…
More tiny flowers, ants eye view
More tiny flowers, ant's eye view
Big, lush blooms...
Big, lush blooms...
not necessarily what youd expect …
not necessarily what you'd expect…
These meter-wide bridges let wat…
These meter-wide "bridges" let wa…
A purple carpet of sand verbena st…
A purple carpet of sand verbena s…
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photo by: cneoridium