Last Thursday I ventured down to Coachella Valley. No I wasn't attending the infamous music festival that happened to be occurring simultaneously with my visit. Instead my plans took me on a 430-mile adventure through farmland, canals, dams and even the Salton Sea. The Coachella Valley Water District puts on this tour twice a year- once in the Fall and then again in the Spring. They have been doing so since the 1950's so it's safe to say they have it down pretty well.
We had instructions to arrive at the CVWD’s Palm Desert office at 6:30 am. The bus would be promptly leaving at 6:55. After a few wrong turns I pulled up closer to 6:45, checked in, got my nametag and boarded the bus. 10 minutes later we embarked on our journey. Stop number one was at CVWD's headquarters. There was saw the control room which had a wall size map of the district with lights and numbers on it. This map allows CVWD staff to control the speed at which water travels through the gates. From there it was onto the canals- specifically Drop #1 on the All American Canal. Across from Drop #1 is the beginning of the Coachella Branch of the All American Canal. We learned that the all of the Coachella Canal is lined with concrete to prevent seepage.
All American Canal- Drop #1
After a brief stop at the Old Plank Road (the roadway that was built in 1915 and created a path for motorized vehicles from Yuma to the Imperial Valley then San Diego), we visited Hanlon Heading. This used to be where the California Development Company controlled the water diverted from the Colorado River into the canal system. In 1942 the All American Canal became the only water source for the Imperial Valley.
Next we stopped at Imperial Dam where we were treated to lunch and most importantly, a tour of the dam. It is a mighty dam indeed. Our afternoon stops included the Mesquite open pit gold mine, Osborne Overlook (famous for sand dunes), Slab City and Salvation Mountain (see pictures), and Coachella Canal at milepost 49.3.
Overall it was a great tour and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about water and the issues facing the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. Hats off to CVWD and the tour guide, Bob Keeran!