Salton Sea State Recreation Area, Imperial County
An accident of badly planned irrigation, Salton Sea is one of those places where you can see why Southern California still disturbs the American imagination. In the corrosive air along the Salton Sea's shore, abandoned motels and "night spots" rot. To appreciate this miraculous wasteland, it's best to visit in mid-summer when millions of "mysteriously" dying fish fill the air with an unspeakable odor. Desolate "bargain rate" homes dot the western shore. Along the eastern, you can visit hard-scrabble campgrounds, like Bombay Beach, thronged by aging travelers.