The Walking Geyser
by Jerry Dupree
The desert is full of oddities of all kinds and we enjoy exploring them. The Salton Sea is an oddity by itself as a result of a levee failure of the Colorado River that occurred in 1906 and by the time it was stopped the Salton Sea was formed. The San Andreas fault runs along close to the Salton Sea and has a lot of seismic activity including hot water geysers, springs and wells. There are mud volcanoes caused by carbon dioxide bubbling up and forming cones of mud and allow gases and water to the surface. Due to the hot water rising to the surface, there are ten geothermal power plants in the area. The phenomena allows the location of steam powered generators creating a source of free electricity.
One of those geysers seems to have a mind of its own and is moving. It is located near the community of Niland on the east side of the Salton Sea and not far from the famous “Slab City” which got its name from the foundations of buildings constructed during WWll for a Marine Corps artillery training facility. People began to settle in an encampment and appropriately named it Slab City. It is inhabited by people living “off the grid” away from mainstream society for reasons only known to themselves.
There is a geyser that has been moving since 1953 and has moved a total of 240 feet towards the Salton Sea. It moved 60 feet, 6 inches in one day. The geyser is a large circular hole filled with muddy water with carbon dioxide bubbles at the surface
It is approximately 60 feet in diameter although the hole has been enlarged as a result of trying to control its direction of movement. The temperature is about 85 degrees, but if a person were to fall in, it would quickly be fatal because the person would be smothered by carbon dioxide in a very short time.
As the geyser has been walking aimlessly toward the Salton Sea it is moving toward Highway 111, the railroad track, and a fiber optic cable. The railroad and CalTrans have attempted to control its movement by constructing a steel plate dam 75 feet deep. The geyser paid no attention to feeble humans trying to test the forces of nature. The railroad and the highway have been moved, as well as a state of the art buried fiber optic cable. It makes one wonder how well that will control the will of the geyser and whether it will continue its “march to the Sea.” I don’t think anyone has successfully controlled the movement or direction of a geyser. I think it’s one of those “What if an unstoppable moving force were to encounter an immovable object?” questions. My prediction would be in the geyser’s favor.
I wasn’t allowed to venture close enough to the geyser to get any pictures, so I am including some online photos to give the idea of what this monster has been doing and how human’s futile effort has not been able to control it.