Code Name: Sandy Beach
WWII Test Base – Salton Sea
On the South West side of the Salton Sea, lies a long forgotten and abandoned historic military site. This military base played an important and interesting role during WWII. Although not much of the base remains, the desert has reclaimed the area over the years, it’s still very worthy of exploring. If you happen to be a history fanatic like myself, you will enjoy this place and it’s history. Although you can technically hike to the location, I would recommend a 4WD vehicle for this adventure. Don’t even try or press your luck with a 2WD, you will more then likely get stuck somewhere along the way. Most of the trail to get there is super soft sand. Hiking in would be the only other option if you do not have access to 4WD.
Here is a quick history and background of the destination. Code named “Sandy Beach”, this base was an instrumental part of the Manhattan Project. It was here that bombs used during WW|| were tested. Definitely not the brightest part of our history, but historic nonetheless. Very remote and isolated, the military would secretly test various bomb designs for accuracy. Dropped from a B29 Super Fortress at 31,000 feet, they would aim for targets in the middle of the Salton Sea (which you can see from the shore). Over 120 test bombs were dropped here, 4 of which supposedly missed their targets and remain undiscovered or recovered in the surrounding desert. How cool would it be to find one of these dummy test relics?
The base was last used in 1971 as The Salton Sea area became more populated and a popular recreation spot in the 50’s and 60’s. As a result, military secrecy became impossible and the base was abandoned. The road to access this area is off HWY 86, just outside Westmoreland. I will provide 4 GPS locations, one for the turnoff on the main highway, one for the start of the dirt road, one where you will turn left to get to the base and one for the actual base location (labeled 1-4) First get to this GPS coordinate (1) 33.17638, -115.88741 located off the main highway, this will be your starting point. This road is paved, but a little rough as it hasn’t been maintained since the 60’s. After about a mile, you will notice the road slightly veering to the left. If you stay on the main road too long, you will come up to a huge sand dune that completely covers the road and access to the base going this way. It’s a good 50ft sand dune, thought about giving it a go in the Jeep, but decided it was better to find another route. This is where you want to immediately start looking for a dirt road off the right side of the road (2) 33.177214, -115.854602. You will continue about 1/4 of a mile to the next GPS location (3) 33.17718, -115.83949 and this is where you will turn left, the path and road should be fairly clear. From here you will head about a half mile due north to the abandoned military base (4) 33.19241, -115.83575
This was a really interesting place to see and explore, but mostly eerie. Just something about the history and location give this place a mysterious vibe. The base itself covers a pretty good sized area, which made it difficult to explore everything during my visit. I am truly looking froward to going back here and checking out more of the area. With it’s eerie ambiance and spooky isolation, it would be an interesting place to spend a night. Maybe a perfect reason for another trip here. After spending significant time here in the Salon Sea area in general, I have to say I’ve grown quite fond of this location.
It might smell funky at times, but it has a ton of exploration and adventurous value. Abandoned locations, apocalyptic landscapes, isolated beaches and interesting history, makes the Salton Sea a pretty rad destination. There are a lot of other things to do around the Salon Sea and check out, stay tuned for more. As I will say after post, please be mindful and respectful of these locations. Always practice leave no trace and if you have the opportunity, please help make this place better than you found it. We noticed some scattered trash and garbage along the way and took a few minutes to pack out as much as we could. More people making a positive impact goes a long way and inspires others to do the same. Tag us in your clean up efforts and we will try to get you some gear as a HUGE thank you!