The Salton Sea is a shallow, landlocked, highly-saline body of water in Riverside and Imperial counties at the southern end of the U. S. state of California. It lies on the San Andreas Fault within the Salton Trough that stretches to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Over millions of years, the Colorado River has flowed into the Imperial Valley and deposited alluvium (soil), creating fertile farmland, building up the terrain, and constantly moving its main course and river delta. For thousands of years, the river has alternately flowed into the valley, or diverted around it, creating either a saline lake called Lake Cahuilla, or a dry desert basin, respectively. When the Colorado River flows into the valley, the lake level depends on river flows and the balance between inflow and evaporative loss. When the river diverts around the valley, the lake dries completely, as it did around 1580. Hundreds of archaeological sites have been found, indicating possibly long-term Native American villages and temporary camps. The current lake was created by an accidental inflow of water from the Colorado River in 1905. Beginning in 1900, an irrigation canal was dug from the Colorado River to the old Alamo River channel to provide water to the Imperial Valley for farming. The headgates and canals sustained a buildup of silt, so a series of cuts were made in the bank of the Colorado River to further increase the water flow.
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