Like water on Mars water is rare. We are north of Yuma in a red desert just like Mars except there isn’t water like this on Mars. We have a nice lake behind the RV. Totally unexpected and so very interesting. Actually, there are lots of nice places north of Yuma and Lake Martinez is only one of them. For me, I am not all that interested in the open desert; the Colorado River changes everything.
Well before I was born, serious people, observing streaks on the surface of Mars with telescopes, concluded that certainly there was life on Mars because Mars had canals and obviously it takes people to build canals. Canals are worthless without water.
While I was in grade school, the Mariner 4 spacecraft made a flyby on Mars, and the idea that there were Martians building canals was shown to be preposterous. At about the same time, the idea of water on Mars was completely discounted as folly. Unlike the earth, the water on Mars didn’t survive a billion years of climate change.
Recently however scientists discovered water on Mars, lots of ice (even water in liquid form is a real possibility). They have now found three buried lakes on Mars using radar. Current images show evidence of past river valleys, surface water is in the polar regions as ice in glaciers. Here is a cool link: NASA, water on Mars
Typically we don’t go very far. We have a relaxed departure time, when we get ready to go, then we go. This time we did the same thing and it nearly backfired. First of all, we were heading east which makes the day slightly shorter. I also didn’t take into account that we were going about 30 miles north of Yuma. This added almost an hour to the drive; because we didn’t figure on a 12-mile long construction zone on what should have been the easiest part of the route.
We were surprised by the time zone change, but the clock had nothing to do with the setting sun. We also tried to get fuel in Yuma and it took a much longer time than normal. Surprisingly, we even had to wait for a place at the pump. This the first time we had to wait since we started refueling with the big trucks.
The remaining daylight wasn’t a problem until the construction zone and we were starting to watch the sun getting low on the horizon. The shadows were getting long even before we left the truck stop. The construction was pretty serious, including long one-lane sections with a pilot car. Not a happy surprise.
Unlike Las Vegas, where everything is under constant construction — but no one actually seems to be working, here they were working for most of the entire 12-mile length. I think in Las Vegas they store un-used traffic cones on the highways — that are not really under construction.
We pulled in and parked the RV at sunset and set up in the twilight. In three years this is the first time this has ever happened. We have never arrived after dark. Just three weeks prior, we were not allowed to park in our reserved campsite, because we arrived too early.
Yuma is farmland
North of Yuma is desert. Yuma is the last stop for water from the Colorado River to be used for irrigation. The only places north of Yuma, that have any water, are right next to the river — or on a farm, irrigated by the river. At this time of year, (middle of November) the crops are starting to be harvested. Everything not associated with the river water is parched to the point that only the most drought-tolerant plants survive.
Yuma is the hottest city in the United States typically recording 175 days per year above 90 degrees. Typically Yuma gets some rain during September, but not this year (2020). The last major rainfall was in March where they got more than one inch in one day. The total rainfall for 2020 prior to that day was 0.2 inches. Typically Yuma gets only 3 inches of rain per year. Except for the irrigated areas, Yuma is a brown place.
Lake Martinez isn’t a real lake, nor is it a reservoir but instead it was a marshy zone, in the river bottom. Now it is full of water. The Colorado River has taken many paths over the years, this was one of them. Lake Martinez was part of huge efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation efforts in the early 1930s. This included building the Imperial Dam, cutting diversion channels, and opening the Colorado River to previously flooded bottomland. The Lake Martinez area was flooded when the river was dammed and a cut was made in the river bank to flood the wetlands. I wouldn’t call the flooding a mistake, but rather just a side effect. Unlike the flooding of the Salton Sea, this flood creating Lake Martinez was intentional and a good thing.
The Salton Sea, a true mistake
An irrigation mistake created the Salton Sea in 1905-1907. A canal broke through a levee and the Colorado River flowed into a huge basin submerging the entire thing with water. It took the building of a dedicated train track across the flood plain to stop the unrestricted flow. Trains dumped load after load of rocks and dirt across the flood plain to eventually stop the flow. This mistake created the largest lake west of the Mississippi River other than the Great Salt Lake. The Colorado River hasn’t flowed into the Salton Sea for more than one hundred years.
Now that the water supply is cut off — the Salton Sea is drying up, and it isn’t such a great place anymore. It is much saltier than it used to be and it is slowly dying. Soon the Salton Sea will be like the Great Salt Lake and after that the Dead Sea. Give it another hundred years or so and the Salton Sea will be farmland, like in Yuma, assuming there is enough water to farm it. The entire Imperial Valley and Yuma was once was a lake bottom, fed by the Colorado River. Now it is some of the best farmland in the west.
Creating the Imperial Dam to make irrigation possible in Yuma and the Imperial Valley backed up the water and flooded Lake Martinez. This flooding of the low lying marsh created a wet zone that teems with wildlife. In the 1950s Lake Martinez became a very popular fish-camp that benefited from the flooding. The flooding turned the desert into a true oasis. The effect isn’t widespread, only the previous river bottom.
Since the Colorado River is the only water in miles, the river valley is a magnet for all kinds of wildlife. We saw wild donkeys, coyotes, and plenty of raccoon tracks. Ducks dotted the lakes every day and the valley is a major flyway. We saw a Great Blue Heron and a White Great Egret but didn’t get close enough for a picture.
Removed our solar panels
As some of you know, we used the stop to get ready to install a very large solar panel system. The solar panels that you see below were removed. They were installed at the Tiffin factory and were state of the art in 2008. Now they are nearly obsolete. I had thought they were 150-watts each, but rather they were just large 100-watt panels. Today perhaps they may be able to produce about 80-watts. The panels were bolted down with four feet only about 1/2 inch off the roof making them nearly impossible to remove except by cutting. The panels also showed signs of heat damage because they were attached with very little room under the panels for airflow.
We plan to come back
Someday we are going to stay at the Imperial Dam area. It is a little closer to Yuma than is Lake Martinez. After that, we may take in another week at Lake Martinez followed by a gradual trip up the Colorado River. The area really is stunning. The entire Colorado River is going to have to get a closer look. Probably not this year, or next year, but someday. After all, Lake Martinez is like water on Mars, and if there is water on Mars, we could (should, will) go there. Just don’t expect the water to be like this. Mars is a cold place.
Here is our Campsite Review: Lake Martinez
Even though we were camped right next to the lake, we didn’t get to explore it as we should have. This would have been a great stop to really get the kayaks out and explore (and fish). A better plan would have included more playtime. I have to say that staying here was the exact opposite of San Diego. So quiet that it was kind of lonely.
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Here is a cool link: NASA, water on Mars
Campsite Review: Lake Martinez