Train Crossing the Great Salt Lake Causeway Near Pormontory Point, Utah, 2017

Great Salt Lake, Utah

41° 7' 46.3404'' N, 112° 30' 56.8548'' W

Our course until noon was south, along the base of the high promontory which puts into the lake from the north. On our left, for about three miles from our encampment, was an isolated knob or hill, separated from the main range by a grassy plain. In about ten miles we reached the southern extremity of this high rocky range, where it juts into the lake. Within this distance we passed five or six springs, some of them with very good water, bursting from the foot of the mountain. Innumerable salt and sulphur springs break out of the bank all along, but are soon lost in the broad sand and mud flat which lies between the banks and the water. This flat is about two miles broad, entirely without vegetation, and has, I think, been slightly covered by the lake in the spring and summer. Both yesterday and today, considerable quantities of small driftwood was seen lying on the sands — a fact which favors this opinion.

The mirage along the lake shore, and above the moist, oozy plains, has been, for the last two days, very great, giving rise to optical illusions the most grotesque and fantastic, and rendering all estimate of the distance or form of objects vague and uncertain. Two miles farther we reached a small rill of brackish, indifferent water, upon which we bivouacked, fearing to go on, lest we should be left without any.

The evening was mild and bland, and the scene around us one of exciting interest. At our feet and on each side lay the waters of the Great Salt Lake, which we had so long and so ardently desired to see. They were clear and calm and stretched far to the south and west. Directly before us, and distant only a few miles, an island rose from eight hundred to one thousand feet in height, while in the distance other and larger ones shot up from the bosom of the waters, their summits appearing to reach the clouds. On the west appeared several dark spots, resembling other islands, but the dreamy haze hovering over this still and solitary sea threw its dim, uncertain veil over the more distant features of the landscape, preventing the eye from discerning any one object with distinctness, while it half revealed the whole, leaving ample scope for the imagination of the beholder. The stillness of the grave seemed to pervade both air and water; and, excepting here and there a solitary wild duck floating motionless on the bosom of the lake, not a living thing was to be seen. The night reconnaissance around Great Salt Lake proved perfectly serene, and a young moon shed its tremulous light upon a sea of profound, unbroken silence. I was surprised to find, although so near a body of the saltiest water, none of that feeling of invigorating freshness which is always experienced when in the vicinity of the ocean. The bleak and naked shores, without a single tree to relieve the eye, presented a scene so different from what I had pictured in my imagination of the beauties of this far-famed spot, that my disappointment was extreme.

Report of the Exploration of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, Howard Stansbury, 1851, BR|A 010320

Stateline, Wendover, Utah / West Wendover, Nevada, 2015, B|RA 011120

Bicyclists, at Smithson's Spiral Jetty, Utah, 2014

(L) Basalt Collected From Hillside Above Smithson's Spiral Jetty, Utah, 2016 (R) Firewood Found at Campsite Near Holt's Sun Tunnels, Utah, 2015, B|RA 010120

Map of the Great Salt Lake and Adjacent Territory of Utah from Stansbury's Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah, Including a Reconnaissance of a New Route Through the Rocky Mountains, 1852, B|RA 010220

Pumping Station, Great Salt Lake Near Promontory Point, Utah, 2017

Overlooking Former Wendover Air Force Base and Enola Gay Hangar, Utah, 2015

Cartographic Drawing, Rozel Point, Utah, 2014, B|RA 010420

Analogous Spiral, Rozel Point, Utah, 2014

Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah, 2015

Communication Towers Overlooking Wendover, Utah, 2015

Tufa Formations, Mono Lake, California, 2016

Mono Lake, California

38°01′00″N, 119°00′34″W

Maps are very elusive things. This map of Mono Lake is a map that tells you how to get nowhere. Mono Lake is in northern California and I chose this site because it had a great abundance of cinders and pumice, a fine granular material. The lake itself is a salt lake. If you look at the map, you’ll see it is in the shape of a margin. It has no center. It’s a frame, actually. The non-site itself is a square channel that contains the pumice and the cinders that collected around the shores of the lake at a place called Black Point. This type of pumice is indigenous to the whole area.

There’s a central focus point which is the non-site; the site is the unfocused fringe where your mind loses its boundaries and a sense of the oceanic pervades, as it were. I like the idea of quiet catastrophes taking place. The interesting thing about the site is that, unlike the non-site, it throws you out to the fringes. In other words, there’s nothing to grasp onto except the cinders and there’s no way of focusing on a particular place. One might even say that the place has absconded or been lost. This is a map that will take you somewhere, but when you get there you won’t really know where you are. In a sense the non-site is the center of the system, and the site itself is the fringe or the edge. As I look around the margin of this map, I see a ranch, a place called the sulphur pond; falls, and a water tank; the word pumice. But it’s all very elusive. The shorelines tell you nothing about the cinders on the shore. You’re always caught between two worlds, one that is and one that isn’t.

Geologists have found evidence of five periods of glaciation in the Sierra. The first began about half a million years ago, the last ended less than fifteen thousand years ago. The glaciers left prominent marks upon the landscape, they gouged out canyons, broadening and deepening them into U-shaped valleys with steep headwalls and then advanced onto the plain. They built up high parallel ridges of stony debris called moraines. There are all sorts of things like that. The Mono craters are a chain of volcanic cones. Most of them were formed after Lake Russell evaporated. That’s why I like it, because in a sense the whole site tends to evaporate. The closer you think you’re getting to it and the more you circumscribe it, the more it evaporates. It becomes like a mirage and it just disappears. The site is a place where a piece should be but isn’t. The piece that should be there is now somewhere else, usually in a room. Actually, everything that’s of any importance takes place outside the room. But the room reminds us of the limitations of our condition.

Discussions with Heizer, Oppenheim, and Smithson Robert Smithson, 1970, B|RA 011220

Tufa Formations, Mono Lake, California, 2016

Tufa Formations, Mono Lake, California, 2016

Overlooking Mono Basin Near Mono Lake, California, 2016

Centrocercus Urophasianus, Greater Sage-Grouse by John James Audubon, B|RA 011020

Tufa Island, Mono Lake, California, 2016

Tufa Formations and Path, Mono Lake, California, 2016

United States Geological Survey Topographic Map, California - Mt. Lyell Quadrangle, 1910, B|RA 010520

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Infrastructure, California, 2017

Owens Lake, California

36°25'59.77" N, 117°57'3.30" W

Gentlemen, today you can walk out that door, turn right, hop on a streetcar and in twenty-five minutes end up smack in the Pacific Ocean. Now you can swim in it, you can fish in it, you can sail in it - but you can’t drink it, you can’t water your lawns with it, you can’t irrigate an orange grove with it. Remember, we live next door to the ocean but we also live on the edge of the desert. Los Angeles is a desert community. Beneath this building, beneath every street there’s a desert. Without water the dust will rise up and cover us as though we’d never existed! The Alto Vallejo can save us from that, and I respectfully suggest that eight and a half million dollars is a fair price to pay to keep the desert from our streets and not on top of them.

Cross - Hollie was always fond of tide-pools. You know what he used to say about them?

Gittes - Haven’t the faintest idea.

Cross - That’s where life begins... marshes, sloughs, tide-pools... he was fascinated by them... you know when we first came out here he figured that if you dumped water onto desert sand it would percolate down into the bedrock and stay there, instead of evaporating the way it does in most reservoirs. You’d lose only twenty percent instead of seventy or eighty. He made this city.

Gittes - And that’s what you were going to do in the Valley?

Cross - No, Mr. Gittes. That’s what I am doing with the Valley. The bond issue passes Tuesday. There’ll be ten million to build an aqueduct and reservoir. I’m doing it.

Gittes - There’s going to be some irate citizens when they find out they’re paying for water they’re not getting.

Cross - That’s all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gittes. Either you bring the water to L.A. - or you bring L.A. to the water.

Gittes - How do you do that?

Cross - Just incorporate the Valley into the city so the water goes to L.A. after all. It’s very simple.

Gittes - How much are you worth?

Cross - I have no idea. How much do you want?

Gittes - Over ten million?

Cross - Oh, my, yes.

Gittes - Then why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can’t already afford?

Cross- The future, Mr. Gittes - the future.

Chinatown, Robert Towne, 1974, B|RA 011320

Owens Lake, California, 2017

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Infrastructure, California, 2017, B|RA 011420

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Infrastructure, California, 2017

Owens Lake, California, 2017

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Infrastructure, California, 2017

(L) Tom Mix, Publicity Photograph, n.d., Includes Inscription "To Win Be a Good Boy", B|RA 010620 (R) LADWP Los Angeles Aqueduct, Metropolitan Aqueduct, and All American Canal Map, 1935, B|RA 010720

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Infrastructure, California, 2017

Jack Nicholson, Chinatown, Director Roman Polanski, 1974 | B|RA 011620

Owens Lake, California, 2017

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Infrastructure, California, 2017

Owens Lake, California, 2017

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Salton Sea, California

33° 18' 32.6952'' N, 116° 7' 10.1712'' W

The geological and biological processes of the surface layers of the earth's crust are profoundly different under subaerial exposures to those which prevail under subaqueous conditions. Any region, therefore, which may be subjected to submergence and to weathering, alternately, will offer a changing complex of environic conditions, with accompanying disturbances in the balance and distributional movements of the organisms of the region. The solid ground, in one case, is subject to the erosion of precipitation-water and stream flow, coupled with a leaching action of the water, while surface material will be variously transported and deposited. Wind effects will vary widely with aridity and other climatic features, while precipitation, evaporation, and temperature will act as determinants as to the character of the living forms supported.

The submersion of any area may be expected to be followed by the complete or nearly complete destruction of the land flora and fauna. The temperature of the substratum is equalized, variations in moisture disappear, wind comes in only as an agency for transporting propagative bodies and as a cause of wave-action, sorting, wearing, and depositing material along shorelines. The deposition of sedimentary material in submerged areas under lakes takes place in such manner as to be easily distinguishable from the effects of stream-action.

The superposition of the two groups of effects in any region such as the lowermost part of a desert basin, especially when submergence and desiccation alternate at intervals of sufficient length to give full force to the two extremes, might be expected to offer highly unusual physical conditions of the surface layers and of the soil, to which organisms would be expected to display reactions of interest and importance useful in the interpretation of phytogeographical phenomena in general.

The Salton Sea: A Study Of The Geography, The Geology, The Floristics, And The Ecology Of A Desert Basin, D.T. MacDougal, 1914, B|RA 011520

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Jiaxin, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Salton Sea, California, 2015

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Cahuilla House in the Desert, Edward S. Curtis, 1924, B|RA 010820

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Robert Making Field Notes, Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Three Palms, Near the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, Salton Sea, California, 2015

North Shore, Salton Sea, California, 2015

Dead Tilapia and Various Other Small Fish, Salton Sea, California, 2015

"The Alluring Salton Sea: Gem of the Colorado Desert," Pictorial Map, Helen Burns, 1958, B|RA 010920

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