Although I’m working today in the photography studio at Studios on the Park in downtown Paso Robles, California, I wanted to add a brief post to my web blog of two very interesting places I encountered while exploring historic Route 66 in California’s magnificent Mojave Desert. The first image below depicts one of the numerous salt evaporation (solar) ponds located near the deserted town of Amboy in San Bernardino County, California. Amboy is located on the National Trails Highway along the original U.S. Route 66 and is home to the famous but now defunct Roy’s Motel and Cafe, a great example of mid-century modern architecture.
Located a few miles south of Amboy along Amboy Road (enroute to the desert towns of Twentynine Palms and Palm Springs), this is one of dozens of ponds operated and mined by the National Chloride Company of America to produce calcium chloride. Salt evaporation ponds, also called salterns or salt pans, are shallow artificial ponds designed to produce salts from sea water or other brines. The seawater or brine is commonly fed into large ponds and water is drawn out through natural evaporation, which allows the salt to be subsequently harvested. In this case, however, the naturally occurring underground brines from Bristol Dry Lake allow the harvesting of salt by digging deep canals or pits into the dry lake bed. The ponds are commonly separated by levees and make wonderful photographic subjects. Dozens of these ponds can be seen from the road, which appear to be lush swimming pools in the otherwise harsh desert.
Pictured above is Roy’s Motel and Cafe, a defunct motel, cafe, gas station, and auto repair shop in Amboy, located directly on old Route 66. This historic site is a prime example of roadside, mid-century modern Googie architecture, and is a great example of architecture influenced by car culture and the space/atomic age. Plans have been underway for many years to remodel and reopen the old cafe; however, these plans have yet to come to fruition. If you are traveling in the Mojave Desert, I highly recommend taking a detour and visiting Amboy.