The South Bay Salt Works, a Photo Journey of the Historic Site
Mar 08, 2017 12:14AM
● By Linda Heath
The South Bay Salt Works, a Photo Journey of the Second Oldest Industry of San Diego and the South Bay.The Salt Works was originally called the La Punta Salt Company (1869-1901) as far back as 1871. It has been in operation since the 1870s and by 1873 it was the only salt works in the US and for Southern California. At the turn to the 20th century it was the primary employer in the Chula Vista area.
In 1902 the Salt Works was purchased and became the Western Salt Company (1902-1999) in the 1910s about 40,000 tons of salt were harvested per year and in 1915 a narrow gauge rail line was installed and crossed over the standard gauge rail line of the San Diego and Arizona Railway. The narrow gauge rails were dismantled in the 1970s except for where it crossed over the other tracks as this is the only instance of this in the US. The tracks are still present and can be seen today,
In 1916 the salt ponds and the Salt Works were destroyed due to flooding and reconstruction began in 1918 and was finally completed in the 1950s. In the 1920s California Chemical Corporation removed Bromine from the salt pond water, and also collected Magnesium Chloride. Bromine collection ended after WWII.
During the 20th Century, and the Salt Works was the second largest producer in the State and as late as 1978 it was the major producer for the tuna industry.
In 1999 the salt ponds were sold to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, transferring the salt ponds to the US Fish and Wildlife Service who leased them for continued salt collection. The leasers were former Western Salt Company and changed the name to the South Bay Salt Works.
In 2005 right of way of the former Coronado Belt Line was designated an Historic by the City of San Diego. This area was later to become the Bayshore Bikeway. Throughout it's history, there was more than a million and a half tons of salt produced, and Gypsum was also extracted during the salt process.
The salt ponds are within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and the salt ponds produce brine shrimp and brine flies which feed many bird species. 94 different bird species reside in the area of the salt ponds including migratory species and 7 are threatened or endangered such as the Least Tern and Gull-billed Tern. In the winter there are tours to see the many bird species who live or visit the ponds.
Eventually the salt works in the next decade or so will revert back to marsh land and will have the buildings re-purposed into other development.
I encourage you to visit this historical site before it is gone and take a tour of the birds and salt ponds. It will be worth the trip.
Linda heath, Senior Reporter digimperialbeach.com