The Tumamoc Yacht Club


The National Historic Landmark that is still making history.

In the beginning, a vast expanse of dry wasteland — lower than the sea itself — covered a goodly part of the Imperial Valley of California. And the people called it The Salton Sink. And a broad river bordered the valley on the East. And they called it The Colorado River.

And it was good in the valley, every evening and every morning.

It came to pass that the developers and the builders of canals saw the valley. And in the first days of the Twentieth Century, the minions of the California Development Company fixed their hearts to take some of the waters of the Colorado and bring forth new farms out of the dry land. But lo they brought forth a flood instead. All the waters of the Colorado poured into the Salton Sink. And the Colorado was made dry. And the Salton was made into a Sea, fifteen leagues long, five leagues wide and fifty-five cubits deep.

Yea, the waters closed up over village and small farm and salt-bed, and over the iron paths that carried the great engines that brought food and clothing to those who dwelt in the valley, and also took away their goods to market in the cities of the land. And all the desert plants died, too, drowned like the unicorn. It was not good. And all agreed that the builders of canals and breachers of the river bank had seen too many evenings and too many mornings in the Imperial Valley of California.

And the Kings of the Southern Pacific Railroad heard the wailing, for indeed, their own stations and sidings in the valley were covered over by the waters. And they struggled to rebuild eighteen leagues of iron paths that were swallowed up by the flood. And their bottom line suffered. So they made haste and sent silver and gold and their best engineers to make the Colorado River flow with water again. And the engineers came with their big brains and thought deeply and worked out how to do it. And so, in the second month of 1907, the waters in the Salton Sea rose up as high as they would go and then began to fall. Slowly the land began to dry out.

Now at that same time, a hundred leagues to the East in the land of Arizona, a group of natural philosophers had gathered at the Hill of Tumamoc near the City of Tucson to make their homes together and to ponder the lives of plants, especially desert plants. They called themselves botanists and they were given sustenance by earls of the Emperor Carnegie, a force for good in the land. Soon messengers came to tell them that the Salton Sea was going slowly to dry up. And the philosophers knew that plants would begin soon to grow again on the dried out edges of the Salton Sea.

Verily, the philosophers were overcome with joy. If they made haste, they could contemplate the plant life as it grew back after the great flood. And verily, their hearts wished nothing more.

So they sent forth their champion, Godfrey son of Godfrey the Sykes, to prepare them a boat. And they would encompass the entire shore of the Salton and contemplate the wonder of it. And Godfrey took no one with him, for none but he knew how to build a boat. And any others would have been kibbitzers and gotten in the way. But Godfrey did take simple carpenter's tools wherewith to fashion the boat, and also a humble shelter, and food with which to sustain his soul. And Godfrey came to the shore of the Sea, and pitched his tent, and tarried, and builded a fine sailboat.

Soon the philosophers ventured out, bringing their magical lenses, and their imaging boxes, and films of miraculous silver salt that could long remember the luminous images that shined on them, and presses with which to make plant mummies. For two weeks they did sail, all of them, around the Salton shore contemplating the wonder and collecting images and plant mummies to contemplate at home. And lo, the time came to return to the land of Arizona.

The philosophers afloat on the Salton Sea in 1907.

But they were grievously sad about their sailboat. It was too big for a railroad berth and the semi-trailer had not yet been invented. And woe, even if they strove mightily to bring it home, where would be its house? And so their chieftain, the MacDougal, decided for them. He beckoned a poor local farmer whose land had been engulfed by the flood. And he bestowed the boat and all its remaining foodstuffs on the man. And the man sailed away.

But mark you! The wrath of the Sykes was kindled. He swore an oath that he would build now a true boathouse. And he would build more boats therein and store them away therein. And nevermore would he have to forsake his handiwork at the shore of the Salton Sea. And so it was.

Godfrey the Sykes sojourned for many years in Arizona. And he builded there a fair little boathouse at the foot of the Hill of Tumamoc. As the years passed, he builded therein many boats, even kayaks and even a mighty powercraft. Whereupon, the philosophers of Tumamoc returned to the Salton each year, yea for fifteen years, to chronicle the recovery of the plants. And Chieftain MacDougal recorded all that they saw in the book of The Salton Sea.

And that is why, to this very day, all good desert laboratories have a boathouse. You see, they can never be sure when the builders of canals and breachers of the river banks will return.

Tumamoc's boathouse.