Traveling Mud Pot

Natural History in the Making

Imperial Valley Mud Pot, December 2020

While it may not look like much, there is a traveling mud pot in Imperial Valley, California, headed toward the Salton Sea. I went down there in November 2018, when the LA Times ran an article on it ( At that time I couldn’t see it since the Union Pacific Railroad had guards protecting their work site as the mud pot (geyser) threatened their main line through the area (former Southern Pacific line).

The mud pot has been known to exist since the 1950s, but in 2015/16, it started moving at the rate of approximately 20 feet per year (! It is the only known moving mud pot.

In the Times article you will see an excellent map & an illustration showing its travel path and how the railroad installed a metal barrier in the ground, trying to stop it. The geyser just dove underground and came back up on the other side of the barrier.

Last week I went again and took these photos. The mud pot is now about 35 feet from the asphalt edge of State Highway 111. Traffic is now routed on a bypass, just to the west ( I was able to park just north of the bypass and walk down the “real” highway to the site of the mud pot. Although there are three low concrete barriers, you can easily walk around them.

Union Pacific rail line can be seen behind the mud pot; the channel cut in the side of the circle drains the water to go under the road.

Will it continue it’s journey to the west? Into the Salton Sea? Only time will tell.

This year has been a struggle for many of us; I am hoping to get back to HistoryTrove more often. This post is a change of pace, but needing to get out and go somewhere that I wouldn’t meet anyone, this trip was perfect.