About Imperial County
Imperial County lies at the southern end of California, with Mexico across its southern boundary. The Colorado River forms the eastern boundary, and it reaches westward from there about halfway across the state. The unique Salton Sea lies in the northeast corner of the county, with the elevation of its shoreline 235 feet below sea level.
Deserts cover Imperial County, with creosote bush, teddy bear cholla, ocotillo and other desert plants covering the lowlands, and rocky, brown- and red-colored mountain peaks rising above. Thanks to irrigation water from the Colorado River, farmland covers the Imperial Valley, a large valley south of the Salton Sea. El Centro, the county seat, and the other major towns in the county lie in the Imperial Valley. Another unique feature of Imperial County is the Imperial Sand Dunes, one of the largest dune fields in North America. Designated as a National Recreational Area, they are one of the most popular dune-buggy sites in the country.
The population of Imperial County is 142,361, as of the year 2000. It covers 4,482 square miles, including 307 square miles of the Salton Sea. It is served by Interstate 8, which crosses from east to west paralleling the Mexican border. California Highway 86 is the main north-south route, passing through the Imperial Valley and along the western shore of the Salton Sea. California Highway 78 connects from the Imperial Valley, past the Imperial Sand Dunes, to the Palo Verde Valley, on the Colorado River.