Back in the swinging 1950s, Bombay Beach was popular as a resort town on the Salton Sea. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Jerry Lewis visited many of the luxury resorts. Bombay Beach had fancy hotels, a yacht club, and other resort-style businesses and amenities. The area was a popular spot for fishing, boating, and water skiing.

By the 1970s, the lake began to shrink while the salinity increased. Chemical runoff from nearby farms started to pollute the water. The area became toxic and the shorelines were littered with rotting fish carcasses. The wildlife began to die off and people abandoned the area. By the 1980s, it became an apocalyptic wasteland.

Today, Bombay Beach maintains a small community of residents living in mostly dilapidated houses. Artists are attracted to Bombay Beach as an area to create environmental art and installations.