Traveling end to end across Southern California, I witnessed the attempts people made to transform areas of the desert into their own personal oasis, defying both nature and reason. From what I could tell, the lush palm trees, green lawns and lakes in the towns of this region were nothing but a mirage to most of the people living there.

Without large-scale human intervention, this part of the West could not sustain most of its inhabitants. It is the diversion of rivers and the rapid use of the aquifer that has made it possible for some people to live this dream. For others, this lifestyle was only temporary, ending when the aquifers were depleted and the water ran out.

This was the case for the people of Lake Los Angeles, located within Antelope Valley, where in the 1960s an artificial lake was made to attract land buyers. Left to dry up once the developers sold their land, the empty lake is still colored blue on maps. Similarly, in 1958, a developer bought 80,000 acres of desert land and named it California City with the dream of creating the next Los Angeles. Miles of empty paved grids remain to this day just beyond the limits of a small city that never lived up to its builder’s intentions. It is stories like these that made me wonder, and want to explore, what still remains of this grand dream to populate the beautiful, yet unlivable, desert.