Ah, lakes! Great for fishing, swimming, and paddling. Or… maybe not. From creature features to melt‑your-skin salty, these lakes are among Earth’s weirdest bodies of water.
One peek at Spotted Lake, British Columbia, and you’ll think about your favorite old pajamas. Such pretty polka dots! But on a lake?
Spotted Lake fills a low spot in Canada’s Nk’Mip Desert. The lake is endorheic—that’s geo‑speak for “dead end.” Mineral‑rich water from rain and melting snow flows in, but nothing flows out. In summer, most of the water evaporates. All that’s left is a rainbow of small, mineral‑filled pools. One mineral, magnesium sulfate, forms a white crust that surrounds the pools like
Spotted Lake is no surprise to Canada’s First Nations people. They call it Kliluk, and they’ve known about it for centuries. Each little pool, according to tradition, has its own powerful healing properties. Feeling ill? There’s a pool for that. Poison ivy? Got it covered. One legend even says that during a battle, both sides took a break to heal their wounds together in the medicinal waters. Now, that’s powerful.
Poison or Paradise?
Don’t bother taking a dip in Lake Natron, Tanzania. In the dry season, most of the water evaporates anyway. What’s left is hotter than bathwater, red from bacteria, and super salty from minerals. The water is so harsh it will burn your skin.
Besides, you’d have to compete with millions of loud, smelly lesser flamingos. What’s a nightmare for most animals is a flamingo’s dream. Little islands of salt stick up from the lake bed. The islands are great places to build flamingo nests. The toxic water surrounding them keeps the nests safe. The flamingos themselves have leathery legs that protect them from the water. But if predators try to splash across it for a flamingo snack, they could end up dead.
Every year, most of the world’s lesser flamingos flock to Lake Natron to build their nests on these mini-islands. They turn this hot, deadly lake into a sea of fluttery pink.
Big, bold, cold, and beautiful. That’s Lake Baikal, Russia: Earth’s deepest. It’s more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) deep and 636 kilometers (395 miles) long. More than 300 rivers feed it. During the summer, this huge lake contains a fifth of the planet’s liquid freshwater. Besides being enormous, Lake Baikal is also Earth’s oldest lake. It dates back 25 million years.
Animals here have had a long time to evolve, or change, apart from the rest of the world. Of Lake Baikal’s 1,500 species, many are found nowhere else on Earth.
Lake Baikal’s most famous animal is the nerpa. The nerpa is the only seal on Earth that lives only in freshwater. One of the nerpa’s favorite foods is a little pink fish called golomyanka. The golomyanka is partly transparent! Look carefully and you might spot one, since Lake Baikal is also one of Earth’s clearest lakes.