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These Brightly Colored Bodies Of Water Look Like They’re From A Seussian Dreamscape

Updated September 23, 2021 933 votes 134 voters 5k views12 items

List RulesVote up the bodies of water that trip you out.

When many people think of lakes, they think of grayish-blue or grayish-green bodies of water - and that does describe the majority - but there are exceptions to that relatively drab rule. Colored bodies of water like Lake Hillier, Lake Pukaki, Lake Retba, Laguna Colorada, and Blood Falls can be pink, red, neon green, cyan blue, and even rainbow-colored. These wild colors aren't a fever dream - they're a very real natural phenomenon often caused by bacteria, sulfur, or algae.

Some of these lakes are safe to swim in, and others are too dangerous to get anywhere near - but all of them are visually stunning. 

  • 1. Five Flower Lake Changes Color And Doesn't Freeze

    Where It's Located: Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

    Why It's Unusual: Nestled in the valley of the Tibetan Plateau is Jiuzhaigou National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the loveliest natural wonders in the park is Five Flower Lake. The lake has two unique properties: It changes color, and it doesn't freeze in the winter. At any given moment, the water could appear amber yellow, emerald green, dark jade or light turquoise. It might also be ringed with coral. The reasoning for this seems to be the lime, calcium carbonate, and multicolored hydrophytes that are contained within the lake. 

    As for its perpetually unfrozen state, that's because of an underwater hot spring that runs through the lake. Despite the scientific explanation, many of the local residents believe that the lake is holy.

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  • Where It's Located: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    Why It's Unusual: The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the many incredible sights you'll see when you travel to Yellowstone National Park. It's not a lake - actually it's a geyser that's 121 feet deep and has a diameter of 370 feet. In fact, it's so wide and so deep that when a person illegally flew a drone into the geyser, it was never seen again.

    Its water, which is a brilliant blue, is ringed with bands of orange, yellow, and green. These layers exist thanks to thermophilic bacteria that live in the varying temperatures of different parts of the water. The middle is blue thanks to the scattering of blue light wavelengths. 

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  • 3. Lake Natron Is Red Because Of Microorganisms In Its Alkaline Waters That Can Turn Animals To Stone

    Where It's Located: Arusha Region, Tanzania

    Why It's Unusual: Lake Natron's brilliant red color might make it appear enticing, but it's one of the most dangerous bodies of water on the planet. As a salt lake, water flows into it but not out. When the water escapes through evaporation, it leaves a dense concotion of salt and other minerals. While some salt lakes like the Dead Sea are safe to swim in, Lake Natron is not. It's highly alkaline thanks to its high concentration of its namesake mineral, natron. Its pH level is 10.5 - about as high as ammonia. It's also extremely hot - the lake's temperature can climb to 140 degrees. The bacteria that thrive in this caustic environment, cyanobacteria, produce a pink pigment that creates the lake's strange color.

    For this reason, hardly anything lives in the lake aside from a fish called Alcolapia latilabris, algae, and a colony of flamingos that feed on the algae. Unfortunately, the lake's shining surface causes birds and other animals to unwittingly enter the lake, a mistake that turns them into calcified statues. When the water recedes, the stone animals wash up on the shore.

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  • 4. Lake Retba Is Bright Pink Thanks To Sun, Salt, And Algae

    Photo: Anthea Spivey / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Where It's Located: Cap-Vert Peninsula, Senegal

    Why It's Unusual: Lake Retba, also known as Lac Rose, lies extremely close to the Atlantic Ocean. For that reason, its salt content is quite high. A species of bacteria called Dunaliella salina is attracted to the salt, and makes its home beneath the surface. The bacteria produce a red pigment, giving the lake a vivid red hue. Though always visible, the color is at its most striking during Senegal's dry season (November through June) and is slightly less vibrant during the rainy season (July through October).

    Because of its high salt content, the lake is inhospitable to most animals and plants. However, it's quite useful to the locals, who extract salt from the lake and use it to preserve fish.

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