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Pink Lakes Around the World

After working as a chemist at a biotechnology company, I enjoy writing about science, travel, and gardening.

Pink lakes are the result of algae, halophilic bacteria, and archaea in extremely salty water.

Pink lakes are the result of algae, halophilic bacteria, and archaea in extremely salty water.

Countries Around the World with Pink Lakes

There are at least 49 pink lakes around the world, and Australia has at least ten of these fascinating rose colored bodies of water. All pink lakes have high salinity, and the pink color is a result of algae and bacteria that thrive in salt water.

At least 24 countries have pink lakes, including:

  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bolivia
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • India
  • Iran
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Namibia
  • New Zealand
  • Oman
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Spain
  • Tanzania
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America

Some of these lakes are easily accessible, such as Las Coloradas in Mexico. Others are difficult to reach, and might require air travel to be seen from the air. It surprises many people to realize the United States has pink lakes in Utah and San Francisco!

Lake Hillier is the most famous pink lake in the world. The water remains pink when a small sample is taken from the lake.

Lake Hillier is the most famous pink lake in the world. The water remains pink when a small sample is taken from the lake.

Pink Lakes in Australia

With more accessible pink lakes than any other country, Australia is a great location for photographers wanting to get images of this unusual phenomenon.

Lake Hillier, Australia

The pink hue in Lake Hillier does not change when a sample is removed from this Pepto-Bismol colored lake. Algae (Dunaliella Salina) and the presence of red halophilic archaea (Halobacterium cutirubrum) probably contribute to the rosy hue.

Located in a strand of islands called the Recherche Archipelago in Western Australia, the lake has a startling pink color and is often a surprising geographical landmark observed by airline passengers. The lake is located on Middle Island, and is separated from the Southern Ocean by a strip of sand. Evaporation has caused the lake to have a very high concentration of salt, and the entire lake is rimmed in a salty crust.

The lake was mined for salt in the early part of the 20th century, but the practice has been abandoned and the lake is now considered one of Australia's natural wonders.

Hutt Lagoon

Another salty lake in Western Australia, Hutt Lagoon is separated from the Indian Ocean by a narrow strip of land. The lagoon is at a lower elevation than sea level, which allows salt from the nearby ocean to continually seep into the lake.

The lake is largely evaporated in the summer, and exists as a salt flat during the hot months of the year. The lake is filled during the rainy winter season, and obtains its pink color due to the presence of archaea and algae. The lake is only about 3 feet deep, but is 8.6 miles long and 1.4 miles wide during the wet season.

Hutt Lagoon in Western Australia

Hutt Lagoon is located in Western Australia and has pink water.

Hutt Lagoon is located in Western Australia and has pink water.

Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre

The color of this lake will vary from yellow and orange to pink, depending on the season. This particular lake generally exists as a salt pan, but occasionally floods after heavy rains. When full of water, the color is very bright and a sight to behold.

It is located about six hours from Adelaide by car, but tourists could stay in smaller local towns like Roxby Downs for closer access.

Bumbuga

With varying salinity, the water of Lake Bumbuga is not consistently pink. The color will vary between blue, white, and pink as the salt content changes throughout the season, so check the current lake status before venturing out to the shoreline. Fortunately, Bumbuga is one of Australia's most accessible lakes. If the salinity is high enough, it is well worth driving two hours from Adelaide to see the phenomenon.

MacDonnell

With a consistently high salt content, the water in Lake MacDonnell is one of the most vibrant pink lakes in Australia. Adjacent to a blue-green body of water, the contrast in color is striking. Cactus Beach is at the end of the road from this lake, offering tourists a great location to relax and get photos of this natural wonder.

Many pink lakes will vary in color, depending on the salt concentration. Check the local conditions before planning a trip to avoid disappointment!

Many pink lakes will vary in color, depending on the salt concentration. Check the local conditions before planning a trip to avoid disappointment!

Lake Hart

Located in the Outback, this lake is extremely shallow and has very high salinity. The shoreline sparkles in the sun with salt, and the lake is accessible via the Indian Pacific train that travels between Perth and Sydney. The closest city is Woomera for those who would like to stay and explore the area in depth.

Pink Lakes

Five hours from Melbourne by car, Pink Lakes in Victoria is best visited on a cloudy day to see the bright pink color. Be aware that these lakes may appear white, depending on the salinity and time of year. The area is filled with camping and hiking opportunities, so take the time to explore the local nature walks.

Dimboola

This lake is mined for salt, and the Mount Zero Olive company harvests 20 tons of salt annually from Dimboola. Located near Little Desert National Park and not far from Pink Lakes, Victoria, this lake would make an excellent excursion for those already in the area.

Quairading

This lake is best observed in the summer months, when evaporation causes the left side of the lake to turn pink as the salinity increases. The juxtaposition of the pink water with the blue water on the right side of the lake can be striking. The closest major city to this lake is Perth.

Meningie

Located near Mildura, the entire Murray River basin has a high salt content. Australia's only pink salt is mined in this town by the Murray River Salt Company, and the color of Lake Meningie is consistently pink. The closest major city to this wide geographical area is Adelaide.

Other Pink Lakes in Australia:

  • Spencer Lake
  • Crosbie
  • Becking
  • Gairdner
  • Hanson
  • Hardy

Australian Pink Lake Locations

Lake NameCoordinatesNearest City

Lake Hillier

34.0950° S, 123.2028° E

Esperance

Hutt Lagoon

28.1621° S, 114.2450° E

Port Gregory

Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre

28.1750° S, 137.2924° E

Roxby Downs

Lake Bumbuga

33.9274° S, 138.1645° E

Seisia

Lake MacDonnell

32.0495° S, 133.0025° E

Penong

Lake Hart

31.1308° S, 136.3817° E

Woomera

Pink Lakes

33.8424° S, 121.8278° E

Adelaide

Lake Dimboola

36.4068° S, 141.9554° E

Dimboola

Quairading Pink Lake

31.9735° S, 117.5052° E

Quairading

Meningie

35.5864° S, 139.3800° E

Mildura

Azerbaijan: Masazir Lake

Masazirgol, or Masazir lake, is located near Baku, Azerbaijan. The lake is filled with sulphates and has a high level of salinity. A salt mining operation was added to the lake in 2010. The lake is approximately 6.2 square miles in area, and can produce up to 1,735 million tons of salt.

The coordinates for this lake are 40.5081° N, 49.7708° E.

Bolivia: Laguna Colorada

Located very close to the border with Chile, this high-altitude lake attracts hundreds of flamingos. The lake is extremely shallow, with a depth of approximately 3 feet (1 meter), and is scattered with islands made of borax. Since the area is volcanic, the water is warm and can be photographed with steam rising from the surface in the early morning hours. The coordinates for this lake are 22.2083° S, 67.7735° W.

Bolivia's Laguna Colorada is one of the most unique pink lakes in the world.

Bolivia's Laguna Colorada is one of the most unique pink lakes in the world.

Canada: Dusty Rose Lake

Located in British Columbia, Dusty Rose Lake is in Tweedsmuir Park, north of Bella Coola. The lake can be accessed by hiking and climbing Thunder Mountain. The water is a muted pink color and is striking against the natural green mountainside flora. The coordinates for this lake are 52.5608° N, 126.3424° W.

China: Xiechi Lake

The Xiechi Salt Lake, also known as Yuncheng Lake, is the largest body of water in north China. An active salt mine, the pools of varying colors and piles of harvested salt are a photographer's dream. The lake is in the Shanxi province of china, with coordinates of 34.977222°N, 110.987222°E.

The famous fleur de sel is harvested from a pink lake in France.

The famous fleur de sel is harvested from a pink lake in France.

France: Le Salin de Gruissan

The famous fleur de sel (flower of salt) of France is harvested in a pink lake named Le Salin de Gruissan. Located near Narbonne, this lake is easily accessible and tourists are welcomed to the lake. A gift shop selling the famed salt (along with other French specialties) is located onsite.

The coordinates for Gruissan are 43.107° N, 3.088° E.

India: Lonar Lake

This pink crater lake is unusual because it was formed by a meteor impact in Maharashta, India. This lake is not consistently pink, but will change color depending on the salt content of the water. When enough water evaporates, the lake will turn red or pink, depending on the salinity. The geographical coordinates for this lake are 19.9758° N, 76.5069° E.

Iran: Lake Maharloo

Another salt mine, this seasonal lake is located in the highlands of Shiraz. The best time to see the lake is in late summer, when the salinity is high enough to produce a pink hue and before it has evaporated. Once the water has evaporated, a white salt bed is all that remains of this lake.

The coordinates for this lake are 29.4734° N, 52.7670° E.

Kazakhstan: Two Pink Lakes

Kazakhstan sports two pink lakes: Koryakovskoye Ozero and Ozero Bol'shoy Azhbulat.

Koryakovskoye Ozero

Located a mere 289 feet (88 meters) above sea level and is located near the city of Pavlodar. The coordinates for this lake are 52.4086° N, 77.1833° E.

Bol. Azhbulat

This lake is near the Russian border and is also close to Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. The coordinates for this lake are 53.2551° N, 77.4070° E. The salinity of the shoreline varies considerably, and this lake is not reliably pink.

Lake Magadi is located in Kenya. The lake is a refuge for flamingos and is mined for sodium carbonate, or washing soda.

Lake Magadi is located in Kenya. The lake is a refuge for flamingos and is mined for sodium carbonate, or washing soda.

Kenya: Lake Magadi

Lake Magadi is an alkaline saline lake. The lake contains high concentrations of sodium carbonate and sodium sesquicarbonate. The lake is surrounded by massive salt flats, and flamingos flock to its waters because the salt flats create a natural barrier to predatory animals. The precipitated salt is sometimes 130 feet deep!

The lake used to be a freshwater lake, but volcanic sediments and evaporation have increased the salinity and alkalinity of the lake over the past few thousand years. In addition, saline hot springs continually feed the lake with alkaline, hot water. The hot springs in the area produce water as hot as 187°F (86°C).

The lake is now mined by the Magadi Soda Factory, which produces soda ash (washing soda) from the water.

Mexico: Las Coloradas

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Las Coloradas (Rio Lagartos) is extremely easy to access with a tour guide in Mexico. The area is frequented by flamingos and is approximately three and a half hours from Cancun by car. An active salt mine, this water remains pink throughout the year and is frequently photographed by tourists.

The pink lake in Rio Lagarto, Mexico is one of the most photographed pink lakes in the world due to tourism in the area.

The pink lake in Rio Lagarto, Mexico is one of the most photographed pink lakes in the world due to tourism in the area.

Namibia: Walvis Bay

The coastal shoreline near Langstrand has a lake that often turns pink as water evaporates. Flamingos frequent the area and salt is mined in the area, comprising 90% of salt production in sub-saharan Africa. Flights to Walvis Bay can be obtained from New Delhi, India using Air India or Air Namibia.

New Zealand: Champagne Pool

A geothermal, boiling hot spring rimmed in pink tones is New Zealand's unusual contribution to pink bodies of water. Champagne Pool is not truly pink, however, and is only rimmed with the bright color due to bacteria living in the warm water. Champagne pool is located Waiotapu geothermal area on the North Island.

Oman: (Al Suwaih) Al Jazir

Located three hours by car from Muscat, the pink lakes are separated from the sea by a road. Unfortunate birds occasionally try to drink from this lake, which leads to their demise. The salt content of this lake is extremely high, and the lake is easily accessible from the road. The coordinates for this beach area are 23.8262° N, 57.4288° E. This area has become a tourist destination in Oman.

Russia: Two Salt Lakes

Sivash Salt Lagoon

This particular body of water is known as the "Rotten Sea," an unpleasant moniker for the pink lakes on the shore of the Sea of Azov. The lakes on the eastern side of the area are not pink as the salt content is not high enough for the algae to grow, but the water on the west side is pink.

Lake Burlinskoye (Bursol)

This Siberian lake turns pink in the summer when water evaporates. This lake is close to the border with Kazakhstan and has a train that runs directly through the middle of the lake.

Train in Russian Pink Lake

Saudi Arabia: Salty Lagoon in Jeddah

This lake is easily accessed and is located in the city of Jeddah. The water is only pink when the water is above 21°C, however, so visit the lake in the summertime. The salt concentration of this lake is between 15%-30%, significantly higher in concentration than the 3.5% concentration of seawater.

Lac Rose in Senegal is pink, and is mined for its salt.

Lac Rose in Senegal is pink, and is mined for its salt.

Senegal: Lake Retba

Located in Senegal, Lake Retba, or Lac Rose, is known for its amazing pink color. Like all of the other pink lakes, Lac Rose has an extremely high level of salt in its water. The lake is mined for salt, and local salt collectors must rub their bodies in Shea butter prior to spending 6-7 hours in the harsh, salty environment.

As with the other salty lakes, Retba is shallow. The maximum depth of the lake is only 3 meters, or about 10 feet deep. The lake has an area of a square mile, and is located about 22 miles from Senegal's capital city of Dakar.

A child plays in the pink waters of a salt lake, located in Spain.

A child plays in the pink waters of a salt lake, located in Spain.

Spain: Salina de Torrevieja

Torrevieja, located in Alicante, Spain, has two large salt lakes. The "salinas" have been a major producer of salt for Europe since the 19th century, when Swedish and Dutch ships exported the salt to foreign markets. The salt industry is still beneficial to the local population, and a Museum of Sea and Salt is open to educate tourists on the industry.

Torrevieja is now a national park. The two salt lagoons are separated by a small strip of land called the Chaparral. Two channels have been dug to allow the lagoons to communicate with the sea: this forms the basis for the local salt mining operation.

Tanzania: Lake Natron

This lake is unique because it is a soda lake, with highly alkaline water. Despite the high pH, it is a breeding ground for flamingos and is a bright pink color. The pH of this lake can be as high as 10.5, causing animals to occasionally perish after drinking the water. Animals that die in this lake are often mummified by high levels of calcium carbonate, resulting in the legend that this lake turns animals to stone. The lake is located to the west of Serengeti National Park.

Tunisia: Four Salt Lakes

Chott El Djerid

The largest salt pan of the Sahara Desert, this lake contains water in the winter months. Depending on the quantity of water, the lake may appear as a salt bed, white, or pink.

Sebkhet de Sidi El Hani

This lake is near the city of Sousse and is less reliably pink than other salt lakes in the region. This lake completely evaporates in the summer and will appear as a white salt flat.

Sebkha Of Moknine

When filled with water, this salt flat ranges in color from white to red. The lake is near Moknine, Tunisia and is located near the Mediterranean Sea.

Sebkhet El Rharra

This lake is not reliably pink, but will occasionally turn this hue in the right season. It is located in Soussa, near Sebkhet de Sidi El Hani.

Turkey: Tuz Gola

Tuz Gola is a seasonal lake that evaporates completely in the summer, but turns red in the spring when it is filled with water. The closest city is Aksaray and this lake may be reached from the Cappadocia tourist area.

United Arab Emirates: Ras Al Khaimah

A seasonal lake on Saraya Island occasionally turns a rosy color. The islands are just off the shore of Ras Al Khaimah on a peninsula that juts out into the Persian Gulf. The area has many attractions for tourists, including a water park on the mainland.

Ukraine: Lake Koyaskoe

A remote area of Ukraine hosts a seasonal pink lake, located near the Opukskyi Nature Reserve in Crimea. The small lake is not well known to tourists and is only 3 feet (1 meter) deep.

San Francisco has its own pink lakes, the result of salt mining operations in the Bay Area.

San Francisco has its own pink lakes, the result of salt mining operations in the Bay Area.

United States of America: Three States with Pink Lakes

California

San Francisco has salt ponds located at 7380 Morton Ave. in Newark, California. The bright pink color can be sometimes be seen by passengers as they descend into the airport. These ponds were entirely owned by Cargill for salt mining, but many have been returned to the state for a wetlands restoration process.

The salt flats in California's desert also sport a pink color. Owen's lake has very little water, and only a thin layer of brine covers the salty ground. Solar evaporation ponds that once belonged to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass soda ash factory still exist in the area, and are sometimes brilliant red in color. The lake bed is located along Highway 395, just south of Lone Pine.

Nevada

East of Fallon, Nevada are more salt flats. These salt flats are along Highway 50 and are a bright pink color.

Both of these salt flats are due to the presence of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The deep valleys of the Sierra Nevadas created huge lakes - as the lakes have evaporated over time, huge mineral deposits and salt flats were left behind.

Utah

The Great Salt Lake in Utah will turn pink near the spiral jetty when water levels are low enough. This area of the lake is in Corinne, Utah off Spiral Jetty Road. The closest major city is Ogden.

How Do Lakes Turn Pink?

There are many large bodies of water that have a surprising characteristic: the water is a shocking shade of pink! This phenomenon is not due to chemical contamination or pollution. A natural reaction between a certain type of bacteria and algae are responsible for the rose tinted water.

All of the pink lakes around the globe have a common denominator. An extremely high salt content is present in all of the lakes. The extremely salty water allows for three different biological entities that turn the water pink:

  • An algae called Dunaliella salina.
  • A bacteria called Salinobacter ruber.
  • Halophilic archaea

The algae, archaea, and bacteria exist in extremely salty environments. If the salinity in their environment decreases, Halophilic archaea, Dunaliella and Salinobacter all perish. Since all require salt to survive, they are termed halophiles (literally, "salt-lovers").

Algae tints the water with β-carotene, an anti-oxidant that gives carrots an orange color. It uses carotenoid pigments as protection from strong light. Orange patches may appear in the water where high concentrations of Dunaliella exist.

It is believed the algae is not primarily responsible for the pink coloration, however. A halophilic bacteria named Salinobacter ruber may also contribute to the pink coloration. Salinobacter produces a caretenoid-like pigment.

The primary cause behind the vast majority of pink lakes is a single-celled organism called Halophilic Archaea. These single-celled organisms have no cell nucleus and no cellular organelles, and are distinct from bacteria. These archaea will not grow in salt concentrations less than 20%, so only very salty bodies of water will support the archaea and develop the pink coloration.

Sources

  1. Teller, J. T. (1987). The pink colour of lakes, with an example from Australia. Journal of Arid Environments, 12(2), 101–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-1963(18)31179-0
  2. Vega-Cendejas, M. E., & Hernández de Santillana, M. (2004). Fish community structure and dynamics in a coastal hypersaline lagoon: Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 60(2), 285–299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2004.01.005
  3. Shadrin, N., Zheng, M. & Oren, A. Past, present and future of saline lakes: research for global sustainable development. Chin. J. Ocean. Limnol. 33, 1349–1353 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00343-015-5157-8
  4. Clarisse, L., Van Damme, M., Gardner, W. et al. Atmospheric ammonia (NH3) emanations from Lake Natron’s saline mudflats. Sci Rep 9, 4441 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39935-3
  5. Loukas, A., Kappas, I. & Abatzopoulos, T.J. HaloDom: a new database of halophiles across all life domains. J of Biol Res-Thessaloniki 25, 2 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40709-017-0072-0
  6. Abdallah MB, Karray F, Mhiri N, Mei N, Quéméneur M, Cayol JL, Erauso G, Tholozan JL, Alazard D, Sayadi S. Prokaryotic diversity in a Tunisian hypersaline lake, Chott El Jerid. Extremophiles. 2016 Mar;20(2):125-38. doi: 10.1007/s00792-015-0805-7. Epub 2016 Jan 2. PMID: 26724953.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Leah Lefler

Comments

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 18, 2015:

I would desperately love to see one of these lakes in person - the lake in Australia is absolutely stunning!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 02, 2015:

Leah, this was a real fascinating read about those pink lakes around the world. Thanks for sharing.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 21, 2013:

I'm keen on the one in Kenya, Alicia - the idea of a lake made alkaline with natural sodium carbonate (washing soda) fascinates me. The pink water and flamingos sound so cool!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 21, 2013:

This is such an interesting topic, Leah! Thanks for sharing the information and the photos. I'd love to see some of these lakes in real life.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 16, 2013:

They're really interesting, aren't they? Some of them are strikingly pink (like Lake Hillier) and others are only pink in the right season (dependent on algae and archaea growth). Too bad we don't have one in Western NY, Lipnancy!

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on January 16, 2013:

I had never heard of a pink lake. This information was new to me.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 14, 2013:

I do think one would get weary of traveling non-stop, Peggy - it does feel good to come home after a vacation. I do love seeing different parts of the world, though, and would love to do a bit more travel! I have friends in Australia, so maybe I'll make it to Lake Hillier one day!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 13, 2013:

And I second your last comment Leah. I would probably want to take a break from traveling full-time...but it would certainly be nice to be able to do it whenever one would like. The saltiest lake that I ever saw in person was Salt Lake in Utah but it was not pink in color. Would be fascinating to see a pink lake knowing what caused it. Thanks for the education. Up, useful and interesting votes.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 02, 2013:

If I had a million dollars, teaches12345, I would travel full-time. I just love seeing all of the amazing places that exist on our planet!

Dianna Mendez on January 01, 2013:

Really interesting post, Leah. I didn't know there were pink lakes. I would love to see one up close some day. Voted up.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 01, 2013:

I love it, Rose - especially Lake Magadi. It is pink for two reasons: the archaea in its waters, and the flamingos that live along its shores! I'd love to see that lake in particular. I'd love to travel to see all of the pink lakes! I have seen the salt flats in California, as we used to live there and travel to Mammoth frequently.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 31, 2012:

What an interesting phenomenon! I had no idea. Thanks for the great information.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on December 31, 2012:

The color is really startling. If you remove the water into a separate container, the water remains pink in color - Lake Hillier is on my bucket list. I'd love to see it in person!

Claudia Mitchell on December 31, 2012:

Fascinating. Did not know there were such things as pink lakes. Thanks for introducing them to us.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on December 30, 2012:

Thank you, Louise - I thought the pink lakes were fascinating. Lake Hillier in Australia is such a striking shade of pink, it is almost unbelievable!

Louise Hagan on December 30, 2012:

Informative and fascinating. More articles of geological interest would be great. Thanks.

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