Bolivia's Bizarre Red-Orange Lake Is Spied From Space

As far as bizarre waterways go, Bolivia's Laguna Colorada is in a class by itself. Continue reading →

OK, so we've shown you some pictures of strangely-hued bodies of water in past, such as Australia's pink Lake Hillier. But Laguna Colorada, nestled at 14,000 feet in the Bolivian Andes, is in a class by itself when it comes to being exotic.

As you can see from this photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, the shallow, six-mile long, 15,000-acre lake is a rusty orange-red color, as the result of algae that thrive in its salty water.

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Oddly, the lake is also filled with white islands, which actually are massive mounds of borax, a mineral used in paint, glass, and in a cleaning product famous for its sponsorship of the classic TV western "Death Valley Days."

If that's not a sufficiently strange color scheme, don't worry. Occasionally the lake has green phases as well because different algae display different colors. The type of algae at any given time is determined by the relative salinity, which changes as warmer weather causes some of the lake to evaporate, and the temperature of the water itself, according to NASA Earth Observatory.

The algae in Laguna Colorada provide more than just pigment. They're also a food source for flamingos. The lake is home to a particularly rare species, the Puna or James flamingo, (scientific name Phoenicoparrus jamesi).

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The plain upon which Laguna Colorada is situated also is home to a number of other lagoons with exotic colors, due to mineral deposits in their waters. For example, there's Laguna Verde, which is known for its startling emerald-green shade.

If you're going to visit the lake, pack some warm pajamas. Temperatures in the area can drop to bitterly cold lows overnight, according to the "Rough Guide to Bolivia."

This shot of Bolivia’s Laguna Colorada was taken in April from the International Space Station.

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, satellite imagery courtesy of Digital Globe

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, satellite imagery courtesy of Digital Globe

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