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Lakes and streams

Laguna Verde, Potosí in Bolivia
Laguna Verde, Potosí / Pedro Szekely, / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue Described lakes and streams

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WorldYellow What is included in this category?

This category includes unusual lakes, sea bays and streams of the world. One though should remember the principle of Wondermondo: here the landmarks, in general, are smaller than 500 km³, thus here are not included large lakes or long rivers.

There are many factors that can make lakes, sea bays, or rivers unusual. Below are listed some kinds of these factors.

Crater lakes

Lake of acid in Maly Semiachik crater, Kamchatka
Lake of acid in Maly Semiachik crater / Svíčková, Wikimedia Commons / public domain

Summits of volcanoes often have craters that have been shaped by eruptions. In these craters often are forming lakes and often the unusual chemistry and geothermal energy of volcanoes turn them into unique lakes.

Some lakes in volcanic craters consist of acid. It means – there is no acidic water but just – acid. The acidity of some crater lakes is almost 0 pH – thus in the central part of Kawah Ijen (Indonesia) the acidity is 0,13 pH but Laguna Caliente in Poás volcano (Costa Rica) sometimes is close to the nearly impossible 0 pH.

The unusual chemistry causes the weird color of many crater lakes. These lakes often are light blue, green, and white. Especially interesting are Kelimutu crater lakes (Indonesia) – three closely located lakes, each in its own color.

Under the sea there are even more unusual lakes (!) – such as Daikoku Sulfur Cauldron (Northern Mariana Islands) which is a pool of liquid sulfur.

Lava lakes

Lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo
Lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo / Nina R, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Some 7 – 12 volcanoes in the world contain lava lakes – basically lakes of molten stone. The largest and most impressive among them are lava lakes of Mount Nyiragongo (Congo DR) and Erta Ale“>Erta Ale (Ethiopia) as well as Halemaumau Crater in Kīlauea (Hawaiian Islands, United States).

Lakes in geothermal areas

There are numerous unusual lakes in the world’s geothermal areas. Similar to crater lakes these lakes have unusual chemistry and temperature but can be even more colorful – such as the gaudy lake of the Grand Prismatic Spring (United States) or Champagne Pool (New Zealand). These lakes can have high water temperatures or could be even constantly boiling as Boiling Lake (Dominica).

Lakes in sinkholes

Otjikoto Lake, Namibia
Otjikoto Lake / Ikiwaner, Wikimedia Commons / GNU FDL.

Sinkholes themselves are unusual and impressive landmarks but many sinkholes have lakes in them and these lakes almost always are unusual. Such unusual lakes are El Zacatón (Mexico) with floating limestone islands or Poza Seca (Mexico) which has covered itself with a limestone lid. Very weird are black holes in the Bahamas, such as Black Hole of Andros which contains a heated, acidic layer of bacteria.

Many lakes in sinkholes are just gorgeous – the water here often is lucid and occasional rays of Sunlight the lakes in blue color. Such beautiful lakes are some cenotes in Mexico, such as X’kekén Cenote.

Lakes with unusual ecosystems

Eerie reality in Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Eerie reality in Jellyfish Lake / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Almost every unusual lake has an unusual ecosystem as well. But some are truly weird, such as Jellyfish Lake (Palau) – a small, unique lake with millions of jellyfish in it or Satonda Crater Lake (Indonesia) which in some aspects resembles Precambrian environments.

Arid lakes

In the arid areas of the world lakes also have unusual chemistry and ecology thanks to the high rate of evaporation and lack of rain. Some such lakes have unusual colors such as the green Laguna Verde (Bolivia) or Lake Natron (Tanzania) which in some areas is bright red.

Sometimes such lakes are covered with a crust of salt, such as Lake Afrera (Ethiopia).

Lakes in Antarctica

Some very weird lakes are located in Antarctica. The extreme weather and often – long isolation under the sheet of ice – have created unique lakes, such as Lake Untersee which is supersaturated with oxygen or Lake Bonney which is saturated with nitrous oxide – "laughing gas".

Legendary lakes

Purported image of mokele-mbembe in Lake Tele
Purported image of mokele-mbembe in Lake Tele. Is it the monster or the elephant? / Colorized screenshot from the footage of the Japanese expedition led by Tatsuo Watanabe, in 1987.

Nearly all lakes have legends about them but some are just very unusual. Thus, there are many lakes with purported monsters living in them such as the famous Loch Ness (United Kingdom) or Lake Tele (Republic of the Congo).

Unusual streams

Onyx River - the largest in Antarctica
Onyx River – the largest in Antarctica / P.Wright, US Geological Survey, public domain

Some rivers are very special. Thus, in Antarctica, there is only one proper river – the Onyx River which flows over extremely dry, lifeless plains.

Indecision Creek (United States, Alaska) is a very acidic stream with a pH of 1.2 and smell of sulfur. There are some more hot rivers around the world in geothermal areas, some with acidic water.

Some rivers have unusual ecosystems such as the beautiful Caño Cristales (Colombia) which at certain times of the year are colored in bright red and yellow colors by specific water plants.

Unusual bays

Milky Way cove in Rock Islands, Palau
Milky Way cove in Rock Islands / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Some sea bays also are very unusual. There are sea bays with surreal, turquoise color caused by limestone dust – such as Milky Way (Palau) or Chalk Sound (Turks and Caicos).

There are some bays where the bioluminescence is observed more frequently – such as Rockbay in Jamaica or Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico.

Wondermondo has the following articles about the lakes and streams:

WorldViolet Top 25 lakes and streams


Erta Ale (lava lake)


One of the most active volcanos in the world, with a constant lava lake (sometimes two lakes) in the crater, known since 1906. None of the other known lava lakes in the world have such a long lifetime.

Erta Ale lava lake, Ethiopia
Erta Ale lava lake / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Mount Nyiragongo (lava lake)

Democratic Republic of the Congo

One of the few volcanos in the world with a nearly permanent lava lake in it. Height of the mountain – 3,470 m. The depth of the lava lake has reached up to 600 m. Eruptions produce very fluid lava of a rare type. The speed of lava flows here can reach 100 km/h and the volcano is very steep.

The evilish glow of the lava lake of Mount Nyiragongo
The evilish glow of the lava lake of Mount Nyiragongo / Cai Tjeenk Willink, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Lake Tele

Republic of Congo

Round freshwater lake deep in swampland and rainforest, possible impact crater. According to local stories in this lake and surrounding area lives mokèlé-mbèmbé – a purported giant reptile. This remote area is very rich with rare species of plants and animals including a population of more than 120 thousand gorillas. Many other cryptids were reported, such as mahamba – giant crocodile.

Mysterious Lake Tele, Republic of Congo
Mysterious Lake Tele / Photo courtesy of Tom Klaytor, CC BY 2.0
Lake Assal


One of the most saline lakes in the world, its surface is 155 m below sea level. World’s largest salt reserve, with an estimated 300 million tonnes of salt. The saline brine of the lake at certain lighting has an unusual, bright color. The lake is fed by subsurface geothermal springs.

Lake Assal, Djibouti
Lake Assal / Tyke, / CC BY 3.0
Chinhoyi Caves


Group of legendary, sacred, and very impressive caves with up to 172 meters deep lakes (Sleeping Pool). Extremely high transparency of water where clouds and birds flying over can be seen from 30 meters depth inside the cave lake.

Sleeping Pool in Chinhoyi Caves
Sleeping Pool in Chinhoyi Caves./ Suesen, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Dragon’s Breath Cave


Unique cave with the largest cave lake in the world (except for subglacial lakes). This lake is located some 100 m below the surface, the area of this lake is some 2 ha and it most likely is very deep. Endemic species.

Antarctica and Subantarctic islands

Mount Erebus – the southernmost active volcano (lava lake)


One of the few constantly glowing lava lakes in the world. Here are found large anorthoclase crystals in the center of the caldera of the volcano.

Mount Erebus craters
Mount Erebus craters. / NSF/Josh Landis, Wikimedia Commons / public domain


Kelimutu crater lakes


System of three closely located crater lakes. Each of the lakes has a different, changing color – from bright red to green and blue.

Kelimutu Lakes from above
Kelimutu Lakes from above. / Michael Day, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
Kawah Ijen


Turquoise-colored, extremely acid lake with a diameter of 1 km. Acidity – 0.5 pH. Nearly pure deposits of sulfur are located in the caldera. The burning sulfuric gas creates a very impressive blue flame in the night.

The lake of acid in Ijen Crater, Indonesia
The lake of acid in Ijen Crater / © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, Wikimedia Commons
Hinatuan Enchanted River


Unique monument of nature – deep trench coming from the sea and entering the jungle. It is filled with seawater and reportedly with large sea fish seen in it. The water in this lagoon is deep blue and lucid. Locals consider this place to be enchanted and guarded by superhuman beings.

Australia and Oceania

Champagne Pool

New Zealand

One of the most impressive and unusual hot springs in the world, 65 meters in diameter, and up to 62 meters deep. Spring is filled with 73 °C hot water oversaturated with metalloids and gases, sedimenting bright orange sediments.

Champagne Pool, New Zealand
Champagne Pool / Photo by Mehlführer C, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-2.5
Lake Hillier


Unusual lake in flamboyant rose color, surrounded by lush green forest and the ocean nearby. The unusual color, most likely, is caused by algae Dunaliella salina but the search for the cause continues.

Lake Hillier
Lake Hillier. / Kurioziteti123, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
Rotomairewhenua (Blue Lake)

New Zealand

This lake has the clearest water in the world – visibility reaches 80 m. Lake is fed by springs and is located at a height of 1200 m.

North America

Sistema Zacaton


Unique karst field created by thermal acidic waters heated by volcanic heat. Contains the world’s deepest water-filled sinkhole, the 339 meters deep El Zacatón sinkhole with 319 meters deep lake, and floating islands. Poza Seca is one of the unique travertine-capped sinkholes of Sistema Zacatón – here the formerly open sinkhole has sealed itself with a limestone lid. Most likely it hides unknown life forms, not investigated.

El Zacaton and Nacimiento spring
El Zacaton and Nacimiento spring / Popurrí de Viajes, screenshot from Youtube video
El Zacaton sinkhole


The second deepest water-filled sinkhole in the world. The total depth of the sinkhole is 339 m, and the lake is 319 m deep. On the surface of the lake, there are floating several round travertine islands. Lake is formed by volcanically heated acidic groundwater.

Poza del Zacatón, Mexico
Poza del Zacatón / Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Masaya volcano (lava lake)


Very active and unusual volcano (635 m) with several active craters. Santiago crater emits large amounts of sulfur dioxide that created acid rain and eliminated vegetation around the volcano. Masaya crater contains intermittent lava lakes – in 1670 in Nindiri crater it was up to 1 km large, by far the largest known lava lake.

Lava lake of Masaya Volcano
Lava lake of Masaya Volcano. / Jorge Mejía peralta, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Cenote Angelita


Unique water-filled sinkhole with a ghostly layer of hydrogen sulfate at the depth of some 30 m and seawater below it.

Diving in Cenote Angelita
Diving in Cenote Angelita / AB TV, screenshot from Youtube video
Black Hole of Andros


300 m wide and up to 47 m deep round water-filled sinkhole with a layer of violet jelly layer of bacteria at 18 meters depth. Microorganisms have heated up the water to 40°C.

Cross section of South Andros Black Hole in south-north direction, compared with Boeing 747-400
Cross section of South Andros Black Hole in south-north direction, compared with Boeing 747-400 / Gatis Pāvils, basing on S.Schwabe, R.A.Herbert, 2005, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Crater Lake (Oregon)

United States

Round, beautiful lake in the caldera of Mount Mazuma volcano. The caldera is 655 m deep and formed geologically recently: 7,700 years ago when the volcano collapsed. The lake is 594 m deep – the deepest in the United States.

Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon./ apasciuto, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Boiling Lake


Flooded fumarole, filled with bubbling greyish-blue water and enveloped in steam. The diameter of this lake is some 63 m. The temperature of the water is 82 – 100 C°. In the late 19th century in the center of the lake formed a geyser that was up to 18 m high. Second largest boiling lake in the world.

Boiling Lake, Dominica
Boiling Lake / Jean & Nathallie, / CC BY 2.0
Mono Lake

United States

Lake with alkaline water and characteristic, eerie tufa towers. Lake has an unusual, very productive ecosystem that includes also the unique bacteria GFAJ-1 which uses arsenic in its cellular structure. Here live also other endemic species, e.g. Mono Lake brine shrimp (Artemia monica). Paoha island in the lake contains many hot springs and fumaroles.

Mono Lake
Mono Lake. / ™ Pacheco, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
La Brea pitch lake

Trinidad and Tobago

Natural asphalt lake, the largest in the world. In some areas, one can sink into the asphalt if he stands in one place long enough. Water on the surface of asphalt may become sulfurous. Contains a unique ecosystem of microorganisms.

La Brea pitch lake, Trinidad and Tobago
La Brea pitch lake / Shriram Rajagopalan, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

South America

Caño Cristales


A unique river. Its bottom is covered with the endemic Macarenia clavigera plants. From late July to November, these plants turn bright red. Then this colorful river is one of the most spectacular sights in Colombia.

Caño Cristales with waterfall and the red Macarenia clavigera, Colombia. September 2012
Caño Cristales with waterfall and the red Macarenia clavigera. September 2012 / Mario Carvajal, / CC BY-SA 3.0
Laguna Roja


Bright red lake fed by hot springs, 40 – 50 °C warm, with travertine formations around the lake. Nearby also yellow and green lakes. Lakes are located at 3,700 m above sea level.

Laguna Colorada


Shallow salt lake with interesting geology. The water of the lake is colored by algae in red and orange colors. In the lake have formed borax islands in white color. Here live the rare James’s flamingos (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) – this is the highest habitat of flamingos.

Laguna Colorada, Potosí in Bolivia
Laguna Colorada, Potosí/ Valdiney Pimenta, / CC BY 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Polar Lakes and Rivers

This is the first book to describe the ecology of high latitude lakes, rivers, and glacial environments in both the North and South polar regions. From the lake-rich floodplains of the Arctic to the deep, enigmatic waters of Lake Vostok, Antarctica, these regions contain some of the most extraordinary aquatic ecosystems on Earth.

Limnology, Third Edition: Lake and River Ecosystems

Limnology is the study of the structural and functional interrelationships of organisms of inland waters as they are affected by their dynamic physical, chemical, and biotic environments. Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems, Third Edition, is a new edition of this established classic text. The coverage remains rigorous and uncompromising and has been thoroughly reviewed and updated with evolving recent research results and theoretical understanding.

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5 years ago

We have also a beautiful hot spring lakes at MINAHASA highland North SULAWESI Indonesia. Best regards.