Laguna Colorada •

Last update: September 20th, 2019 at 2:00 am

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the brightly colored Laguna Colorada in the Bolivian Andes Mountains. The lack of atmospheric haze at high altitude—the lake sits 4,300 meters above sea level (14,100 feet)—helps make images of the region especially clear.

The strong red-brown color of this shallow, 10 kilometer (6 mile) long lake is derived from algae that thrive in its salty water. 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 changing salinity and temperature of the water. As lake water evaporates in the desert climate, it becomes saline. Ancient shorelines show that the lake has been larger in the past.

Laguna Colorada is the center of a wildlife reserve, and it was listed in 1990 as a “Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.” The lake is home to vast numbers of flamingos.

Snow-capped volcanoes appear at the top center and lower left. Access roads on three sides of the lake are used by tourists to visit these other-worldly landscapes.


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