The Mystery of Canada's Magical Spotted Lake

Spotted Lake is located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada. (Photo: Roshan_NG/Shutterstock)

In winter and spring, the lake located northwest of Osoyoos in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley looks just like any other body of water. But as most of the water starts to evaporate in summer, hundreds of huge briny pools are left behind, leaving a polka-dotted landscape of yellow, green and blue spots. The CBC calls the appropriately named Spotted Lake "the most magical place in Canada."

Formation of Colors and Spots

The colorful pools are the result of a high concentration of minerals, including calcium, sodium sulphates and magnesium sulphate that have collected in the water. The minerals and a collection of salts have run off from surrounding hills. The various colors depend on the concentration of minerals in each pool.

Saline pools appear on Canada's Spotted Lake when most of the water evaporates. (Photo: Justin Raycraft/flickr)

A Sacred History

Spotted Lake has been considered a sacred place for centuries by the indigenous people of the Okanagan Nation, according to the British Columbia Visitor Centre. They believed that each of the different circles had different healing and medicinal properties. The lake was originally known to the First Nations of the Okanagan Valley as Kliluk.

The land that surrounds the water was privately owned for many years, but it was acquired for the benefit and use of the Okanagan Nation in 2001. The purchase ensured that the land would be protected from development and restore it as a cultural and environmental site.

During World War I, minerals from the lake were used to manufacture ammunition. The minerals were harvested by laborers, who mined as much as one ton of salt from the lake each day. According to the British Columbia Visitor Centre, stories are that prior to this mineral mining, the "lake displayed an even greater variety of colors and an even greater artistic beauty."

Visitors who want to view the lake can't get too up close and personal. A fence has been erected to protect the area with a sign explaining that it's a culturally and ecologically sensitive area. But there are plenty of good vantage spots along the highway to see the lake's famous polka dots.

Though simple science explains the mystical lake's spots, at least one travel website has a more interesting explanation. Spot Cool Stuff says, "When you visit in person it is more fun to imagine that you are living within the scene of a Dr. Seuss book."