Amazing Places

There's a Polka-Dotted Lake in British Columbia

When you start planning your next summer vacation, be sure to put Osoyoos, British Columbia at the top of your list. Osoyoos is often called "Canada's warmest welcome," with one of the highest annual temperatures in Canada. And it's home to one of the world's most unusual natural wonders: Spotted Lake.

Related: Top 10 Places to View Nature at Its Strangest

Sacred, Spotty, and Salty

Spotted Lake is situated between the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in a British Columbia desert and is considered a sacred medicine site for the Okanagan Syilx people. As a result, it's privately owned by Canada's Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Canada's Okanagan First Nations people gave the lake its alternate name, "Kliluk," which The New York Times notes comes from "the minerals they've used in healing ceremonies for thousands of years." Spotted Lake is surrounded by rock piles called cairns, which the people use to mark graves. But the thing that really makes this natural site so fascinating happens during summer months: The lake evaporates and leaves behind colorful, spotted pools separated by hardened walkways.

But why? This lake is more than a beauty — it's mineral-rich. The spots left after evaporation are concentrations of salt, titanium, calcium, sulfates, silver, and other minerals. Each pool will turn a different shade of green, yellow, and brown depending on the mineral deposits and amount of precipitation that year. Apparently, the best time to catch a glimpse of some technicolor spots is late July.

Are We in Canada or on Mars?

There's more! Because of the lake's salty conditions, the lake can only sustain minimal life. Scientists have even studied Spotted Lake to better understand ancient Martian lakes (whoa). Although a fence gives tourists limited access, Travel + Leisure assures us that you can still gaze upon its polka-dotted glory from a nearby road. When you do visit the sacred site, take heed: First Nations guide Bob Etienne recommends showing respect with an offering.

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For even more one-of-a-kind places, check out the National Geographic book "Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World's Most Amazing Places." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Curiosity Staff February 2, 2017

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