uring the colder months, Spotted Lake's name might not make sense to the casual observer. But when the weather heats up, the lake transforms into a mineral-rich collection of pools that are quite a thing to behold. Seeing the phenomenon up close, though, requires some legwork. You need permission from the local tribes who hold the lake sacred — and from the lake itself.
The so-called Spotted Lake, in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, looks like any other lake most of the time.
It seems like a fairly unassuming body of water, stretching only half a mile long and less than half a mile wide. But what you can’t see is that the lake is extremely salty, and therefore supports very little life.
But when the summer comes and the lake heats up, it's a different story.
Once the water evaporates, the lake becomes a collection of mineral pools of all different colors. And suddenly the name makes sense. But the striking appearance is only the beginning of what makes the lake so interesting.
The lake is also sacred to the local First Nation peoples.
The Okanagan call the lake “Kliluk,” which is what they also call the minerals they’ve drawn from the lake for healing purposes for millennia. They say the lake has a spot for each day of the year, and they aren’t far off. It’s estimated there are about 400 mineral pools during the summer, including a high content of Epsom salts (the stuff that may help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis).
But the sacredness of Spotted Lake isn't the only thing that makes it special.
Many scientists believe the lake’s unique conditions resemble those of ancient lakes on Mars. This has made the site a valuable resource for geologists, who’ve found the mineral makeup of Spotted Lake to be, in fact, very similar to what’s been discovered on Mars.
Many of the lake beds found on Mars share conditions with Spotted Lake.
Unlike many lakes, this one doesn’t have streams attached to it, providing water from an outside source. There’s a term for that: “closed-basin.” Many of the lakes discovered on Mars have also been deemed closed-basin. But getting close enough to the Spotted Lake to study it is not as simple as taking a stroll off the highway.