Nature’s beguiling beauty: the world’s hellish lakes

10 Lakes on Earth that are better not to visit

When it comes to weird (and scary) natural phenomena, lakes hardly come to mind. And for good reason! Serene bodies of water harbor many dangers and are stunning with almost fantastic features.

Killer lakes, ghost lakes, cemetery lakes and other stunning lakes are in our selection.

Lake Gafsa, Tunisia

“Nothing comes out of nowhere” is a maxim we’ve known since high school. Lake Gafsa decided to disregard this rule: one day it just appeared in the middle of the desert in Tunisia. In 2014, local shepherds, following their usual path, suddenly discovered a huge body of water that had never been hinted at before. Scientists speculate that the lake may have resulted from seismic activity, a rupture that occurred at the water table. However, there is still no explanation as to how it could have happened so quickly.

Lake Roopkund, India

Also known as Skeleton Lake. There are a number of things you probably wouldn’t want to find when swimming in the lake. For example, the decomposing remains of hundreds of people who died a monstrous death. This is what British troops found in the high mountain lake of Roopkund in the winter of 1942. Examination of the remains showed that the people died around 850 A.D. They all died from a blow to the head, and the size and shape of the injury is not consistent with any weapon known to man. So what could have killed 200 people in one moment? Scientists have put forward different versions, even crazy: blizzard, avalanche, an epidemic of a strange disease, a mass suicide. But later research has disproved this: it turned out that hail was to blame. The hailstones could reach up to 7 cm in diameter, and travelers who did not make it to shelter had no chance of escape. Over time, the valley filled with water, forming such a cemetery lake.

Nyos, Cameroon

Imagine: you return home after a vacation and your whole neighborhood is extinct, mountains of corpses with faces distorted in horror at every turn. What is it? A terrorist attack? A virus? An alien attack? No, just a lake.

In 1986, Lake Nyos had a disaster that took the lives of more than 1,700 people and 3,500 animals. While someone was eating dinner, sleeping, peacefully strolling around, the lake released a huge amount of carbon dioxide gas, CO2. A cloud of deadly gas enveloped everything around, people and animals within a radius of 25 km suddenly began to suffocate and died of suffocation within minutes.

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The fact is that Lake Nyos was formed from a volcanic crater, underneath it at great depth there is a magma, which continuously releases carbon dioxide. The gas rises up and dissolves in the groundwater. The so-called limnological catastrophe was triggered by one of nature’s phenomena – a landslide, collapse, earthquake, or underwater volcanic eruption.

Lake Peñor, Louisiana, USA

It was a favorite vacation spot among the locals until disaster struck. A Tejaso oil and gas company was looking for oil under the bottom of the lake. Beneath the lake was another company’s salt mine. Careless drilling punched a hole in the salt vault of the mine, and it was just like a disaster movie. Water instantly rushed into the salt tunnels, demolishing everything in its path. A gigantic whirlpool was created in the lake, which sucked in the tugboat, rig, barges, docks, houses, trucks, even the island with the botanical garden.

More than 13 billion liters of water left the lake in a matter of hours! The lake was connected by a strait to the Gulf of Mexico, and when the water began to leave, the salty waters of the gulf gushed into the lake. At some point a geyser over 100 meters high erupted from the lake, blowing up a mixture of water and rocks. It is surprising that despite all this apocalypse, nobody (except the lake itself) was killed – both miners and oil rig workers managed to get out of the hellish sinkhole. True, the disaster has completely changed the ecosystem of the lake: instead of fresh water the reservoir has become full of salt water and, accordingly, instead of fresh water inhabitants there are now marine species of plants and animals.

Lake at Batou, China (Inner Mongolia)

This lake has no name. That’s because it is young. And maybe also because you don’t want to name everything. The toxic lake of Batou is an artificial water body, resulting from the active extraction and processing of minerals. Batou is the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia, and the nightmare lake is the price of technological progress. No, this is not a lake with just poisoned water. It is a gigantic, endless lake of black mud, exuding a horrible smell. Nothing grows in the area, no flora or fauna, just the smell of sulfur, the noise of factories, and a wild monochrome world. And it seems kind of surreal.

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Most of our gadgets are created with minerals that are mined in Batou. But another interesting thing is that one of the uses of the mined rocks is green technology, like wind turbines. It turns out that the dirtiest place on the planet appeared also because of our love for “eco”.

Lake Natron, Tanzania

Every living thing that touches the lake freezes like a statue. Doesn’t that sound like the motif of a fairy tale? Nevertheless, it’s a fact: the lake is surrounded by “statues” of animals that find themselves too close to its dangerous waters. And there is no magic here. Natron is a salty and alkaline lake, in some places the pH ranges from 9 to 10.5 and the temperature can reach 50 degrees Celsius. The lake is covered with a crust of salt that can turn red or pink. Because of the temperature and alkalinity, many animals die when they enter the water, and their remains are covered with minerals, essentially becoming stone sculptures. But small flamingos live here, and the “fiery” waters of the lake protect them from treacherous predators.

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Lake Nyos can be called a mass murderer. It became world famous because of the terrible event that occurred on August 21, 1985. A cloud of suffocating gas rose from the lake, the victims of which were 1,746 residents of neighboring villages. All domestic livestock, birds and even insects died together with the people. Scientists from all over the world who came to the place of the tragedy found that the lake is located in the crater of the volcano, which everyone thought to be dormant. Carbon dioxide was flowing into the water through cracks at the bottom. When the gas had reached its maximum concentration, it burst to the surface in huge bubbles. The wind carried the cloud of gas to the settlements, where it destroyed all life. Scientists say the carbon dioxide continues to flow into the lake and another release can be expected.

2. Blue Lake (Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia)


A blue karst abyss in Kabardino-Balkaria. No river flows into the lake from the outside; it is fed by underground springs. The blue color of the lake is due to the high hydrogen sulfide content in the water. What makes this lake eerie is the fact that no one has been able to figure out its depth. The fact is that the bottom consists of a branched system of caves. Researchers have not yet been able to figure out what the lowest point of this karst lake is. It is believed that under the Blue Lake is the largest underwater cave system in the world.

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3. Natron (Tanzania)


Lake Natron in Tanzania not only kills its inhabitants, but also mummifies their bodies. There are mummified flamingos, small birds, and bats on the shores of the lake. The creepiest thing is that the victims are frozen in their natural poses with their heads raised. It’s as if they froze for a moment and stayed that way forever. The water in the lake is bright red because of the microorganisms living in it, closer to the shore it is already orange, and in some places – of a normal color. The evaporation of the lake scares away large predators, and the absence of natural enemies attracts a huge number of birds and small animals. They live on the shores of Natrona, breed, and are mummified after death. The large amount of hydrogen in the water and the increased alkalinity contribute to the production of soda, salt and lime. They are what keep the remains of the lake’s inhabitants from decomposing.

4. Brosno (Tver region, Russia)


Not too far from Moscow, in the Tver region is Lake Brosno, which locals believe is home to an ancient lizard. Kind of like the famous Nessie, who became world famous. As in the case of the Scottish lake inhabitant, the Brosno monster has often been seen, but no one has been able to make a single clear picture. Studies of the body of water have not led to anything concrete. Scientists suggest that the reason for the legends of the ancient monster was the unusually deep for a small lake and the processes of decomposition at the bottom, which sometimes lead to the formation of huge bubbles of hydrogen sulfide. The escaping gas can easily overturn a small boat, which can be mistaken for an attack by the monster.

5. Michigan (USA)


Lake Michigan is one of the five great lakes scattered across the United States and Canada. Few people know that this body of water has ruined hundreds of lives. No ancient monster has been seen here, the water is far from dead, but nevertheless the lake is very dangerous. It’s all about unpredictable undercurrents. They carry a huge risk for those who come to bathe on the shores of Michigan, and during the warm season there are many of them. The undercurrents carry people away from the shore, and if one is caught in its grip, it is almost impossible to cope. In the fall on the lake becomes especially dangerous. Because of the spontaneously arising currents on the surface of the water there are huge waves, from which the sailors suffer first of all.

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6. Dead Lake (Kazakhstan)


The lake with the scary name is located in Kazakhstan. The locals have long tried to avoid it, considering it a cursed body of water. Anybody here can tell you some horror stories about mysterious disappearances of people, and not necessarily in the lake itself. According to the locals, there are uncountable amount of people drowned at the bottom. And all the missing people are tourists from abroad, who know nothing about the notoriety of the Dead Lake. By the way, this name comes not from the mysterious disappearances, but because of the unusual properties of the water. There is no life in the lake. No fish, no frogs, nothing. In addition, the water remains extremely cold even in the hot season, and the size of the lake does not decrease. And this is at a time when other bodies of water in this region almost halved in size because of the heat.

7. Lake of Death (Italy)


We know about Sicily because of the famous Sicilian Mafia and the volcano Etna on the island. But there is another (no less dangerous) attraction – Lake of Death, whose water contains a high concentration of sulfuric acid. Life here is impossible by definition. Any organism caught in the local water dies in minutes. It is rumored that the Italian mafia used this lake to exterminate the unwanted. The bodies of those who rejected the Offer That Cannot Be Rejected are now part of the Lake of Death. Whether this is true or not, no one can say, because the water has dissolved all the evidence.

8. Karachay (Russia)


Lake Karachay in the Urals is considered one of the most polluted in the world. Staying on the shore of the lake for a couple of hours is enough to get hundreds of X-rays of radiation and die a painful death. The once vibrant lake was ruined in the fifties when it was used as a repository for liquid radioactive waste. Now the water level has dropped dramatically, exposing vast contaminated areas of the lake. The state annually allocates large funds to reduce the level of radiation in the body of water. In the coming years it is planned to be completely backfilled, but this does not solve the problem of contaminated groundwater.

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9. Boiling Lake (Dominican Republic)


This lake is called a boiling lake because it literally boils. The water temperature reaches 92 degrees Celsius. If you swim in the water, you can simply boil alive. The surface is enveloped in thick white steam. Bathing in this lake is strictly forbidden even during the rainy season, when the temperature drops. Jets of hot air (or even lava) still spurt from under the water, so a swim in this body of water could be your last. The lake is located in a volcano crater and is constantly heated.

10. Empty Lake (Russia)


Empty Lake is located in Western Siberia in the Kuznetsk Alatau region. It gets its name from the fact that there is no life in it, and the plants near it rot away. It would seem that this is nothing new at all, there is no life in the Dead Sea, too. But the composition of the water of the Empty is not much different from the surrounding bodies of water. Moreover, quite alive rivers flow into it, but fish are capricious and don’t swim into the Empty. Locals even tried to populate the lake with crucian carp, but they all shoals of fish soon died. Scientists have tried to investigate the phenomenon of this body of water, but have been unable to explain its lifelessness.

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