Lake Macdonnell – Penong, Australia - Atlas Obscura

Lake Macdonnell

Penong, Australia

This salt lake was a former mine site and now attracts visitors for its remarkable pink colors.  

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Lake Macdonnell is the name given to this impressive body of water which sits around nine miles (15 kilometers) to the south of the South Australian town of Penong. Situated on the Eyre Peninsula, the lake sits on the Nullarbor Plain, a large arid desert that is one of the country’s most unique landscapes. Visitors to Lake Macdonnell have to drive along a dirt track before being rewarded with magnificent views of the water.

When the conditions are right, the lake appears salmon pink in color and the high salt concentration gives a unique reflection effect. This special coloring is caused by dunaliella salina, an algae species that thrives in hypersaline conditions, and halobacteria that secrete a red pigment called carotenoid.

The lake also has an interesting industrial history and for many years was a booming salt mine. Gypsum, a soft sulfate mineral, has also been mined at the site since 1919, and this location is Australia’s largest mine of this type and is thought to be one of the largest gypsum deposits in the southern hemisphere. 

 

Know Before You Go

Lake Macdonnell does not always appear pink and this is dependent on the time of year. The lake is reached by a 15 km gravel track, where care should be taken when driving this road. 

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May 31, 2023

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