Nature’s Palette: Exploring Rivers and Lakes in a Kaleidoscope of Colors

The color of rivers and lakes may differ depending on the amount of sediment, algae, and dissolved minerals in water. For example, iron, manganese, and calcium carbonate from limestone can result in watercolors ranging from red-orange to green and blue. Sometimes, a storm may also temporarily change a river’s color into brown or yellow as it carries a great amount of sediments. Lastly, Algae-related water colors vary from dark green to a reddish color.

Here are some of the most amazing rivers and lakes in different colors worldwide.

Caño Cristales River in Colombia

For a brief period of time, the Caño Cristales River offers an array of bright colors during the reproductive period of a plant called Macarenia clavigera. During the wet season in Colombia, the river flows too fast and deep, depriving the plant of the sunlight. Therefore, the plant turns red for a couple of weeks from September to November.


Yellow River in Skaftafell Black Beach, Iceland

Iceland has several beautiful black sand beaches which result from volcanic activity. The volcanic activity also gives the river in Skaftafell Beach a bright yellow color through the sulfur-rich sediment. As a result, a bright yellow river meets the blue ocean by flowing over a black beach, creating an amazing view.




Cascada Río Celeste in Costa Rika

The vibrant turquoise color of the Cascada Río Celeste is a result of a chemical reaction between sulfur and calcium carbonate.



Laguna Colorada in Bolivia

The Laguna Colorada gets its color from algae that thrive in salty water. It occasionally turns green as well because different types of algae can cause different colors in water.



Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, the USA

The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest in the world. The color variance from green to red around the edges results from multicolored layers of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria. The color changes while the water progressively gets cooler.


Lake Hillier on the Middle Island, Australia

The increase in temperature as well as sunlight causes the algae inside Lake Hillier to release a pigment that turns it into pink.


Lake Natron in Tanzania

Natron is a saltwater lake that evaporates quickly due to the hot climate. The water temperature can even reach 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), making it one of the deadliest lakes in the world. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate) and trona (sodium sesquicarbonate dihydrate). The concentration of these two makes the lake also highly toxic for animals and humans. Moreover, it gradually turns anything that dies in this lake into calcified stone. This salty water also creates the conditions for algae to turn the water red. Surprisingly, it is a popular place for flamingos to raise their flaminglets as they are adapted to the given conditions which makes the place safe from predators.




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