When a landmark looks like nothing most people have ever seen before, it can mean wildly different things depending on who's beholding it. For tourists, it's a sight that they have to see up close and soak in every vivid detail. For those who have lived in that land forever, its importance runs a lot deeper to the point of becoming sacred. And for those with scientific and opportunistic minds, it's a treasure trove of mysteries that promise big rewards.
And in the hunt to unravel the secrets of one completely unique Canadian lake, all of these different people have held their own pieces of the puzzle.
The lake stands out when it's "normal"
According to the CBC, Spotted Lake in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada, looks very much like any other lake in the region during the winter and the spring thaw.
But even in a frozen, this doesn't seem like a lake people see just anywhere.
It's not hard to see how Spotted Lake got its name
Because even during the coldest times of the year, it's not hard to see how Spotted Lake got its name.
But while the lake is a little unusual in structure thanks to those circles throughout the body of water, that's not what makes it so world-famous.
Can we even call it a lake?
According to Atlas Obscura, Spotted Lake doesn't give the impression of consisting of one all-encompassing body of water because it's really a series of pools.
Specifically, there are about 300 of these pools in all.
Once it thaws, the borders get blurrier
Nonetheless, the CBC report is correct that once the ice melts in the spring, it becomes a lot harder to notice these pools.
But once the summer hits, they're even more obvious than they are in the winter.
There's no lake like it
As the CBC reported, Spotted Lake looks a lot different in the summer than it does in the spring.
Because once the summer heat causes enough water to evaporate, those pools become the only standing liquid left in the lake.
At first, it's not clear how those pools have even managed to gather what liquid they have.
That's because Spotted Lake mostly sits in the desert, and according to the CBC, there's no river or creek that it drains from.
And when one looks closer at those pools, they'll quickly notice the wide array of colors they can show.
As the summer progresses, the pools present themselves in different hues of blue, green, and yellow.
Why do they look like this, and how did they get there?
So with no connection to any other body of water, it's hard not to wonder how the Spotted Lake is never completely dry.
Yet while it's true that the lake doesn't have any rivers running through it, there are a lot of mountains nearby.
It gets a regular water supply every year
Although Spotted Lake appears landlocked, it still finds itself filled thanks to the runoff from the nearby hills and mountains.
As the snow melts each year, water flows down and collects in the basin, concealing the 300 pools anew.
There's also an explanation for the colors
The CBC explained that when that snow melts and runs into Spotted Lake, it carries the minerals and salts that have gathered on the mountain with it.
And since those minerals were on the mountains for hundreds of years before they drifted down, Spotted Lake is definitely rich in them.
It's been carefully examined
According to Atlas Obscura, Spotted Lake is particularly rich in calcium, magnesium sulfate, and multiple sodium sulfates.
And among the other minerals that exist there in smaller qualities are trace amounts of silver and titanium.
A tell-tale palette
According to the CBC, whether a pool will turn out blue, green, or yellow largely depends on the composition of the minerals that have gathered in it.
Of course, it takes a little more expertise than many of us are equipped with to identify that composition just by looking at them.
It's possible to see them up close.
When the weather was hot enough, visitors to Spotted Lake could walk among these mineral pools on the dry patches between them.
But aside from the unpleasant smell from the lake's sulfur content, there's a reason why that isn't so easy to do anymore.
It's possible, but it may not be feasible
According to the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Spotted Lake is recognized as a protected heritage site for the Syilx Okanagan nation.
As such, the area is fenced off to discourage people from wandering into it uninvited.
Admiring from afar
According to Atlas Obscura, Spotted Lake has cultural significance to Native Americans in both Canada and the United States. And since it sits on tribal land, visitors are advised not to trespass.
As such, most people who visit the lake will be restricted to a view of it from here.
It's older than any of us
For them, Spotted Lake is known as "kɬlil̕xʷ," and they've seen its natural, mineral-enriching processes go on for thousands of years.
Indeed, those salty pools in Spotted Lake have been gathering their mineral resources since prehistoric times.
Those minerals had a specific use.
While they might have put it in different terms, the presence of those minerals wasn't lost on the ancestors of the Syilx Okanagan people.
For them, kɬlil̕xʷ was considered a sacred, medicinal lake.
A reputation for healing
For them, Spotted Lake has a similar restorative reputation that the famous spring in Lourdes, France, does among Catholics.
In a 1979 statement relayed by the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the nation's chiefs and elders said, "There are many stories told by our ancestors about the cures this lake has provided, physically and spiritually through its medicine powers."
They aren't the only ones who noticed
The CBC reported that the First Nations to walk the land weren't able to keep Spotted Lake's significance secret forever.
Because there have been some key periods over the years where its minerals have been dredged up for manufacturing purposes.
In most cases, those looking to extract Spotted Lake's minerals were doing this for a reason that wouldn't surprise most people.
Likely familiar with the lake's medicinal reputation, some collected the minerals for spa treatments.
A great need during the great war
However, a much greater dredging effort that came during the 1910s was undertaken for a widely different reason than anyone in the Okanagan Nation would have intended.
To understand what was going on, one must understand that — unlike the United States — Canada had entered World War I as soon as it started due to its closer ties with Britain at the time.
There was nothing healthy about this purpose
So when the minerals in Spotted Lake were dredged up during the war, they were put towards the foremost purpose for what was supposed to be "the war to end all wars."
In other words, the CBC noted that they were used to make ammunition.
Exploitation ends as preservation begins
Although Spotted Lake has long been recognized as a sacred site for Canada's First Nations, that didn't necessarily stop other interests from dredging it up.
However, that finally changed in 2001.
Taking matters into their own hands
As the new millennium dawned, the Chiefs of the Okanagan Nation Alliance were in talks with Canada's Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
And by 2001, they would reach a deal that would ensure Spotted Lake's cultural importance remains respected.
Quite the big ticket purchase
And according to the Okanagan Nation Alliance, that deal saw the group purchase Spotted Lake, as well as the 56-acre area around it.
After all, it isn't just the lake itself that makes the area significant.
There were times the medicine didn't work
The biggest sign of Spotted Lake's historical significance among the First Nations can be seen in the fact that it's surrounded by rock piles called cairns.
These cairns typically mark graves, which makes the area surrounding Spotted Lake an ancient burial ground.
More of them than people realize
According to the Okanagan Nation Alliance, more of these cairns exist around Spotted Lake than any person can count.
As the aforementioned 1979 statement noted, "Some of these are so ancient they have sunk underground, and only their tops remain above ground. Some are buried altogether."
According to the CBC, the Syilx People have worked to restore and protect the Spotted Lake area as both a culturally and ecologically significant site.
And it is only with their permission that the site can be accessed nowadays.
Carrying on tradition
Not only does that mean that nobody else can legally develop on the land, but it also means that the Syilx People aren't likely to do anything of the sort either.
As the Okanagan Nation Alliance noted, this is because their main goal is to preserve the lake as it is for future generations.
Only natural changes left
Of course, that doesn't mean Spotted Lake will sit without undergoing any changes. The runoff will still pour into it, and the mineral composition in its 300 pools will change just as it has for thousands of years.
But that process will be left to happen undisturbed.