This otherworldly place stands as a testament to the beauty and diversity of nature, but also the greed and folly of man.
Before getting there, I didn't have very high expectations for this place. From what I had heard, it was a lake with strange rock formations and ugly water. When I got my first glance of the place off the 395 highway from high up on a vista point, I thought to myself, "Is that it?"
It was only upon arriving at the shore itself that I realized what a treat I was in for. The rock formations had been created by the outpouring of calcium rich super heated water and its reaction in the lake to form calcium carbonate spires. Their odd shape is due to the weightless environment that they were formed in. Despite their protruding appearance these days, at one time they were all under water. That is to say, before half the water in the lake was diverted to abate the unquenchable thirst of LA county.
The water is by itself another marvel. Having three times the salinity of normal ocean water, it's extremely easy to float in, much like the Dead Sea. The water is also extremely alkaline, leaving a white residue on the shore and on anyone who enters it.
I did a bit of research and found that as long as you don't drink the water (it contains traces of arsenic) then it's perfectly safe to swim. So, with bated breath, I entered. It has a murky greenish tint and a bizarrely slimy feeling, which I'm told is due to the alkalinity. Looking closer, it's also absolutely teaming with life. The lake is filled with trillions of brine shrimp that saturate the water. They're too small to notice, but the other animals seem to love them. Flocks of seagulls roam the shores and grab for them. Even bats skim the surface looking for tasty treats. Despite its arid and dead appearance from afar, the entire place is absolutely crawling with with life from every corner and depth.
If you come at the right time, there's an additional animal that springs forth with great abundance: the photographers. At sunset, dusk, and even well into the night, there's a photo frenzy. Tripods, dslrs, selfie sticks and all manner of photo enhancing implement is present. After I showered off the alkaline coating that I had earned from my dip in the water, I headed back and and snapped a few of my own sunset and evening shots. What a wonderfully unique place, I'll have to come back sometime with a micro grilling set and throw some brine shrimp on the barbie.