The 5 Strangest Lakes in the United States

© Sean Pavone/

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Updated: September 25, 2023

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Sometimes, unless you know the story behind a lake, you may never be able to figure out why it’s so different from every other lake. The U.S. hosts many lakes, and some of these waters share borders with other countries in North America. But there are some hidden facts you probably didn’t know about many of these lakes. Here are the five strangest lakes in the United States.  

1. Mono Lake

Mono Lake has a higher salinity than the ocean.

© Isepan

From the name, you can guess that this lake is an isolated body of water, although surrounded by mountain ranges. However, there’s a good reason why this lake in California is an island of its kind. It contains high levels of alkaline. Interestingly, its pH level is measured to be as high as 10, which is higher than an ocean’s pH level of an average of 8.1. 

Mono Lake has a higher salinity than the ocean. This might make you wonder why the lake is so salty. The reason for its high salt concentration is that the lake has no exit outlet. Moreover, the water evaporates, leaving the salt highly concentrated in the lake. 

But those are not the strangest things about the lake. 

Mono Lake cannot host any fish species in it as it is not conducive for fish. Only brine shrimp and alkali flies can survive in it. However, they feed 70 species of migratory birds including eared grebes, California gulls, killdeer, and phalaropes (a slender-necked shorebird).

It is not safe to swim in Mono Lake, not only because of its high salinity but also because it has toxic arsenic concentrates. No doubt, this lake is strange indeed.

2. Lake Huron

Beneath Lake Huron is the Goderich salt mine, the largest underground salt mine in the world.

©EB Adventure Photography/

Lake Huron has gained a reputation as the second-largest Great Lake in the United States. It’s, in fact, the fifth largest of its kind in the world. It has a surface area of 23,000 square miles and is about 750 feet deep. But did you know that beneath this large body of water is the world’s largest underground salt mine? Goderich salt mine is situated 1,800 feet beneath the lake. It began operations in 1959 and produces tons of salt annually.  

But wait, there’s more mystery attached to this lake.

Under the lake are sinkholes that contain their special ecosystems. Although the lake itself is a freshwater lake, 60 feet below the surface is a high concentration of sulfur with low oxygen levels. The lake’s conditions are unique and of unusual nature compared to other lakes.

3. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan has a strange undercurrent in the lake that’s almost like that of the Bermuda Triangle.

©Frederick Millett/

Not everyone may expect Lake Michigan to fall on the list of strangest lakes in the United States. Indeed, Lake Michigan is one of the Great Lakes in the United States. The lake has a shoreline that measures about 1,600 miles and contains about 1,180 cubic miles of water. It also connects to Lake Huron. It ranks beneath Huron and Lake Superior as the third largest lake in the United States. The borders of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin share parts of the water with Michigan. 

As highly reputable as the lake is, it has strange occurrences attached to it. There is a strange undercurrent in the lake that’s almost like that of the Bermuda Triangle, claiming the lives of innocents. In 2020 alone, about 53 deaths were recorded. Because of this, swimming is often discouraged in many parts of the water. Besides, of all the Great Lakes, only the waters of Michigan are wholly situated in the U.S.

4. Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake was formed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption.


Approximately 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake was formed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption.
Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot-tall mountain, erupted and collapsed, forming the lake. Legend
has it that the fall of Mount Mazama was a result of the battle between the sky spirit and
the mountain spirit. And the eruption indicated the end of the battle.

Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in
the world
. A strange feature of this lake is its clear and clean water, even with a depth of 1,943
feet. The lake has no outlet or inlet. Its only source of water is snow or rain. Therefore,
Crater Lake maintains its clarity in the absence of sediments or mineral deposits from streams
and other water bodies.

Another strange thing about Crater Lake is its ever-changing water level despite not having
an outlet. Furthermore, it is essential to note that while Crater Lake has clear waters and beautiful
scenery, the water is awfully cold. Therefore, it is best to swim only in specific areas.

Among the animals that live around Crater Lake are bears, coyotes, elk, porcupines, amphibians, and a variety of birds and insects. The Mazama newt lives only at Crater Lake. The bull trout, which is endangered, also makes its home there.

5. Lake Erie

Lake Erie

There’s a myth of a monster called Bessie residing in Lake Erie.


Lake Erie is also one of the Great Lakes in the United States. It has seen worse days of the battle between the British and the United States, where the latter fought to retain control of the lake. The shorelines are as far as 871 miles, and the surface area is below 10,000 square miles. 

However, there’s a myth of a monster called Bessie residing in the lake. The description of this monster matches that of a harmless fish that’s about 30 feet long. In fact, latter days of the 19th century, a local businessman was convinced that this beast existed in the waters. He, in fact, offered a reward to anyone willing to kill the beast. Yet, while many are wary of this tale, no clear evidence has been brought up to verify its authenticity.

Animal Life Around the Great Lakes

Although there may or may not be a beast in Lake Erie, the land areas around the Great Lakes contain a multitude of species such as the black bear, fox, elk, white-tailed deer, moose, beaver, river otter, coyote, gray wolf, Canada lynx, and many others. Further, the Great Lakes attract multiple bird species to rest, breed, and feed there, including the bald eagle; northern harrier; double-crested cormorant; common tern, loon, merganser; bobolink; least bittern; and Kirtland’s warbler. Naturally, there are many types of fish as well such as lake whitefish, walleye, muskellunge, and trout.

Honorable Mentions: Other Strange Lakes in the United States

While we covered 5 of the strangest lakes in the U.S., they aren’t the only ones that have earned a creepy reputation. Here are a couple of notable lakes that also deserve a nod for their strangeness.

Salton Sea, California

Salton Sea, California

Some refer to the accidental creation of the Salton Sea as “the biggest environmental disaster in California history.”

©Rman 348 / Public Domain – Original / License

The Salton Sea, which sits on the San Andreas Fault within the Salton Trough in California, is a shallow lake with very high amounts of salt. It has a scandalous reputation as described by recent media as “the biggest environmental disaster in California history.”

A project that dates back as far as 1900 created an irrigation canal from the Colorado River to the Alamo River channel to draw water to Imperial Valley for farming purposes. Spring flood waters brought damage and sent water into the Salton Basin, which created a lake of close to 320 square miles.

With continued excess water running into the lake from farming irrigation, the lake became a tourist spot in the 1950s through the 60s, with hotels and vacation homes popping up. By the 70s, scientists were saying the lake would shrink and create a threat to wildlife in the area. The 80s saw contamination from farms enter the lake, causing disease in wildlife populations, especially avian species, where massive die-offs occurred. And the salinity in the water reached such a high amount that fish began to die. Carcasses soon littered the shores, driving tourists away.

And you thought that was the end of the story! As the lake continued to shrink, its toxic bottom became exposed, which dried and was carried about to surrounding areas in the wind, as well as creating a foul odor. Is that strange enough for you?

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri draws countless tourists for recreation and more, but it has a strange past laden with death, ghost stories, curses, and other mysteries.

©Perry Spring/iStock via Getty Images

If you enjoyed the Neflix series Ozark, you’ll remember all the creepy things that happened around the Lake of the Ozarks. While the show was pure fiction, the actual lake has a rich history of strangeness worthy of a real-life documentary. From mysterious disappearances to creepy legends to scary stories, it’s got it all!

For one, the strange currents in its waters, coupled with unexpected drop-off points and underwater caves have contributed to drownings and other accidents. The lake also has a reputation for being haunted, with countless locals testifying to witnessing ghosts, haunted boats, and hearing unexplained noises.

The Lake of the Ozarks can also boast its own mythic creature–a half-wolf and half-cat dubbed the Ozark Howler, which some folks claim to have spotted. And the lake has even received a curse, courtesy of a Native American chief. His curse declared that tragedy and misfortune would befall anyone who disturbed the area.

Ironic, given that the lake came about when the Bagnell dam was constructed in the 1930s, which resulted in many towns disappearing underwater. Could it be that the curse was awakened as a consequence of the creation of the massive reservoir? Strange lake, indeed!

Summary of the 5 Strangest Lakes in the United States

These are the strangest lakes in the United States for varied reasons:

1Mono Lake, California
2Lake Huron, Michigan
3Lake Michigan, Michigan
4Crater Lake, Oregon
5Lake Erie, MI, OH, PA, NY

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