In this image captured by an astronaut on the International Space Station, Laguna Colorada stands out as a smear of rusty red among the burnished peaks of the Andes, with snow-capped volcanoes to the north and southwest of the lake. At 4,300 meters above sea level and located southwest of the Altiplano of Bolivia, Laguna Colorada and the surrounding salt deposits and desert rocks usually unfettered by cloud cover, allowing satellites an extremely clear view of the rugged landscape. Laguna Colorada is incredibly shallow — a mere meter and a half deep — but more than 10 kilometers long. The lake is also known as the Red Lagoon, due to the red algae on the lake’s surface that flourish in the lake’s salty waters. The white spots on the lake’s surface, meanwhile, are borax deposits that had crystallized out from the lake’s highly saline waters.
Laguna Colorada is one of many lagoons in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Nature Reserve, and many native birds and other animals make the reserve their home. With its algae-rich waters, Laguna Colorada plays host to three of the world’s six flamingo species, including the endangered James flamingoes, which are indigenous to the Andes and the Bolivian Altiplano.