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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

Why is Lake Bumbunga so pink?

Tucked away in the small South Australian town of Lochiel, a pink lake attracts models, singers and tourists wanting to use the iconic backdrop in their photos.

But few know the real reason Lake Bumbunga, also known as the Bubblegum Lake, is pink in colour.

Loch-Eel monster in Lake Bumbunga
The famed "Loch-Eel Monster" sculpture stands out against the pink colours of Lake Bumbunga.(Supplied: Trippin With The Henrys)

"I'm trying to understand why it's pink," Lochiel local John Nicholls said.

"The colour isn't always there ... you've got to have water in it to have pink and at this time of the year, there's not very much water in it.

"Generally it is pink in spring when water is still there."

Lake Bumbunga draws tourists from around the country.(Supplied: Trippin With The Henrys)

Lake Bumbunga is in the state's mid-north, about 125 kilometres from Adelaide.

Associate Professor John Tibby, the head of geography, environment and population at the University of Adelaide, said the lake's saltiness explained its colour.

"Pink lakes are almost always very salty, often much saltier than the sea, and they might be five times more salty than the sea," Mr Tibby said.

"Once you increase the salt content in water then very few things can grow in that water, and what gets left is a particular type of algae.

"It [the algae] produces a pigment or a colour that helps it to take energy … that is why it's pink."

Colour changes during the year

Mr Tibby said there were many reasons the lake looked different from month to month.

"It's probably mostly because the amount of algae in the water changes during the year," he said.

Harvesting salt lakes at Lake Bumbunga
The lake is about 125km north of Adelaide.(Supplied: Trippin With The Henrys)

"If there aren't enough nutrients to fuel the algae along with the sunlight, then that might change, so you might find they become pinker in the spring because there's a bit of water delivering nutrients and there's more sunlight."

He said other forms of algae which were not pink could also dilute the colour in the lake.

Mr Nicholls said the pink lake attracted tourists from far and wide, including models using the location for a shoot.

"It's more advertising than anything, the likes of Mimco and RM Williams. They're out there and they do expensive shoots," he said.

"We had Tim Minchin shooting his piano movie out there and they had a cast of over 50 out there on the lake."

Tourists on Lake Bumbunga
The algae growing in Lake Bumbunga has a pink colour to it, but the amount of algae changes during the year.(Supplied: Raad Road Trip)

The Loch-Eel monster

The lake features a sculpture named the Loch-Eel monster due to a story dating back to the late 1800s, when bullock teams were common in the area.

Locals believe bullocks were walking over the lake when they were "spooked by some sort of monster", according to Mr Nicholls.

"They went to the wrong part of the lake … and gradually got sucked under [by the monster] and went down," he said.

Locals were told the bullock team died after spotting the "monster".

In recent years, Mr Nicholls helped to construct a walking trail around Lake Bumbunga for tourists to enjoy the views.

Story originally published by the ABC South Australia:

Posted Thu 16 Feb 2023 at 11:05am Thursday 16 Feb 2023 at 11:05am, updated Fri 17 Feb 2023 at 7:32am

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