The Saltiest Lakes in the World

Lake Retba, Senegal.
Lake Retba, Senegal.

A hypersaline body of water is a water body such as lake, sea, lagoon, or ocean that contains a higher saline level. Such bodies of water are found in an enclosed environment with inlets but most often without outlets. The enclosed environment is also subject to a high rate of evaporation. The salinity of water bodies varies from one location to the other and from season to season. Below are some of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.

Saltiest Lakes in the World

Gaet’ale Pond

The Gaet’ale Pond is part of a series of small ponds situated near the Dallol Spring in Ethiopia. It is located over a hot spring and has neither inlet nor outlet stream. The pond is the saltiest water body in the world with a salinity of 43%. Its water is composed of magnesium chloride at 1.43 mol/kg and calcium chloride at 2.72 mol/kg. Other elements contained in the water include sodium, potassium, and nitrate ion.

Lake Retba

Lake Retba is located approximately 18 miles from Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The lake is popular for its pink water and the high salt content which is about 40% in some areas. Lake Retba is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow dune. The lake’s salinity is as a result of the ingress of seawater and subsequent evaporation. The salt in the lake is mined by the over 3,000 miners from West Africa and used to preserve fish.

Lake Vanda

Lake Vanda is located in the Wright Valley in Antarctica. It is approximately 5 kilometers long and 760 meters deep. This hypersaline lake has a saline level of about 35%, more than that of the Dead Sea. It is also considered a meromictic lake, meaning that it shallower waters do not mix with the water at the bottom. Lake Vanda has three distinct layers of water; the bottom, middle, and upper layers. The lake is fed by the Onyx River, Antarctic’s longest river.


Garabogazkol is a shallow lagoon of the Caspian Sea in northwestern Turkmenistan covering an area of approximately 6,900 square miles. The lagoon is separated from the Caspian Sea by a narrow, rocky ridge which allows the water from the sea to flow into the lagoon. The Garabogazkol has a saline level of about 35%, almost 30 times that of the Caspian Sea. Because of the high salinity level, the lagoon has no vegetation.

Don Juan Pond

Don Juan Pond is also a hypersaline lake in the Wright Valley, about 5.6 miles west of Lake Vanda. It is considered the saltiest lake in Antarctica and the 2nd saltiest water body in the world after Gaet’ale Pond. It has a saline level of about 33% and is dominated by calcium chloride. The lake never freezes even with temperatures below -50 0C.

Saline Level of World’s Oceans

The oceans worldwide have an average salinity level of 3.4%-3.6% which is way below the salinity levels of the hypersaline lakes. Subsequently, unlike some of the saline lakes, most oceans support numerous living organisms. The oceans’ salinity is not distributed evenly as areas which experience high evaporation are more saline than areas with low evaporation. Areas that receive plenty of rain or are closer to the shores are less saline as they are diluted by freshwater.

The Saltiest Lakes in the World

1433Gaet'ale PondEthiopia
2338Don Juan PondAntarctica
3400Lake RetbaSenegal
4350Lake VandaAntarctica
6348Lake AssalDjibouti
7337Dead SeaIsrael, Jordan, West Bank
8317Great Salt Lake, North ArmUnited States
9300Lake BaskunchakAstrakhan Oblast, Russia
1085–280Lake UrmiaIran
11180Little Manitou LakeCanada
12142Great Salt Lake, South ArmUnited States
13120Lake AbertGreat Basin, Oregon, United States
1488Mono LakeUnited States
1566Hamelin PoolAustralia

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