{The Dig} Technicolor Bay

by Kate on June 29, 2012

Whenever summer rolls around, I get the urge to explore. I start dreaming up trips to far away places, like Alexis and her island hops, or of trips back east to the woods of Maine or the Cape Cod coasts to rediscover the adventures I had in my youth. Oddly enough, I never think to explore locally, which is a shame, since clearly there are some amazing and exotic landscapes right outside my door. Take these technicolor salt ponds in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay. How could I have lived here for 12 years and not have seen these? Actually I know the answer: I stopped choosing window seats on planes … big mistake.

The crayola-like colors are caused by microorganisms reacting the varied salinity levels. Algae populate lower salinity ponds, turning them bright lime green, while brine shrimp and bacteria prefer the higher salinity ponds, staining the water these vivid shades of red and orange. It’s a truly remarkable sight, and one best viewed from above, but you can see this marvel up close if you visit the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge near Berkeley, which allows public access to a crimson-hued salt pond. If you find yourself with no travel plans but an urge to explore, you might want to head into your own local landscapes—who knows what wonders might await? Have a great weekend, everyone!

{Images above, from top: AP Donovan and Jerry Ting, found via Environmental Graffiti}

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Fung June 29, 2012 at 10:14 am

Thanks for the post, Kate! I can’t tell you how much I feel related to your post! With the perfect weather out, I kept day dreaming of wonderful destinations like southern Italy and keep forgetting the wonderful things here a short drive away. It’s important to go on an inspiring trip at least once a year but it’s also important to have awesome places to go on weekends. : )

The funny thing is I actually saw these colorful ponds before! I saw them last year in the dessert of Bolivia! They are known as the colorful lagoons, and you can find one of all colors. I remembered how impressed I was when I saw them! (well, the flamingo in them helped to add the exoticness too). In any way, it’s funny to realize what I saw thousands of miles away is something I can find right outside my window! (Thou I will still go to Bolivia whenever I have another chance ; ).

In any case, thanks for the wonderful article!

Fung June 29, 2012 at 10:25 am

Oh, in case you wonder how those in Bolivia look. Here is two photos of them.
Also, I should mention the same micro-organism is responsible for the color!

mandie June 29, 2012 at 10:51 am

SO cool! I’ll have to share this with my husband- he’ll love it.

Emmy Kastner June 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

When I was teaching high school science out there when we lived in SF I took an “Ecology of the Bay” summer class one year. It was amazing, and we learned all about the colorful ponds. A flight attendant was taking the class because she wanted to learn about the bay since so many passengers would ask her about those ponds! Isn’t that adorable?

Amielle July 1, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Art in nature is always wonderful to come back to. Thank you so much for sharing these with us! The added bonus of having the mini biology lesson was oddly what I needed right now.

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