MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: How are salt water lakes formed?

Date: Tue Mar 30 14:47:47 1999
Posted By: Eli Hestermann, Grad Student Biological Oceanography
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 921520450.Es

Hi Mollie!  My wife's from Centerville, so I'm especially happy to answer 
your question.

First, all water in the environment has some salt in it.  "Fresh" water 
just doesn't have as much salt as "salt" water.  In most lakes, the salt 
comes in with the water from a stream and goes out with the water into
another stream.  

Oceans are salty because no water flows out of them.  The water can 
evaporate and fall again somewhere else as rain, but the salts stay behind 
when this happens.  Over time the salts build up and eventually are left at 
the bottom of the ocean.

Some lakes are salty for the same reason.  Salt lakes are also called 
"terminal lakes" because they're at the end of the water flow; no water 
flows out of them.  So, just like the ocean, the water can leave by 
evaporation, but when it does it leaves the salts behind in the lake.

If you want to learn more, the US Geological Survey has a good web page 
Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Eli Hestermann

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