America by Air: A Lonely Lake on the Plains

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Dayna Mauer

Our reader has details:

Soda Lake, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California. Temblor Range is in the foreground. It was on a commercial jet flying back to Los Angeles from either Sacramento or Reno—I can’t remember!

This Soda Lake isn’t as tasty as it sounds:

A soda lake or alkaline lake is a lake on the strongly alkaline side of neutrality (in other words, a pH value above 7, typically between 9 - 12). They are characterized by high concentrations of carbonate salts, typically sodium carbonate (and related salt complexes), giving rise to their alkalinity. The resulting hypersaline and highly alkalic soda lakes are considered some of the most extreme aquatic environments on Earth.