The Pink Lakes: Victoria’s own outback
It is not just the sunsets in the Murray-Sunset National Park that glow pink. This park is the location of the Pink Lakes that indeed live up to their name. They really are pink!
Their colour is due to the presence of red algae that, along with the solid salt bed of the lakes, create this unusual hue. The pink is at its most intense after rain, due to fresh nutrients being washed into the lakes, which in turn trigger the growth of algae. At other times, the pink fades into a paler colour that is almost white.
This amazing spectacle is a drawcard for photographers as the vivid images taken here are so unusual and spectacular and unlike anything else in Victoria.
These lakes are found in the Mallee region, about 50km south-west of Mildura and 60km west of Ouyen. This north-west corner of the state is semi-arid, providing a landscape more usually associated with central Australia, with broad plains that come alive after spring rain as thousands of wildflowers bloom. This includes the largest flower to be found in Victoria, the Murray Lily,
There are many hundreds of species of native plants in this region. Near the Pink Lakes, all the plants are salt-tolerant due to the high salt content of the water and soil in the area. In fact these lakes formed the basis of a thriving commercial salt industry that commenced in 1916 and continued up to 1979, when the area was declared a state park.
The Pink Lakes are now further protected as they have been incorporated into what is now the second largest national park in the state: at 633,000 hectares, there is so much to explore in the Murray-Sunset National Park.
There are four lakes in the park that exude the brilliant shades of pink: Lake Crosbie, Lake Becking, Lake Kenyon and Lake Hardy. Lake Crosbie has the main campground for those wishing to stay for a while and explore the Pink Lakes. Accessible by an all-weather gravel road, the campsite has toilets, gas barbecues, fireplaces and picnic tables. You do need to bring water into the park with you, as the salty water in the lakes, although crystal clear, is not suitable for drinking!
Alternative camping sites are available at other locations nearby, including at Lake Becking. To access campsites at Mount Crozier or Mopoke Hut, you will need a 4WD vehicle. With such huge expanses of country to explore, the Pink Lakes are a terrific spot for 4WD enthusiasts.
If you are content to stay near Lake Crosbie, there are some fantastic walks to be enjoyed. The Kline Nature Walk, which takes around 2 hours to complete, starts from the shore of the lake and takes in views of the pink water before heading inwards where interesting vegetation and wildlife can be seen, as well as some reminders from the salt mining days. This walk even includes the outdoor Salt Museum with information on the salt mining history of the region. Other shorter nature walks are situated at both Lake Becking and Lake Hardy and can be completed within an hour.
On your walks, you may be lucky and see kangaroos, emus and the incredible bearded dragon, along with abundant varieties of bird species, some of which you may never have seen or even heard of before, like Red-rumped Parrots, Mallee Ringnecks and Mallee Emu-wrens. A birdwatcher’s paradise!
Insect repellent, sunscreen, water bottles and a good hat are all essential items for walkers and campers in the Pink Lakes, as it can be very hot and insects can be very active. Visitors to Ouyen and Mildura can take a day trip to the lakes via the Mallee Highway. From Melbourne, the travel distance is over 430 km each way, so a visit is best as part of an extended stay so that you can take full advantage of your visit and enjoy relaxing campfire nights and beautiful crisp country mornings.
What colour will the Pink Lakes be you visit? Rosy pink or pale salmon? You’d better go and find out.