Hanging Lake, Turquoise Waters Due to Dissolved Limestone

Hanging Lake, Travertine-Formed Shoreline and Turquoise Waters

Hanging Lake is renowned for its stunning turquoise waters, perched on the edge of a steep cliff and surrounded by the lush greenery of Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, United States of America.

Located within the White River National Forest, approximately 7 miles east of Glenwood Springs, this glacially formed lake covers just about 1.5 acres.

The Hanging Lake trail spans 3.2 miles, gaining 1,000 feet, thereby enhancing the journey’s challenge and allure.

Furthermore, the lake’s elevated location provides breathtaking views, attracting nature enthusiasts to the splendor of the Rocky Mountains.

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Formation of Hanging Lake

Travertine delicately creates Hanging Lake’s shoreline by depositing dissolved Mississippian Period Leadville Limestone onto rocks and logs.

Furthermore, travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs.

It often forms beautiful, textured, and porous rock, characterized by its unique appearance and creamy or light-colored tones.

Travertine forms as spring water’s calcium carbonate reacts with air, precipitating and gradually building mineral deposits.

Hanging Lake, a classic hanging valley, formed in the last ice age as glaciers sculpted the landscape.

Receding glaciers created a U-shaped valley, trapping water and forming the iconic Hanging Lake.

The lake’s distinct turquoise color is attributed to dissolved minerals from the surrounding limestone rock.

Ecosystem and Biodiversity

Despite its relatively small size, Hanging Lake boasts a diverse and fragile ecosystem.

The lake is renowned for its crystal-clear waters supporting diverse aquatic life, including green and brown algae and native fish species.

The surrounding forests host a rich array of plant and animal species, forming an ecological hotspot in the Rockies.

The delicate balance of Hanging Lake’s ecosystem is, however, under constant threat due to the increasing number of visitors.

Human impact—trampling on vegetation, introducing non-native species, and pollution—threatens Hanging Lake’s preservation.

As a result, conservation efforts and eco-friendly practices have become paramount in ensuring the long-term health of Hanging Lake.

Hiking to Hanging Lake

Access to Hanging Lake is primarily through a popular hiking trail that starts at the Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path.

The trail, spanning approximately 3.2 miles round-trip, gains nearly 1,000 feet in elevation.

As hikers traverse challenging terrain, they pass through lush forests, cross bridges, and navigate steep switchbacks before reaching Hanging Lake.

Additionally, the trail’s final stretch offers stunning views of Bridal Veil Falls, further enhancing the hike’s allure.

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Historical Evolution of Hanging Lake

In the early accounts of the lake’s discovery, a man searching for gold in the canyon stumbled upon a deceased horse at the entrance of a gulch.

This discovery potentially gave rise to the name Dead Horse Gulch.

Following the gulch uphill, he unexpectedly reached the lake’s rear side, revealing the bowl-like basin clinging to cliffs.

The region served as a homestead until Glenwood Springs acquired it in 1910 after the Taylor Bill’s passage.

Post-purchase, it became a point of interest, hosting a resort and cafe until Interstate-70 construction in 1968.

In 1972, the trail and lake gained protection as part of the White River National Forest, becoming a popular place.

Recognizing its natural significance, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated the lake as a National Natural Landmark in 2011.