Dominica Hiking
Valley of Desolation &
Boiling Lake
Part 5

The Boiling Lake looks like a big pond of steaming milk.

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The first recorded sighting of the Boiling Lake was in 1870. Even though it seems like the ends of the earth, it is actually only five miles east of the town of Roseau.

The Boiling Lake is believed to be a flooded fumarole, a crack through which gases escape from the molten lava below. The natural basin of the lake collects the rainfall from the surrounding hills, which then seeps through the porous lake bottom, where it is trapped and heated by the hot lava.

Tests conducted in 1875 found the water temperature at the lake edge to be between 180-197 F; the water temperature at the center, where the lake actually boils, could not be measured. The depth was recorded at more than 195 feet.

The Boiling Lake keeps changing over time. After 1875, the water level decreased and a geyser developed which spewed water and mud 60 or more in the center. A photograph from 1895 shows the Boiling Lake dry, with a prominent pumice cone from the geyser in the middle.

In April, 1988, Boiling Lake stopped boiling and its level dropped to 29 feet before returning back to normal.

Today, no one knows for certain how deep the lake is. The cauldron's sides, which rise 60 to 100 feet high, are a mixture of pumice, clay and small stones. The water is usually described as a grayish-blue, but I still think it looks more like milk.   

However, the water color is not a topic of conversation in my hiking group. We are too busy eating fresh pineapple and sandwiches, resting, and (with a good deal of dread) thinking about the walk out. We're all pretty tired.

Going back is worse than coming in. As we reach the mountain we came down butt-first it begins to rain. The mountain turns into a mass of slick clay that we try not to fall from. Even worse are the giant steps that lead back to the summit of Morne Nicholls. Coming down was a snap compared to the climb up them. It really stretches the leg muscles scaling this stone ladder.

In one hour, we are back at the summit. Thank God! We rest briefly, wondering what the steep other side of the mountain will be like, now that it's rained. The answer is obvious: slick, slippery and muddy. Anyone who had managed to stay relatively clean till now quickly underwent radical changes. So did our attitudes.

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Valley of Desolation Part 4

Valley of Desolation Part 3

Valley of Desolation Part 2

Valley of Desolation Part 1