Tucked away in a wooded area outside the Siberian city of Novosibirsk is an amoeba-shaped lake. Accessible via a network of dirt roads, its grassy shores are lined with clusters of dark green trees. But unlike other nearby bodies of water, this one is a beguiling shade of bright turquoise.
In recent weeks, the lake’s hue has sparked a social media craze, luring scores of camera-toting visitors. Photos show what appear to be scenes from paradise: a kissing couple on paddle boards. People frolicking in swimsuits. Colorful beach floaties.
“The color of the lake is amazing … This is our Siberian Maldives,” one person wrote in Russian on Instagram.
But there’s a major difference between the locales. The lake isn’t a natural wonder. It’s a man-made dumping area for waste from a power plant — and its striking color is due to dissolved calcium salts and other metal oxides, which can be harmful if they come into contact with people.
“WE ESPECIALLY REQUEST THAT IN THE PURSUIT OF SELFIES YOU DON’T FALL IN THE ASH DUMP,” the power plant’s operator, Siberian Generating Company, said in an all-caps warning. “THAT IS THE PRIMARY DANGER.”
The statement, which noted that the artificial lake had become a “star of social media,” cautioned people against touching the water and stressed that swimming is prohibited. The liquid “has a high alkaline environment” with an elevated pH level, the company said, adding that the bottom of the lake is also “slimy,” making it “probably impossible to get out of the reservoir on one’s own.”
“Walking in the ash dump is like walking on a military training ground: dangerous and undesired,” the company told local media in June.
The advisory appears to have done little to quell the flow of visitors, marking the latest example of the lengths to which people will go for the perfect Instagram photo.
Photos of the Siberian lake have continued to pop up on social media, resulting in at least one Instagram account dedicated to compiling shots taken of it. As of Thursday, the account featured about 200 posts and had more than 3,400 followers.
“We know that the lake is toxic and didn’t enter the water,” Marina Zheleznova, a Siberian woman, told CNN.
Like Zheleznova, most people respected the warnings, choosing to take their pictures on shore. But Zheleznova said she saw people setting up “whole picnics by the lake” and “one man even bathed there.”