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Carhué, Argentina

Villa Epecuen

Once swallowed by flood waters, this village has emerged as an eerie shadow of its former self. 

In the 1920’s, Villa Epecuén and its delightful salt lake were a popular tourist retreat for Buenos Aires vacationers.

Arriving by train, as many as 5,000 visitors at a time could relax in lavish quarters after taking advantage of the therapeutic waters of Lago Epecuén. The mountain lake was unusual in that its waters were saltier than any ocean—in fact, it was second only to the Dead Sea in salt content, and people suffering from depression, diabetes, and everything in-between came to soak in its healing waters—the very waters that would eventually harbor the village’s ruin. 

In what can only be described as a freak occurrence, a rare weather pattern developed over Villa Epecuen in 1985, causing a seiche (standing wave) in the lake. The seiche broke a dam and then shoved its way through the dike. While the devastation was slow, it was thorough—the inevitable flood gradually devoured the entire village, submerging it under more than 30 ft. of briny waters. 280 businesses and countless personal dwellings disappeared under the surface like a modern-day Atlantis.

It wasn’t until 2009 that drier weather allowed the waters to retreat enough for the town to reemerge. The damage total, the village was deemed a disaster area offering no incentive to rebuild. What remains now is an eerie ghost town with rows and rows of dead, naked trees, decrepit buildings, and an entire landscape seemingly bleached out and stripped to the bone by the once-healing salt waters that ravaged everything in sight.

Contributed by
Rachel
Edited by