This is part of the National Flamenco Reserve in Chile's Atacama dessert and is a must-see for anyone visiting.
The following text is re-translated from the brochure we picked up at the lake. We did our best to make sense of the awkward translation with some quick research, but if you have corrections please feel free to email us!
Soncor, is a lake and damp train system, located to the eastern sector of the Atacama Salt Lake, at a distance of approximately 62Km from San Pedro De Atacama, and 24km from the town of Toconao. It has a surface of 12, 394 acres.
The Atacama Salt Lake is located at an elevation of 2,300 meters above sea level. The salt crust is visible on it's surface, caused by the constant accumulation of crystals produced by underground water evaporating, leaving behind a heavy saline load. This process of evaporation creates different morphologies. Tough sodium chloride and sulphate crusts, sometimes up to 70cm thick, produce polygonal structures visible in flat, dry surfaces.
Water from the Andes entering the lake through natural channels of low depths form lacustrine deposits (fine sand, silt, and clay deposits which settle out). These shallow systems of muddy water make it possible for many microscopic and unicellular algae, and micro-invertebrate life to thrive.
Flora and Fauna
The surrounding dryness of the area means that very scarce and localized vegetation grows along the east side of the salt lake. Subsurface water allows for the presence of salt gama, chachiyuyos and other minor herbaceous species to survive here. The harsh conditions of this environment of carried out an efficient natural selection, supporting a specialized and rare selection of birds. As a result, it is possible to see the Caiti, the Gaviota Andina, The Chorlo Puna, the Aguilucho and the Playero. This unique environment also supports two species of mammal: the Zuppo Culpeo and Ratón Tuco.
The Andean Flamingo
The this region, the population of this flamingo doesn't a population of exceed 40,000. The main place of reproduction is the Burros Negros lake, in the Soncor, even though they have tried to reproduce in the Pujsa Salt Lake. In the last year, the greatest abundance recorded at this lake was 1,788.
The Chilean Flamingo
The population of the Chilean Flamingo in region is over 100,000 birds. They build their nests in small colonies in the Atacama Salt Lake and the Pujsa Salt Lake. The main breeding ground is the Poopo Salt Lake in Bolivia. The greatest number ever recorded at one time was during the winter months, reaching 1,060 individuals.
The James Flamingo
The known number of James flamingos is 60,000 in this area. They mainly nest around the Bolivia Colorada Lake, though minor colonized have been observed in the Pujsa Salt Lake.
The Toconao Community "Hidden Valley" Tocano is located 138 km from Calama, at an elevation of 2,485 mils above sea level. Its first inhabitants date back to 1,100 B.C.E. Its current population of 700 villagers still practice ancient traditions and customs with conviction and a strong sense of connection to their environment: the animals, vegetation, water, earth sun and mountains.
Toconao is characterized for being a town built entirely of Volcanic stone, which has been taken out from the quarry. Its main tourist attraction is a Bell Tower built in 1750. It was made from three bodies of stone and much which gives the town square a lovely aesthetic.
The town is supported by fruit agriculture, handicrafts, tradesmanship and mining activities. Here you can enjoy ancestral foods, culture and even traditional homemade wine.