Among the Argentinian farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires, there was once a lakeside resort, called Epecuen, having a population of over 5,000. It recently came back up, after remaining submerged for over a quarter of a century. 25 years ago, this resort got flooded due to a nearby lake and stayed underwater for 25 years.
It was established in 1920, just along the shore of Lake Epecuen. The resort that housed at least 20,000 visitors every season was mainly famous for its saltwater lake. The lake that was famous for its salty waters, according to a local legend, this lake was filled with the tears of the great Chief, crying over the pain of his people. It was also believed that the lake water had the characteristic to cure rheumatism, depression, anemia, skin diseases and even diabetes. The water of the lake was 10 times saltier than that of the ocean.
The saltwater baths and spas of the town were favorites to thousands of visitors. They’d travel by the train from the nation’s capital and come here to relax. The floating water was an attraction to the visitors from Buenos Aires’ Jewish Community as it reminded them of the Dead Sea in Israel. This town hosted around 300 businesses, which included guesthouses, lodges, hotels and other establishments. Main focus was on tourism related activities.
In 1985, due to heavy rainfall, the disaster struck. The water entered the town, penetrating the retaining wall that was built for protection and slowly drowned it. People fled with the little they could. And the water submerged the town under 10 meters of corrosive salt water. Norma Berg, a former resident of Epecuen until the flood, remembers the experience as, “I had a bunch of cats and dogs, and they ran away a couple of days before the flood and I never saw them again. I think my pets could feel that the water was coming.”
The ruins of that great town could be seen in the years to come, as the water slowly retreated. What was once a beautiful town and an attraction to many, was no more than just a ruin now, with rubble covering almost every inch of it. This real life Atlantis is so chilling that it was featured in the thriller film of 2012, ‘And Soon The Darkness’ that starred Karl Urban.
The town of Carhue, another lakeside town nearby, housed most of the residents of Epecuen, after they fled for their lives. Most of these survivors, rebuilt their lives in Carhue, building new hotels, spas and promising getaways with saltwater and mud facials.
But 82 year old Pablo Novak, is still living at the edge of Epecuen. Being the only resident there now as he refused to leave his home and now he’s a tourist guide there for the ruins. According to him, “Whoever passes nearby cannot go without coming to visit here,” he said. “It’s getting more people to the area, as they come to see the ruins.” He spends his days showing people around the wreckage on his bike.
“I am okay here. I am just alone,” he insisted. “I read the newspaper. And I always think of the town’s golden days.”