Around the Block: Desert Lakes

An oasis of tranquility

Minecraft’s deserts are largely barren and lifeless, with only the occasional cacti or dead bush breaking the sandy monotony. But there’s a special sub-biome that adds a few extra ingredients to the mix. It’s called Desert Lakes. 

Deserts were added to Minecraft very early on in the game’s history, and for a long time, lakes could actually spawn inside them. That possibility was removed in the Horse Update in early 2013, but The Update that Changed the World – released later the same year – added a special “Desert M” biome that contained lakes. In the Update Aquatic, this biome was renamed to “desert lakes”. 

The Lakes variant of the desert is not easy to find amidst the regular desert and desert hills biomes. You might think that it would be easy to spot them because they have lakes in – but not all desert lakes biomes contain lakes. They only contain the possibility for a lake to generate. So don’t come crying to us if your local desert lakes biome turns out to be dry as a bone. Better to cry in the desert instead – your tears might form a lake. 

A better way to identify a desert lakes biome is to look for terrain that’s a little bit more hilly than the regular desert biome, but not as hilly as the desert hills. There are no structures that spawn in desert lakes except for ancient fossils and desert wells, but you will sometimes find sugarcane growing alongside the water, as well as rabbits hopping around in the dust. 

At night, you’ll want to watch out because deserts are home to many dangerous creatures – spiders, skeletons, creepers, zombies, and husks. You might also find the occasional slime, enderman, or witch too. But deserts have good sight-lines, so it’ll be rare that something will be able to sneak up if you’ve got your wits about you. 

In the real world, a desert lake is more commonly called an “oasis”. It’s a Latin term, which was borrowed from Ancient Greek, which in turn was borrowed from one of the Ancient Egyptian languages. It actually means “dwelling place” – because oases are one of the few places in the desert where it’s possible for humans to comfortably live. 

In most of the world, lakes form when rivers fed by rainwater encounter a barrier. The level of the water rises until it can flow over the top of the barrier, and then the river continues leaving a lake behind. But there isn’t much rain in the desert, and therefore not much water either. Instead, oases tend to be fed by water that comes from underground – where the heat of the sun can’t evaporate it away as easily. When it does reach the surface, the water in an oasis attracts migrating birds, which then leave behind droppings that are full of seeds and fertilizer – allowing a rich plant ecosystem to grow.  

Historically, oases have been of critical importance for trade and transport. Merchants crossing deserts would need to arrange their routes to pass places where they could resupply their food and water. Military control of these oases, therefore, became useful for governments who wanted to control and tax that trade. 

In many places, humans have even created artificial oases – using wells to bring up water from below ground. So next time you’re crossing a Minecraft desert and feel like you need a break, consider bringing some buckets and making an oasis of your own – enriching the local ecosystem, and yourself in the process. 

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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