Hot Lake (Oroville, WA) is an athalassohaline epsomite lake that can have precipitating concentrations of MgSO4 salts, mainly epsomite. Little biotic study has been done on epsomite lakes and it was unclear whether microbes isolated from epsomite lakes and their margins would fall within recognized halotolerant genera, common soil genera or novel phyla. Our initial study cultivated and characterized epsotolerant bacteria from the lake and its margins. Approximately 100 aerobic heterotrophic microbial isolates were obtained by repetitive streak-plating in high-salt media including either 10% NaCl or 2 M MgSO4. The collected isolates were all bacteria, nearly evenly divided between Gram-positive and Gram-negative clades, the most abundant genera being Halomonas, Idiomarina, Marinobacter, Marinococcus, Nesterenkonia, Nocardiopsis and Planococcus. Bacillus, Corynebacterium, Exiguobacterium, Kocuria and Staphylococcus also were cultured. This initial study included culture-independent community analysis of direct DNA extracts of lake margin soil using PCR-based clone libraries and 16S rRNA gene phylogeny. Clones assigned to Gram-positive bacterial clades (70% of total clones) were dominated by sequences related to uncultured actinobacteria. There were abundant Deltaproteobacteria clones related to bacterial sulphur metabolisms and clones of Legionella and Coxiella. These epsomite lake microbial communities seem to be divided between bacteria primarily associated with hyperhaline environments rich in NaCl and salinotolerant relatives of common soil organisms. Archaea appear to be in low abundance and none were isolated, despite near-saturated salinities. Growth of microbes at very high concentrations of magnesium and other sulphates has relevance to planetary protection and life-detection missions to Mars, where scant liquid water may form as deliquescent brines and appear as eutectic liquids.