Kenya’s Lake Turkana: The Largest Desert Lake in the World

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Lake Turkana is not just any lake – it’s the largest permanent desert lake in the world! It’s also the biggest alkaline lake out there. In terms of volume, it’s the fourth-largest salt lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea, Issyk-Kul, and Lake Van. Among all lakes, it ranks 24th. That’s pretty impressive, right?

A Threatened Beauty

Unfortunately, Lake Turkana is facing some challenges. The construction of the Gilgel Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia is putting the lake at risk. This dam is blocking the Omo River, which supplies most of the lake’s water. We need to protect this beautiful place!

Not So Drinkable

Even though the lake has been used for drinking water in the past, it’s not the best choice. The water is slightly salty and has very high levels of fluoride, which can be harmful. People living near the lake now rely on underground springs for drinking water. The lake’s water is also not suitable for irrigation because of its characteristics. The climate around the lake is hot and dry, making it a challenging place to live.

A Volcanic Wonderland

The rocks around Lake Turkana are mostly volcanic. There’s even an active volcano called Central Island that emits vapor. On the east and south shores, you’ll find rocky shores and outcrops. On the west and north, there are dunes, spits, and flats at a lower elevation. It’s a diverse and fascinating landscape!

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Wild Weather and Strong Winds

When it comes to weather, Lake Turkana is no joke. The winds can be extremely strong, and sudden storms are common. The lake warms and cools more slowly than the land, which creates these intense weather conditions. It’s a wild place!

A Home for Crocs and Fish

Lake Turkana is home to a variety of animals. You’ll find Nile crocodiles in abundance on the flats. The rocky shores are inhabited by scorpions and carpet vipers. The lake is also rich in fish, which is essential for the local economy. However, falling water levels and overfishing are threatening the fish population.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Lake Turkana National Parks are so special that they are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sibiloi National Park is located on the lake’s eastern shore, while Central Island National Park and South Island National Park are within the lake. These parks are known for their Nile crocodiles and are definitely worth a visit!

A Place of Discovery

Did you know that Lake Turkana is a treasure trove of ancient fossils? Many hominid fossils have been found in the area surrounding the lake. It’s like stepping back in time!

Lake Turkana has had different names throughout history. It was originally called Lake Rudolf after Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. Later on, it was also known as the Jade Sea because of its turquoise color. In the Samburu language, it was called Basso Narok, meaning Black Lake. The lake has a rich history and many stories to tell!

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A Unique Ecosystem

The lake itself is an aquatic biome, while the surrounding region is classified as a desert and xeric shrubland. During moister times, a dry grassland appears, and during drier times, the grass disappears. The area is home to various plants and animals, including plankton, fish, and unique vegetation.

Lake Turkana is a fascinating place with its own set of challenges and wonders. If you ever get the chance, make sure to visit this incredible lake and explore its beauty!

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