17 Deepest Lakes in the World

The world is filled with many beautiful natural wonders which range in their landscapes. Some of the most impressive are the world’s vast supply of lakes. Earth is filled with over 117 million lakes that vary in their scenery and marine life. This is especially so with those that are very deep as they have even more unique features. Below you’ll discover more about some of the deepest lakes to exist in the world and some interesting facts about them.

What is a Lake?

A lake is a large body of water that is usually surrounded by land. While it might look similar to a pond, there are a few qualifications a body of water requires in order to be labeled a lake. A body of water must have a shoreline which prevents vegetation from growing on and around it and the water must have stratified temperature layers. Light must also not pass through the water directly to the bottom, otherwise, it would be considered a pond.

What Causes Lakes to Form?

While many lakes are natural, usually formed by natural disasters or events, some are artificially made by humans. For instance, many have been formed due to volcanic eruptions, landslides, and sinkholes. On the other hand, some might have been created due to a dam being constructed and water flowing away from it therefore forming a lake. However, most of the world’s deepest lakes are naturally created.

The Different Parts of a Lake

A lake is made up of four different zones which are the limnetic, littoral, euphotic, and benthic zones. These zones each play a part in ensuring that lakes stay healthy and provide an adequate home for the aquatic species that live in them.

Limnetic Zone

The limnetic zone of a lake is the surface area of the lake or the part you see when looking at it. It is what allows light to enter through the water to provide sunlight to any aquatic species in it on the bottom that require roots or live in the dirt.

Littoral Zone

The littoral zone is similar to the limnetic zone but it doesn’t focus the sunlight on the deepest parts of the lake. Rather, it works on providing sunlight to plants and animals that live within the water but don’t have roots and reside in the dirt.

Euphotic Zone

This zone is the body of water itself and lets sunlight pass through to help photosynthesis occur. Eventually, the zone filters out the sunlight as it reaches the benthic zone causing it to disappear.

Benthic Zone

The benthic zone is the deepest end of the lake which includes its sediment surface. Most creatures live in the benthic zone as it allows them to grow roots or hide from predators. The benthic zone also helps scientists to tell the health of the lake as it provides the most answers to the current conditions of it.

How is the Depth of Lakes Measured?

So, how can one be sure that these lakes are in fact the depth that is recorded? The answer to this lies behind the interesting techniques used to measure them. These will vary depending on the type of equipment available to the person doing the calculations. Below are two common ways this is done.

With a Sonar

Scientists will sometimes attach a fish finding sonar to the bottom of their boat. This sonar sends out sound pulses and will record the depth of the echo that bounces back to it. Once they have traveled around the lake, they will then map out the area with a computer and search for the deepest point from the graphs created by the echoes.

With a Rope and Weight

Sometimes a weight with a rope tied around it will be used. Typically, a scientist will move their boat to the middle of the lake and then drop the rope into it. They will keep releasing the rope until they feel it hit the bottom. The rope will then be marked and brought back up for measuring.

Where in the World are Most of the Deepest Lakes Found?

There is really no one location where many of the deepest lakes are located. Most continents contain a handful of deep lakes, although some more than others. For instance, Asia and Africa tend to have many of the world’s deepest lakes, like Lake Baikal and the Caspian Sea. Most of these lakes are usually not man-made, but rather some of the oldest naturally formed lakes in the world.

The Deepest Lakes Found in the World

Lake Baikal

Situated in Russia, Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be the deepest lake in the world with a depth of 5,387 feet. Located near the Russian and Mongolian border, it’s known for having one of the largest collections of endemic species in the world and is believed to have 20% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater. The lake is also home to a variety of wildlife, including seals and the Baikal oilfish, and is surrounded by mountains and forests. Its water is often bottled up by locals as it contains high levels of vital minerals.

Caspian Sea

Measuring 3,363 feet deep, the Caspian Sea is considered to be one of the largest lakes in the world and receives about 80% of its water from the nearby Volga River. Surrounded by Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, it has a surprising amount of salinity (1.2%) despite not having a connection to the ocean. Besides its impressive depth, the Caspian Sea is known for its mouthwatering caviar from the Beluga sturgeon which lives in it.

While the Caspian Sea has “sea” in its name, it’s classified as a lake for a few reasons. This is due to its high salinity and that it has no waterway connections to the ocean.

Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika measures 4,823 feet deep and is bordered by countries such as Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the second deepest lake on Earth, Lake Tanganyika holds about 18% of the world’s freshwater supply and 250 cichlid species. This lake also has a few small islands located within it.

Lake Vostok

This lake is 3,300 feet deep and is situated in Antarctica. Named after the Russian Vostok Station that once resided next to it, Lake Vostok it known for holding high levels of oxygen and nitrogen due to a thick ice sheet that covers it preventing sunlight from filtering through. While it’s thought to not have much sea life within its waters, studies have found that possible microbes could call this dark lake home.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is located in southern Oregon and measures 1,949 feet deep. The lake is particularly known for its vibrant blue color and is believed to have been formed by a volcanic eruption. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and is one of Oregon’s Seven Natural Wonders. This lake is also popular for the thick forests that surround it making it a unique destination for hikers and skiers during the winter.

Lake Tahoe

Another impressive lake in the United States, Lake Tahoe rests within the Sierra Nevada Mountains and measures 1,645 feet deep at its deepest point in Crystal Bay. As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is popular for its wide variety of fish, such as the Lahontan cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish. It’s also known for its many different species of pine which grow around its border. At its surface, the lake’s temperature is about 68-degrees Fahrenheit. However, as you go deeper into it, this temperature reduces to around 38-degrees Fahrenheit. Lake Tahoe also has 63 tributaries which drain into it.

O’Higgins/San Martín Lake

The O’Higgins/San Martín Lake is situated in Argentina and measures 2,743 feet deep. Considered to be the deepest lakes in the Americas, it’s known for its light blue water which comes from the surrounding mountains which release rock flour into it. This lake also features glaciers which are part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

Lake Issyk-Kul

This lake is situated in Kyrgyzstan near the Tian Shan Mountains. It’s considered to be the seventh largest lake in the world and the second largest saline lake. Lake Issyk-Kul has a staggering depth of 2,192 feet.

Besides its interesting records, Lake Issyk-Kul is also known for its beautiful surrounding landscape which consists of snow-capped mountains. However, despite being next to these frigid landforms the lake never freezes, hence its name, which when translated from Kyrgyz means “warm lake”.

Lake Matano

Lake Matano is located in South Sulawesi, Indonesia and is the deepest lake in the country at 1,940 feet. It’s also considered to be the deepest lake to exist on an island. This lake is located next to a bustling mining town and is a popular destination for locals due to its stunning natural landscape and green/blue-tinted water. Lake Matano is also known for its large population of Caridina shrimp.

Lake Toba

Lake Toba is another lake in Indonesia although it’s not as deep as Lake Matano. Featuring a depth of 1,657 feet, Lake Toba is located within the middle of a supervolcano and is well known for its four stratovolcanoes that are visible within it. It’s home to various types of species, including phytoplankton and Batak fish. Lake Toba is also surrounded by tropical pine forests and has a picturesque stone rock hanging over it called Batu Gantung or “hanging stone”. Because of its vast supply of fish, many Indonesians have built traditional Batak houses around the lake so they can easily access it.

Lake Hauroko

Located in Fiordland National Park in New Zealand, Lake Hauroko is known for its S-shaped pathway and impressive depth of 1,516 feet. It’s the deepest lake in New Zealand and is believed to be a glacial lake. It’s home to the iconic Hauroko granite which is known for its multiple colors which range from white to reddish-brown. It also has many different types of trees, like matai and rimu, and is home to various animals, like stoats and possums. Lake Hauroko also contains two islands within it which are popular settings for local myths.

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid rests next to the border of Macedonia and Albania and is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe. Measuring 509 feet deep, the lake is listed as a World Heritage Site due to its wide variety of wildlife and aquatic species, such as European eels and swans. It’s also surrounded by traditional villages which add a unique atmosphere to it. Lake Ohrid is next to the Ohrid-Prespa Transboundary Biosphere Reserve which connects neighboring Lake Prespa to it as a way to help better protect the local ecology.

Lake Malawi

This lake measures 2,316 feet deep and is the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world. As an African Great Lake, Lake Malawi borders Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique where it known by these countries as different names, such as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique. It is a meromictic lake which prevents its water layers from mixing. The lake is home to two islets, Likoma and Chizumula, and is known for its 700 species of cichlids. At the end of the lake lies Lake Malawi National Park. This UNESCO site provides beautiful views of the water and is bordered by ancient baobab trees.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan measures 1,486 feet deep and is considered to be the third deepest lake in the United States and 26th deepest lake on Earth. Its name comes from Salish meaning “deep water”.

The lake runs over 51 miles long and is made up of two basins: the Wapato Basin and Lucerne Basin. It is surrounded by lush forests which makes it popular for many different forms of wildlife to live, like bears. It’s also a popular place for fishing due to the massive amounts of fish in it, like bull trout, longnose suckers, and pygmy whitefish. Lake Chelan also connects to Lake Chelan State Park which offers miles of winding hiking trails around its boundaries.

Lake Superior

The largest of the Great Lakes in North America, Lake Superior has a depth of 1,333 feet and is believed to be one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. The lake borders Ontario, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and drains into St. Marys River. Lake Superior is known for its unique geology as it’s bordered by towering granite cliffs. It also contains high amounts of precious metals like copper, ore, gold, and nickel.

Lake Superior has a vast ecology and is home to many different types of plants and animals. This includes otters, beavers, Wood frogs, chinook salmon, white perch, pine trees, St. John’s wort, and bog rosemary.

In addition to this, Lake Superior is also home to many shipwrecks. Some ships lost within its waters include the SS Cyprus, Inkerman and Cerisoles, and the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

Due to its interesting history and wildlife, Lake Superior has served as the inspiration for many artists and writers, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Lake Van

Lake Van is situated on the eastern edge of Turkey and is the largest lake in the country. It has a depth of 1,480 feet and is a saline soda lake meaning it receives its water from small streams that flow from the nearby mountains.

Lake Van is home to a few different islands which includes Akdamar, Adır, Kuş, and Çarpanak. Because of its high salinity, not many aquatic species live within it, although the Pearl Mullet fish tends to make its home here. A few different types of phytoplankton also live within it, including diatoms, green algae, and cyanobacteria.

This deep lake is surrounded by many historic places like ancient Armenian medieval villages and the Fortress of Van. Lake Van is also believed to be home to the mythical Lake Van Monster which is said to glide along the bottom of the lake waiting to devour its next victim.

Hornindalsvatnet

Hornindalsvatnet is located in Norway and is Europe’s deepest lake at 1,686 feet. The Eidselva River and Horindøla River flow into it which provides fresh water. Because of this constant flow, the water of the lake is very clean. The lake is situated next to many other smaller lakes, like Lovatnet and Breimsvatnet.

This lake resides next to the village of Grodås and is a popular place for residents to go fishing for haddock, cod, and flatfish. It’s also known throughout the country for the Hornindalscatnet Marathon which takes place every July and has participants run around the perimeter of the lake.

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