Étang Saumâtre, also known as Lake Azuéi, is the largest lake in Haiti and the second largest in Hispaniola, after Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic. The brackish lake is an intense shade of blue and is skirted by brush and cacti. It lies within the fertile, low-lying Cul-de-Sac Plain.
Étang Saumâtre / Lake Azuéi
Étang Saumâtre, also known as Lake Azuéi, is the largest lake in Haiti and the second largest in Hispaniola, after Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic. The brackish lake is an intense blue shade and is skirted by brush and cacti.
Étang Saumâtre is situated in the southwestern part of Haiti, near the border with the Dominican Republic. It lies within the Cul-de-Sac Plain, a fertile, low-lying area between the Massif de la Selle mountain range to the south and the Montagnes Noires (Black Mountains) to the north.
The lake covers approximately 170 sq km (65 sq mi), with a length, from northwest to southeast, of 22 km (14 mi); its maximum width is 12 km (7.5 mi). The lake sits at an elevation of 15 m (49 ft) with a maximum water depth of 30 m (98 ft). Water fluctuations are minimal.
A sandy shore, shallow lagoons and mudflats form the eastern shoreline, while the western shores have small freshwater springs and marshes.
Étang Saumâtre is a brackish water lake that combines salt and fresh water. The lake's salinity varies depending on the season, but it is typically about one-fifth the salinity of seawater.
The lake is part of an endorheic basin, which means it does not have an outlet to the sea. It is fed by springs emanating from calcareous rocks. The western part of the lake has slightly saline water, while the eastern part has fresh water. The water in the lake evaporates over time, leaving behind the salt.
Various habitats, including mangroves, salt flats, and grasslands, surround Étang Saumâtre. The mangrove forests provide a habitat for different birds and reptiles, including the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).
The salt flats are home to various brine shrimp and other invertebrates. The lake and grasslands are home to over 100 species of waterfowl, including the American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).
The lake is in the region of dry subtropical forest, and the vegetation surrounding the lake is sparse, with cacti and scrub-type shrubs. Typical vegetation consists of dry-forest plants endemic to the island of Hispaniola. Mangroves are found mainly on the lake's western shore, where the water's salinity is lower.