Lake Nicaragua is the largest of several freshwater lakes in Nicaragua as well as the largest in Central America. Located in southwest Nicaragua, it is the dominant physical feature of the country. There are more than 400 islands in the lake.
Lake Nicaragua (Lago de Nicaragua) is the largest of several freshwater lakes in Nicaragua as well as the largest in Central America. Located in southwest Nicaragua, it is the dominant physical feature of the country. Its indigenous name is Cocibolca, and the Spanish called it Mar Dulce. The meaning of both terms is "sweet sea."
With an area of 8,157 sq km (3,149 sq mi), it is the 19th largest lake in the world (by area) and the second largest true lake in Latin America, slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca.
Oval in shape, Lake Nicaragua is 177 km (110 mi) in length and has an average width of 58 km (36 mi). It reaches a depth of approximately 18 m (60 ft) in the center. However, it reaches a depth of 60 m (200 ft) to the southeast of its largest island, Ometepe. The lake’s surface is 29 m (95 ft) above sea level.
There are more than 400 islands in the lake. Most of the islands are covered with rich vegetation which includes tropical fruit trees. Some of the islands are inhabited.
Map showing Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua
Lake Nicaragua is intermittently joined by the Tipitapa River to Lake Managua. The lake drains to the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River. It is the only freshwater lake containing oceanic animal life, including sharks, swordfish and tarpon.
It is believed that Lake Nicaragua, together with Lake Managua to the northwest, originally formed part of an ocean bay that, as a result of volcanic eruption, became an inland basin containing the two lakes. The trapped ocean fish adapted themselves as the saltwater gradually turned fresh.
Contrary to belief, the lake is tideless. However, there is a daily fluctuation in the water level caused by east winds blowing up the San Juan valley. The water level also falls during the dry season, December to April, and rises during the rainy season, May to October.