Lake Baskunchak

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Lake Baskunchak
Баскунчак
Salt lake Baskunchak in Astrakhan Oblast (panoramic).jpg
Panoramic view of the salt lake Baskunchak
Location Astrakhan Oblast, Russia
Coordinates 48°10′N 46°53′E / 48.167°N 46.883°E / 48.167; 46.883Coordinates: 48°10′N 46°53′E / 48.167°N 46.883°E / 48.167; 46.883
Type salt lake
Catchment area 11,000 km²
Basin countries Russia
Surface area 115 km²
Surface elevation -21 m

Lake Baskunchak (Russian: Баскунчак) is a salt lake of 115 km² in Astrakhan Oblast, Russia, located at 48°10′N 46°53′E / 48.167°N 46.883°E / 48.167; 46.883, about 270 km north of the Caspian Sea, and 53 km east of the Volga. Since 1997 the area is strictly protected as nature reserve.

The surface elevation of the lake is 21 m below sea level. It is fed by a river that draws from an area of 11,000 km². The salinity of the lake is about 300 g/l. Since the 8th century its salt was mined and distributed via the Silk Road. Nowadays the lake's salt of distinct purity (99.8% NaCl) covers 80% of Russia's salt production. Depending on need, about 1.5 million to 5 million tons of salt are mined per year.

To the south of the lake Mount Bolshoye Bogdo rises to 150 m above sea level, forming the highest elevation in the Caspian Depression. The hill is pushed up about 1 mm per year by a salt dome. Sinkholes, and Karst caves of up to 1.5 km length lead through the hill. It also is the only area in Europe where Triassic lagerstätten surface. To the local Kalmyk people, it is a holy hill.

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