|Type||impact crater lake, endorheic|
|Max. width||52 km (32 mi)|
|Surface area||380 km2 (150 sq mi)|
|Max. depth||230 m (750 ft)|
|Surface elevation||3,900 m (12,800 ft)|
Karakul or Qaraqul (Tajik: Қарoкул, or "Black Lake"), also formerly known as Lake Victoria, is a 52 km (32 mi) diameter lake in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan. It lies within the Tajik National Park.
The lake lies at an altitude of 3,900 m (12,800 ft) above mean sea level. A peninsula projecting from the south shore and an island off the north shore divide the lake into two basins: a smaller, relatively shallow eastern one, between 13 to 19 m (43 to 62 ft) deep, and a larger western one, 221 to 230 m (725 to 755 ft) deep. It is endorheic (lacking a drainage outlet) and the water is brackish. There is a small village with the same name as the lake.
Although the lake lies within a national park, much of the surrounds are used as pasture. The lake, with its islands, marshes, wet meadows, peat bogs, and pebbly and sandy plains, has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports significant numbers of the populations of various bird species, either as residents, or as breeding or passage migrants. These include Bar-headed Geese, Ruddy Shelducks, Common Mergansers, Saker Falcons, Himalayan Vultures, Lesser Sand Plovers, Brown-headed Gulls, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Yellow-billed Choughs, White-tailed Rubythroats, White-winged Redstarts, White-winged Snowfinches, Rufous-streaked Accentors, Brown Accentors, Black-headed Mountain-finches and Caucasian Great Rosefinches. The lake's islands are the main places where waterbirds rest and nest. The only fish in the lake is a species of stone loach.
Karakul lies within a circular depression interpreted as a meteorite impact crater with a rim diameter of 52 km (32 mi). The impact event is estimated to have occurred about 25 million years ago, or less than 5 million years ago. The Karakul impact structure remained unidentified until it was discovered through studies of imagery taken from space.
Karakul is located within the historical territory of the Turgesh Kaganate. It is mentioned in the Bilge Kagan inscription in the Orkhon written monuments, as a place of a battle in 715 CE between the Turgesh tribe of Ases and the Second Turkic Kaganate led by Kul Tegin. The battle resulted in the defeat of the Ases and the capture of their client king, Elteber.
Whether Karakul is the same lake as the "Lake Karakul" mentioned in the Orkhon inscription is a matter of debate. The name "Karakul" of the Orkhon inscription connotes a deep water lake, and is most likely one of the many deep water lakes in eastern Tien Shan Mountains (such as the Sari Chelek and the Kulsai) that are much closer to the Orkhon River in Mongolia where the inscription was found originally.
British cartographers and the British administration in India gave the lake the name "Lake Victoria of the Pamirs" in honor of Queen Victoria, the British monarch. All British maps of the time, as well as Imperial Russian maps, used Victoria for the name of the lake. This fell into disuse with the advent of the Soviets and with the British departure from India. The old Saka/Pamiri name for the lake – the Zira – has also become obsolete. The Kirgiz name Karakul is now used universally for the lake. Lake Zorkul, some 200 km (120 mi) to the south, has been erroneously confused with Karakul as being the "Lake Victoria" noted by Western sources.
"Qarakul Lake". Information Portal Tourism in Tajikistan. Retrieved 2012-03-06.