Lake Enriquillo

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Lake Enriquillo
Lake enriquillo.jpg
Viewed from space, northeast to southwest, September 1993
Coordinates 18°30′N 71°35′W / 18.500°N 71.583°W / 18.500; -71.583Coordinates: 18°30′N 71°35′W / 18.500°N 71.583°W / 18.500; -71.583
Type saline lake
Primary inflows Yaque del Sur
Primary outflows evaporation
Basin countries Dominican Republic
Surface area [1]375 km2 (145 sq mi) 
Max. depth 52 m
Surface elevation -27 m
Islands Isla Cabritos (The lake contained two more islands, but these were flooded and disappeared by December 2011)[2]
Settlements Boca de Cachón, La Descubierta, Postrer Río, Neyba, Duvergé, Jimaní

Lake Enriquillo (Spanish: Lago Enriquillo) is a lake in the Dominican Republic located in the southwestern region of the country. Its waters are shared between the provinces of Bahoruco and Independencia, the latter of which borders Haiti. Lake Enriquillo is the largest lake and lowest elevation in the Caribbean and the lowest elevation on any ocean island.[3]


South shore of Lake Enriquillo, looking northward to the Sierra de Neiba mountains; Independencia Province, Dominican Republic

Lake Enriquillo is one of only a few saltwater lakes in the world inhabited by crocodiles. Lake Enriquillo is located in a rift valley formed by the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault that extends 79 miles (127 km) from Port-au-Prince Bay in Haiti in the west, to near Neiba Bay in the Dominican Republic in the east. This fault was responsible for the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake. The lake is named after Enriquillo, a Taíno cacique who rebelled against the Spaniards in the early 16th century, and hid in the mountains north of the lake. Its previous name was Xaragua in the Taino language.

The rift valley, a former marine strait, was created around one million years ago when the water level fell and the strait was filled in by sediments of the Yaque del Sur River. The lake is 9 to 12 miles (15 to 20 km) wide. Known as the Cul-de-Sac Depression in Haiti and the Hoya de Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic, parts of the rift valley are below sea level and are covered by large salt lakes.

Lago Enriquillo1.jpg

Lake Enriquillo covers an area of 145 mi2 (375 km2),[1] and is the lowest point in the Caribbean, falling 148 feet (45 m) below sea level.[4] Its drainage basin includes 10 minor river systems. The rivers that rise in the Neiba Mountains to the north (lower center and lower right of the image) are perennial. Those rivers that rise in the Baoruco Mountains to the south (upper center and upper left of the image) are intermittent.

Lake Enriquillo has no outlet. The lake's water level varies because of a combination of storm-driven precipitation events and the region's high evaporation rate. Salinity in the lake can vary between 33 and over 100 ppt. Tremors in the region are common. Just above the right center of the image, the other large salt lake in the rift valley, Etang Saumâtre located in Haiti, is visible.

The lake formerly contained several islands: Barbarita, Islita, and Isla Cabritos (famous for its American crocodiles and flamingos.) Once, when water levels dropped during dry spells, the islands were linked to one another by sandbars. As of December 2011, only the Isla Cabritos remains, the other two islands disappearing completely beneath the rising volume of the lake. [2]

The region has a hot, semiarid climate with an average annual rainfall of about 24 in. Plants that thrive in arid places, such as cacti, can be found here.

Flooding trend[edit]

During the late 2000s, the lake has increased its surface area dramatically. Records for 2004 show the lake to be 164 square kilometres (63 sq mi); measurements from 2011 put the area at 350 km2 (140 sq mi). This rise in level has affected hundreds of nearby residents in townships bordering the lake, with abundant loss of agricultural land which, even if the waters recede, will probably be rendered useless due to the lake's salinity damaging the qualities of the once-arable soil.[5]

Reasons for the flooding are being debated, but may be a combination of several, including increases in rainfall in the region in recent years, increase of sediments going into the lake from run-off due to deforestation that are contributing to raising the lakebed, and milder temperatures, which are reducing the surface evaporation rate.[6]


  1. ^ a b "UE otorga 200.000 euros a afectados por la crecida Lago Enriquillo" [EU gives € 200,000 to people affected by the flooding of Lake Enriquillo]. Listín Diario (in Spanish). 20 October 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2012. (...) según el Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidráulicos (INDHRI), su superficie ha alcanzado 37.500 hectáreas. 
  2. ^ a b Peguero, Adriana (8 December 2011). "Lago Enriquillo amenaza casas de sus alrededores" (in Spanish). Listín Diario. Retrieved 21 December 2011. Previo a presentar el estudio, el investigador Jorge E. Rodríguez resaltó que han encontrado que el lago Enriquillo ha aumentado en 100%, duplicando su tamaño desde el año 1984, ya que registra una superficie de 350 kilómetros cuadrados, frente a 172 kilómetros cuadrados. 
  3. ^ Baker, Christopher P.; Mingasson, Gilles (2008). Dominican Republic. National Geographic Books. p. 190. 
  4. ^ Eva Joelisa Romero Luna; Dina Poteau (August 2011). "Water Level Fluctuations of Lake Enriquillo and Lake Saumatre in Response to Environmental Changes" (PDF). Cornell University. Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ Ramírez, Mariana (2012). La vida después del agua. Diario Libre. 
  6. ^ Ramírez, Mariana (2012). La vida después del agua. Diario Libre. 


  • Buck et al.. Physical and chemical properties of hypersaline Lago Enriquillo, Dominican Republic (2005).
  • Van Der Helm, Rien. Reis-handboek Dominicaanse Republiek (Elmar, 1991).

External links[edit]