Lake Piso

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Lake Piso
Location Grand Cape Mount County
Coordinates 6°44′7″N 11°15′4″W / 6.73528°N 11.25111°W / 6.73528; -11.25111Coordinates: 6°44′7″N 11°15′4″W / 6.73528°N 11.25111°W / 6.73528; -11.25111
Primary inflows various rivers
Primary outflows inlet to the Atlantic Ocean
Basin countries Liberia
Max. length 19 mi (31 km)[1]
Max. width 10 mi (16 km)[1]
Surface area 103 km2 (40 sq mi)
Islands several (Massatin Island)
Grand Cape Mount County (highlighted) in western Liberia

Lake Piso, also known as Lake Pisu[2] and Fisherman's Lake,[3][4] is an oblong[5] tidal lagoon[1][6] in Grand Cape Mount County in western Liberia, near the town of Robertsport. At an area of 103 km2 (40 sq mi),[5] it is the largest lake in Liberia.[6][7] Its name originates from a local term meaning "pigeon's hole" – a reference to the flocks of pigeons that once came to Lake Piso for water.[5]

Hydrology and geology[edit]

The brackish water lake borders the Cape Mount peninsula, and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow inlet[2] known locally as the "bar mouth".[8] Various rivers empty into Lake Piso, including Mole Creek and Mafa River, which discharges at the 'bar mouth'.[2][6] There are a number of islands in the lake, including Massatin Island, which offered a haven for monkeys and birds species, it also served as temporary refuge for some Liberians during the Liberian Civil War.[5]


During World War II, Lake Piso functioned as a military base for Allied seaplanes.[1][4]

Lake Piso overflowed its banks at least twice in 1998, causing heavy flooding in Garwular District. Flooding in August 1998 occurred due to a blockage of the narrow inlet connecting the lake to the Atlantic Ocean, damaging some homes.[9] Additional flooding in September and October, brought about by heavy rains, affected over twenty settlements, causing at least ten deaths, leaving thousands homeless, and forcing others to leave their homes.[10][11][12][13][14] The floods led the government of Liberia to declare the area a "disaster zone".[15]

On December 13–14, 2002, the Papa Friends 2000 capsized in Lake Piso, at the confluence of the lake and Mafa River. The overcrowded wooden ferry was transporting approximately 200 passengers, most returning from the funeral of a local footballer. Only 15 people were rescued; the rest drowned and were recovered or presumed dead.[16][17][18][19][20]

A nature reserve was designated near Lake Piso in 1999[21] and, as of 2004, the Lake Piso wetlands, covering an area of 76,091 ha (761 km2), were Liberia's only designated wetland of international importance.[22]

Human activity[edit]

The area near the lagoon is the homeland of the Vai people.[8]

Human activity in Lake Piso includes fishing and water sports such as swimming, canoeing and water skiing.[7] Prior to the outbreak of the First Liberian Civil War, the lagoon was a popular travel destination for tourists.[23]

High-quality diamonds have been mined from the rivers that discharge into Lake Piso where "igneous intrusions provide potentially rich structural traps".[24]


  1. ^ a b c d Fox, Butterflies of Liberia, p. 26.
  2. ^ a b c Walters, Guanya Pau, p. 79.
  3. ^ Cole, The Liberian Yearbook, p. 192.
  4. ^ a b Nelson, Liberia, a Country Study, p. 47.
  5. ^ a b c d Streissguth, Liberia in Pictures, p. 10.
  6. ^ a b c Hughes et al., Directory of African Wetlands, p. 387.
  7. ^ a b Streissguth, Liberia in Pictures, p. 72.
  8. ^ a b Walters, Guanya Pau, p. 39.
  9. ^ "Liberian Daily News Bulletin". Star Radio (Monrovia). 1998-08-22. 
  10. ^ "Flooding in Liberia". BBC News. 1998-10-01. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  11. ^ "Liberian Daily News Bulletin". Star Radio (Monrovia). 1998-09-17. 
  12. ^ "Liberian Daily News Bulletin". Star Radio (Monrovia). 1998-10-09. 
  13. ^ "Liberian Daily News Bulletin". Star Radio (Monrovia). 1998-10-10. 
  14. ^ "Liberian Daily News Bulletin". Star Radio (Monrovia). 1998-10-11. 
  15. ^ "Liberian Daily News Bulletin". Star Radio (Monrovia). 1998-10-23. 
  16. ^ "More than 100 feared dead in boat accident in Liberia". Xinhua News Agency. 2002-12-16. 
  17. ^ Toweh, Alphonso (2002-12-17). "At least 60 dead as ferry overloaded with footballer's mourners capsizes". The Independent. p. 13. 
  18. ^ "More Than 100 Feared Drowned Cape Mount Disaster". Africa News. AllAfrica, Inc. 2002-12-17. 
  19. ^ "More than 80 bodies found in ferry accident". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 2002-12-18. p. A-15. 
  20. ^ "Ferry disaster death toll rising". The Ottawa Citizen. 2002-12-18. p. A14. 
  21. ^ Outram, Africa South of the Sahara 2004, p. 613.
  22. ^ UNEP, Desk Study on the Environment in Liberia, p. 52.
  23. ^ "Boat tragedy in Liberia". ONASA News Agency. 2002-12-16. 
  24. ^ Mano River Resources (1999-05-25). "Mano River Resources - Final Results". Regulatory News Service.