Mount Elgon

Coordinates: 01°07′06″N 34°31′30″E / 1.11833°N 34.52500°E / 1.11833; 34.52500
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Mountain Elgon
Wagagai (summit)
Mount Elgon (left) and Great Rift Valley (right)
Highest point
Elevation4,321 m (14,177 ft)[1]
Ranked 17th in Africa
Prominence2,458 m (8,064 ft)[1]
Isolation339 km (211 mi)[2]
Coordinates01°07′06″N 34°31′30″E / 1.11833°N 34.52500°E / 1.11833; 34.52500[1]
Mountain Elgon is located in Uganda
Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon is located in Kenya
Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon (Kenya)
Mountain Elgon is located in Africa
Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon (Africa)
Topo mapMount Elgon Map and Guide[3]
Age of rockMiocene origin
Mountain typeShield volcano
Last eruptionUnknown
First ascent1911 by Kmunke and Stigler
Easiest routeScramble

Mountain Elgon is an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya,[4] north of Kisumu and west of Kitale. The mountain's highest point, named "Wagagai", is located entirely within Uganda.[1][5] Although there is no verifiable evidence of its earliest volcanic activity, geologists estimate that Mount Elgon is at least 24 million years old, making it the oldest extinct volcano in East Africa.[6] The mountain's name originates from its Maasai name, Elgonyi.[7]

Physical features[edit]

Mount Elgon (left center) is located on the Uganda-Kenya border, in Western Province, north of Kakamega, west of Kitale.

Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, 80 kilometres (50 mi) in diameter, rises 3,070 metres (10,070 ft) above the surrounding plains. Its cooler heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below, and its higher altitudes provide a refuge for flora and fauna.

Mt. Elgon consists of five major peaks:

  • Wagagai (4,321 metres (14,177 ft)), in Uganda
  • Sudek (4,302 metres (14,114 ft)) on the Kenya/Uganda border
  • Koitobos (4,222 metres (13,852 ft)), a flat-topped basalt column in Kenya
  • Mubiyi (4,211 metres (13,816 ft)) in Uganda
  • Masaba (4,161 metres (13,652 ft)) in Uganda

Other features of note are:

  • The caldera — Elgon's is one of the largest intact calderas in the world.[8]

•subsidiary craters To the Southwest: All about 25 km across, Bududu, and manafwa rings intersect the caldera and Bububo with a central plug sits at its edge. The smaller Tororo marks the plain almost 50 km from Elgon’s peak.

  • The warm springs by the Suam River[9]
  • Endebess Bluff (2,563 metres (8,409 ft))[10]
  • Ngwarisha, Makingeny, Chepnyalil, and Kitum caves: Kitum Cave is over 60 metres (200 ft) wide and penetrates 200 metres (660 ft). The cave contains salt deposits and it is frequented by wild elephants that lick the salt exposed by gouging the walls with their tusks.[11] Richard Preston's book The Hot Zone (1994) described the cave's association with the Marburg virus after two people who had visited it (one in 1980 and another in 1987) contracted the disease and died.[12]

The mountain soils are red laterite. The mountain is the catchment area for the several rivers such as the Suam River, which becomes the Turkwel downstream and drains into Lake Turkana, and the Nzoia River and the Lwakhakha River, which flow to Lake Victoria. The town of Kitale is in the foothills of the mountain. The area around the mountain is protected by two Mount Elgon National Parks, one on each side of the international border.


A population of African bush elephants is present around the mountain that ventures deep into caves to access salt licks. This population was formerly present around all the mountain, but has since been reduced to the Kenyan side, where they venture into Kitum Cave.[13]

There are several disjunct populations of mammal species that are restricted to Mount Elgon, including the Elgon shrew (Crocidura elgonius), Rudd's mole-rat (Tachyoryctes ruddi), and Thomas's pygmy mouse (Mus sorella). There are also several disjunct populations of rare bird species, including Sharpe's longclaw (Macronyx sharpei), Hunter's cisticola (Cisticola hunteri), Jackson's spurfowl (Pternistis jacksoni), and the Elgon francolin (Scleroptila elgonensis).[14]

An endemic subspecies of the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus heterochrous) is restricted to the mountain. The possibly extinct Du Toit's torrent frog (Arthroleptides dutoiti), considered an EDGE species due to its evolutionary distinctiveness, is known only from a single specimen collected on the Kenyan side of the mountain.[15]


Some rare plants are found on the mountain, including Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis, and Romulea keniensis.[16]

Local ethnicities[edit]

Mount Elgon and its tributaries are home to five tribes: the Bukusu, the Bagisu, the Sapinjek, the Sabaot, and the Ogiek, better known in the region under the derogatory umbrella term Ndorobo.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Africa Ultra-Prominences Retrieved 2012-01-11.
  2. ^ [1], retrieved 19 March 2017
  3. ^ Mount Elgon Map and Guide (Map) (1st ed.). 1:50,000 with mountaineering information. EWP. 1989. ISBN 0-906227-46-1.
  4. ^ "Uganda Wildlife Authority". Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  5. ^ "Mount Elgon, Uganda" Retrieved 11 January 2012
  6. ^ NASA (28 August 2005). "SRTM Africa Images". NASA. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Mount Elgon | volcano, Africa | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  8. ^ "Mount Elgon | Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  9. ^ techadmin. "Kenya Hikes Archives - Page 2 of 2". Dickson's Mountains Expeditions. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  10. ^ "What you need to know about Mt. Elgon Park in Uganda -". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  11. ^ "Underground Elephants Resurface | Wild Kingdom | Animal Planet". 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  12. ^ Preston, Richard, The Hot Zone : The Terrifying True-Life Thriller, Bantam Books, 1994.
  13. ^ "The Elephants". Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  14. ^ "BirdLife Data Zone". Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  15. ^ "Species". EDGE of Existence. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  16. ^ "SiteBuilder".
  17. ^ Scott, Penny (1998). From Conflict to Collaboration: People and Forests at Mount Elgon, Uganda. IUCN. ISBN 2-8317-0385-9.

External links[edit]