Largest Lake in South America

Maracaibo Lake Map  © Norman Einstein

Maracaibo Lake Map © Norman Einstein

Which one is the largest lake in South America?..

The largest lake in South America is lake Maracaibo.

See it on Google Earth

Located in NW Venezuela, it occupies an area of 5,130 square miles (13,280 square km) extending approximately 110 miles (180km) inland.

It's connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by a narrow strait (Tablazo Strait, 55km long) making it slightly saline.

In fact, lake Maracaibo is fed by both the Caribbean Sea and fresh water from numerous rivers, being Catatumbo river its chief tributary.

Even though not technically a lake, geological records show that it has been a true lake in the past. It is actually considered to be one of the seventeen oldest lakes on Earth - second oldest to some - with over twenty million years of age.

Lake Maracaibo was discovered by Alfonso de Ojeda in 1499, on a voyage with Amerigo Vespucci.

The city of Maracaibo -today second largest in Venezuela and oil capital of South America- was founded in 1571 and sacked several times, notably by Heny Morgan (in 1669), famous British buccaneer later to be knighted (1774).
It is located on the western shore of lake Maracaibo and capital of Zulia State.

Maracaibo remained isolated from the rest of Venezuela for nearly four centuries, until 1962, when the bridge - "El Puente Sobre El Lago de Maracaibo "General Rafael Urdaneta" - was built.

In case wonder which one is the second largest lake in South America, it's lake Titicaca, world's highest commercially navigable lake at 3,812 m (12,507 ft) above seal level.

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