It’s highly unlikely that you haven’t seen a lake in your life – almost every country has a bunch of them. But did you know that some of these land-bound water bodies can be as big as the size of a country? Below, you’ll get to know about the seven largest lakes in the world in terms of surface area. But before we begin, here’s a fun fact: each of the following seven lakes are bigger in size than at least 59 sovereign states in the world.
List of Largest Lakes in the World by Surface Area
1. Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is undisputedly the largest lake on the face of the planet, in terms of both surface area and water volume. Its surface area is a whopping 143,000 square miles, which is greater than the land area of Japan or Germany. The saltwater lake contains approximately 18,800 cubic miles of water, which is nearly three and a half times more the water in all of North America’s five Great Lakes combined. It has a maximum depth of 3,360 feet, while its average depth is 690 feet.
The Caspian is surrounded by five countries: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. More than 130 rivers provide inflow to the lake, with the Volga, Ural, Terek and Kura rivers being the most notable ones. Hydrologists believe that this lake was linked to the world ocean through the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea some millions of years ago. Today, however, it doesn’t have a natural outflow, with the exception of evaporation. You’ll find more than 30 small islands in this lake, including Ogurja Ada, Chechen Island, and the Baku Archipelago.
2. Lake Superior
Lake Superior, the greatest of North America’s Great Lakes, claims the second spot among the largest lake in the world. Its surface area is 31,700 square miles, which is nearly equivalent to the land area of Austria, but more than four and a half times smaller than that of the Caspian Sea. Unlike the Caspian, however, Superior isn’t filled with saline water. Hence, it holds the title of the world’s largest freshwater lake by area. Containing 2,800 cubic miles of water, it is also the fourth-largest lake on Earth by volume.
Lake Superior is bounded by three states of the United States of America – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota – and the Canadian province of Ontario. Fed by over 200 rivers, the lake has a maximum measured depth of 1,333 feet, with its average depth being around 483 feet. It empties into the St. Marys River, which in turn, drains into Lake Huron. Superior is home to a number of islands, including Isle Royale, Apostle Islands, and Slate Islands.
3. Lake Victoria
Named after Queen Victoria, Lake Victoria or Victoria Nyanza is Africa’s largest and the world’s third-largest lake by surface area. Bordered by Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, it has a surface area of 26,590 square miles. That’s about the size of Ireland. Like Superior, Victoria too is a freshwater lake. It’s a relatively shallow lake, with an average depth of 135 feet, a maximum depth of 266 feet, and water volume of 660 cubic miles. Yet, there are only eight other lakes in the world that have a greater water volume than this one.
The Kagera, a few other rivers, and thousands of small streams empty into Lake Victoria. But interestingly, hydrologists believe that 80 percent of its water comes from direct rainfall. White Nile is the sole outflow of the lake. There are nearly a thousand small islands in this lake.
4. Lake Huron
With a surface area of 23,000 square miles, Lake Huron is the second-largest lake in North America and the fourth-largest lake in the entire world. It contains 850 cubic miles of water, with its average and maximum depths being 195 feet and 750 feet respectively. In terms of water volume, it ranks eighth among all lakes.
As you’ve learned above, Lake Superior drains into Lake Huron, via St. Marys River. The freshwater lake bounded by Michigan and Ontario then empties into St. Clair River. You’ll find as many as 30,000 islands in this lake. One of them is the Manitoulin Island, which is larger than any other lake-bound island on the planet.
5. Lake Michigan
Like Superior and Huron, Lake Michigan too belongs to the Great Lakes of North America. But unlike any of the other Great Lakes, it is located entirely within the territory of the US. Hence, with a surface area of 22,000 square miles, it is the largest lake to be positioned in a single country. The lake is surrounded by the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana.
The water volume of Michigan is 1,180 cubic miles, making it the eighth-largest lake in the world and the second-largest among the Great Lakes – both in terms of water volume. Its average depth is 279 feet, with the maximum depth being 923 feet. The freshwater lake receives its water from Huron, through the Straits of Mackinac. It is home to numerous islands, including the Beaver Island archipelago, the Manitou Islands, and the Fox Islands.
6. Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika may not rank higher than sixth among all lakes in terms of surface area, but it ranks third in terms of water volume. The 12,600-square-mile lake contains no less than 4,500 cubic miles of water. It is also the world’s second-deepest lake, with a maximum measured depth of 4,820 feet and an average depth of 1,870 feet.
Tanganyika is bordered by four African countries: Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia. Several rivers, including the Ruzizi and the Malagarasi, empty into this freshwater lake, while the Lukuga is its major outflow. However, according to hydrologists, the lake receives at least 90 percent of its water from direct rain and loses at least 90 percent of its water from direct evaporation. The Kavala Island is one of the notable islands located in the lake.
7. Lake Baikal
With a surface area of 12,248 square miles, Russia’s Lake Baikal is the 7th largest lake in the world. But in terms of water volume, it is second to only the Caspian Sea, containing a massive 5,670 cubic miles of water. The freshwater lake’s estimated age is 25 to 30 million years, making it the oldest surviving lake on Earth.
With a maximum depth of 5,387 feet and an average depth of 2,442 feet, Baikal claims the title of the world’s deepest lake. Furthermore, it is believed to be the clearest of all lakes. More than 330 rivers drain into the lake, including the Selenga, the Barguzin, and the Turka. However, it has only one outlet – the Angara. Olkhon, which ranks third in terms of size among all lake-bound islands, is one of the 27 islands located in Baikal.
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