HIGHEST NAVIGABLE LAKE: LAKE TITICACA Bolivia and Peru

One of the reasons why we are passionate about tourism is because the first time we sailed in its waters was simply magical, to see that amount of water and have in the background the masive Cordillera Real makes us feel small before such grandeur, but how big and deep is Lake Titicaca, why is it called Titicaca, why is it called Titicaca?

How Big is Titicaca Lake?

Lake Titicaca, Spanish Lago Titicaca, the world’s highest lake navigable to large vessels, lying at 12,500 feet (3,810 metres) above sea level in the Andes Mountains of South America, astride the border between Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east. Titicaca is the second largest lake of South America (after Maracaibo). It covers some 3,200 square miles (8,300 square km) and extends in a northwest-to-southeast direction for a distance of 120 miles (190 km). It is 50 miles (80 km) across at its widest point. A narrow strait, Tiquina, separates the lake into two bodies of water. The smaller, in the southeast, is called Lake Huiñaymarca in Bolivia, the larger, in the northwest, is called Lake Chucuito in Bolivia.

How Deep is Titicaca Lake?

The lake averages between 460 and 600 feet (140 and 180 metres) in depth, but the bottom tilts sharply toward the Bolivian shore, reaching its greatest recorded depth of 920 feet (280 metres) off Isla Soto in the lake’s northeast corner.

What does“TITICACA” means?

The meaning of the name Titicaca is not uncertain, it comes from the aymara Titi (andean cat felis jacobita) and k’ala (rock) translated as Rock of the Puma, actually Titik’ala was the original name of “Sun Island” the largest island on Titicaca Lake; It is said that when the Spaniards arrived at Lake Titicaca they asked the natives for the name of the lake, the natives thought they were asking for the name of the island and told them Titik’ala. (something similar happened with the Llama (lama glama)).

 

Where the water of TITICACA goes?

One small river, the Desaguadero, drains the lake at its southern end at Poopo Lake. This single outlet empties only 5 percent of the lake’s excess water; the rest is lost by evaporation under the fierce sun and strong winds of the dry Altiplano.

Titicaca’s level fluctuates seasonally and over a cycle of years. During the rainy season (summer, from December to March) the level of the lake rises, normally to recede during the dry winter months. It was formerly believed that Titicaca was slowly drying up, but modern studies have seemed to refute this, indicating a more or less regular cycle of rise and fall.

Is it freshwater or saltwater?

Titicaca’s waters are limpid and only slightly brackish, with salinity ranging from 5.2 to 5.5 parts per 1,000. Surface temperatures average 56 °F (14 °C); from a thermocline at 66 feet (20 m) temperatures drop to 52 °F (11 °C) at the bottom. Analyses show measurable quantities of sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, calcium sulfate, and magnesium sulfate in the water.

TITICACA Lake “Cradle” of many civilizations?

Titicaca lake has been the cradle of many civilizations such as Pucara, Tiwanaku, Chiripa, and of course the Incas, The Aymaras migrated from northern Argentina in search of fertile farmland, finding Lake Titicaca the perfect place to settle after Tiwanaku came to an end (1100 BC).

The Aymara people living in the Titicaca Basin still practice their ancient methods of agriculture on stepped terraces called “Tacanas” that predate Inca times. They grow barley, quinoa (a type of pigweed that produces a small grain), and the potato, which originated on the Altiplano. The highest cultivated plot in the world was found near Titicaca—a field of barley growing at a height of 15,420 feet (4,700 metres) above sea level. At this elevation the grain never ripens, but the stalks furnish forage for llamas and alpacas, the American relatives of the camel that serve the natives as beasts of burden and provide meat and wool. The lake plain is covered with vast numbers of pre-Columbian raised platform fields and ditches called “Sukacollos”, now abandoned, which were constructed to improve drainage and enhance the region’s agricultural potential. This ancient system of reclamation has been revived in some areas in both Peru and Bolivia.

It is for these reasons and more that Lake Titicaca is unique, magical, has inspired poetry, songs, raised empires, and many legends, which we will tell in the following post.