Lake Titicaca is a lake located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It sits 3,812 m above sea level, making it one of the highest commercially navigable lakes in the world. By volume of water, it is also the largest lake in South America.Grove, M. J., P. A. Baker, S. L. Cross, C. A. Rigsby and G. O. Seltzer 2003 Application of Strontium Isotopes to Understanding the Hydrology and Paleohydrology of the Altiplano, Bolivia-Peru. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194:281-297.Rigsby, C., P. A. Baker and M. S. Aldenderfer 2003 Fluvial History of the Rio Ilave Valley, Peru, and Its Relationship to Climate and Human History. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194:165-185.
The lake is located at the northern end of the endorheic Altiplano basin high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department.
The lake is composed of two nearly separate sub-basins that are connected by the Strait of Tiquina which is across at the narrowest point. The larger sub-basin, Lago Grande (also called Lago Chucuito) has a mean depth of and a maximum depth of . The smaller sub-basin, Winaymarka has a mean depth of and a maximum depth of .Dejoux, C. and A. Iltis (editors) 1992 Lake Titicaca: A Synthesis of Limnological Knowledge. 68. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston. The overall average depth of the lake is .
Lake Titicaca is fed by rainfall and meltwater from glaciers on the sierras that abut the Altiplano. Five major river systems feed into Lake Titicaca.Roche, M. A., J. Bourges, J. Cortes and R. Mattos 1992 Climatology and Hydrology of the Lake Titicaca Basin. In Lake Titicaca: A Synthesis of Limnological Knowledge, edited by C. Dejoux and A. Iltis, pp. 63-88. Monographiae Biologicae. vol. 68, H. J. Dumont and M. J. A. Werger, general editor. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston. In order of their relative flow volumes these are Ramis, Coata, Ilave, Huancane, and Suchez. More than 20 other smaller streams empty into Titicaca, and the lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated.
Having only a single season of free circulation, the lake is monomictic,Cross, S. L., P. A. Baker, G. O. Seltzer, S. C. Fritz and R. B. Dunbar 2001 Late Quaternary Climate and Hydrology of Tropical South America Inferred from an Isotopic and Chemical Model of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru. Quaternary Research 56(1):1-9.Mourguiart, P., T. Correge, D. Wirrmann, J. Argollo, M. E. Montenegro, M. Pourchet and P. Carbonel 1998 Holocene Palaeohydrology of Lake Titicaca Estimated from an Ostracod-Based Transfer Function. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 143:51-72. and water passes through Lago Huinaimarca and flows out the single outlet at the Rio Desaguadero,Baucom, P. C. and C. A. Rigsby 1999 Climate and Lake Level History of the Northern Altiplano, Bolivia, as Recorded in Holocene Sediments of the Rio Desaguadero. Journal of Sedimentary Research 69(3):597-611. which then flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopo. This only accounts for about 10% of the lake's water balance. Evapotranspiration, caused by strong winds and intense sunlight at altitude, balances the remaining 90% of the water input. It is nearly a closed lake.Talbi, A., A. Coudrain, P. Ribstein and B. Pouyaud 1999 Computation of the Rainfall of Lake Titicaca Catchment During the Holocene. Geosciences de Surface 329:197-203.
The cold sources and winds over the lake give it an average surface temperature of . In the winter (June-September), mixing occurs with the deeper waters, which are always between .
The origin of the name Titicaca is unknown. It has been translated as "Rock Puma", allegedly because of its resemblance to the shape of a puma hunting a rabbit, combining words from the local languages Quechua and Aymara, and as well as translated as "Crag of Lead." Locally, the lake goes by several names. Because the southeast quarter of the lake is separate from the main body (connected only by the Strait of Tiquina), the Bolivians call it Lago Huinaymarca and the larger part Lago Chucuito. In Peru, these smaller and larger parts are referred to as Lago Pequeno and Lago Grande, respectively.
Titicaca is notable for a population of people who live on the Uros, a group of 42 or so artificial islands made of floating reeds .
These islands have become a major tourist attraction for Peru, drawing excursions from the lakeside city of Puno. Their original purpose was defensive, and they could be moved if a threat arose. Many of the islands contain watchtowers largely constructed of reeds.
Amantani is another small island on Lake Titicaca populated by Quechua speakers. About 800 families live in six villages on the roughly circular island. There are two mountain peaks, called Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth), and ancient ruins on the top of both peaks. The hillsides that rise up from the lake are terraced and planted with wheat, potatoes, and vegetables. Most of the small fields are worked by hand. Long stone fences divide the fields, and cattle, sheep, and alpacas graze on the hillsides.
There are no cars on the island and no hotels. A few small stores sell basic goods, and there is a health clinic and school. Electricity was produced by a generator and provided limited to a couple of hours each day, but with the rising price of the petroleum, they no longer use the generator. Most families use candles or flashlights powered by batteries or hand-cranks. Small solar panels have recently been installed on some homes.
Some of the families on Amantani open their homes to tourists for overnight stays and provide cooked meals, arranged through tour guides. The families who do so are required to have a special room set aside for the tourists and must fit a code by the tour companies that help them. Guests typically take food staples as a gift or school supplies for the children on the island. They hold nightly traditional dance shows for the tourists where they offer to dress them up in their traditional clothes and participate.
Taquile is a hilly island located 35 kilometres east of Puno. It is narrow and long and was used as a prison during the Spanish Colony and into the 20th century. In 1970 it became property of the Taquile people, who have inhabited the island since then . Pre-Inca ruins are found on the highest part of the island, and agricultural terraces on hillsides.
Isla del Sol
Situated on the Bolivian side of the lake with regular boat links to the Bolivian town of Copacabana, Isla del Sol ("Island of the sun") is one of the lake's largest islands. Geographically, the terrain is harsh; it is a rocky, hilly island. There are no motor vehicles or paved roads on the island. The main economic activity of the approximately 800 families on the island is farming, with fishing and tourism augmenting the subsistence economy.
There are over 180 ruins on the island. Most of these date to the Inca period circa the 15th century AD. Many hills on the island contain agricultural terraces, which adapt steep and rocky terrain to agriculture. Among the ruins on the island are the Sacred Rock, a labyrinth-like building called Chicana, Kasa Pata, and Pilco Kaima.
In the religion of the Incas, it was believed that the sun god was born here.
During 1987-92 Johan Reinhard directed underwater archaeological investigations off of the Island of the Sun, recovering Inca and Tiahuanaco offerings. These artifacts are currently on display in the site museum of the village of Challapampa.
Isla de la Luna
Isla de la Luna is situated east from the bigger Isla del Sol. According to legends that refer to Inca mythology Isla de la Luna (moon in Spanish) is where Viracocha commanded the rising of the moon. Ruins of a supposed Inca nunnery occupy the oriental shore.
Suriqui lies in the Bolivian part of lake Titicaca (in the southeastern part also known as lake Huinamarca).
Suriqui is thought to be the last place where the art of reed boat construction survives, at least as late as in 1998. Craftsmen from Suriqui helped Thor Heyerdahl in the construction of several of his projects, such as the reed boats Ra II and Tigris, and a balloon gondola.
A ferry connects the 5000 mile gauge railway of Peru at Puno with the 1000mm gauge railway of Bolivia at Guaqui.
The Bolivian Naval Force uses the lake to carry out naval exercises, maintaining an active navy despite being landlocked.
The partly-salt Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is the only body of water in South America larger than Titicaca, at about .
Lake Titicaca was designated a Ramsar site on August 26, 1998.
Since 2000 Lake Titicaca has experienced constantly receding water levels. Between April and November 2009 alone the water level has sunk by 81 cm and has now reached the lowest level since 1949. This drop is caused by shortened raining seasons and the melting of glaciers feeding the tributaries of the lake.Carlos Valdez: Lake Titicaca at dangerously low level - website of the Sydney Morning Herald (accessed 2009-11-28) Lake Titicaca evaporating away (video) - report by al Jazeera (accessed 2009-11-28)
Iperu, tourist information and assistance
Tourism in Peru
Titicaca National Reservation
Bolivian Navy and Naval Ensign
Management issues in the Lake Titicaca and Lake Poopo system: Importance of developing a water budget
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