Cocibolca by indigenous peoples and La Mar Dulce
(the Sweet Sea) by Spanish conquerors, Lake
Nicaragua is the second largest freshwater lake
in Latin America, behind Lake Titicaca. Covering
3,191 square miles, the lake is so big that it is
subject to large waves and heavy storms.
Geologists believe the lake was
once a bay of the Pacific Ocean that was cut off
from the sea by repeated volcanic eruptions. The
lake has an average depth of 43 feet, and a
maximum depth of 148 feet. It is fed by numerous
rivers. Its only outflow is the San Juan River,
which connects the lake to the Caribbean Sea. It
is connected to Nicaragua's second largest lake,
Managua, by the Tipitapa River.
Lake Nicaragua is dotted with
hundreds of islands and islets, some of them
large enough to sport small cities. Major islands
include Ometepe and Zapatera, and notable
archipelagos include the Granada (365 islets) and
Solentiname (36 islands). Most of the islands are
tree-covered and have a tropical-like climate,
but some are almost barren and dry.
Over 40 species of fish are
found in Lake Nicaragua, including 16 species of
cichlids alone. In addition to typical lake fish
such as bass, salmon and trout, the lake is also
home to three species of fish more commonly found
in saltwater -- the Caribbean bull shark (Carcharhinus
leucas), big sawfish (Pristis perotteti),
and fine-toothed sawfish (Pristis pectinatus).
Granada, on the northwestern
shore of Lake Nicaragua, was the first city
established in mainland America, in 1524. Other
major cities on the lake are San Carlos, San
Jorge, and San Miguelito.
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