The World's Deepest Lakes: Top 10

Lake Baikal is the world's deepest and oldest lake.
Lake Baikal is the world's deepest and oldest lake. avdeev007 / Getty Images

A lake is a body of water surrounded by land that does not connect to the sea. Most lakes are fed by rivers, streams, and snow melt. Some of the deepest lakes formed at the base of mountains, along a rift, from glaciation, or from volcanoes. This is a list of the ten deepest lakes in the world, according to the deepest verified measurement. It's also possible to rank lakes according to average depth, but that is a much less reliable calculation.

Key Takeaways: 10 Deepest Lakes

  • The world's deepest lake is Lake Baikal in Russia. It is over a mile deep (1642 meters).
  • Worldwide, there are 37 lakes known to be at least 1300 feet or 400 meters deep.
  • Different sources cite different "10 Deepest" lists because scientists don't universally agree on the definition of a lake or whether to use the deepest point or average depth as a criterion.
10
of 10

Matano Lake (1936 ft or 590 m)

Lake Matano at sunrise
Lake Matano at sunrise.

Hendra Saputra

Lake Matano or Matana is called Danau Matano in Indonesian. The lake is located in Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is the 10th deepest lake in the world and the deepest lake on an island. Like other large lakes, it is home to a diverse ecosystem. The water snake Enhydris matannensis is only found here.

09
of 10

Crater Lake (1949 ft or 594 m)

Crater Lake
Crater Lake. Bruce Shippee / EyeEm / Getty Images

Crater Lake in Oregon, United States, formed about 7700 years ago when the volcano Mount Mazama collapsed. No rivers flow into or out of the lake, so its level is maintained by the balance between evaporation and precipitation. The lake has two small islands and is famous for the "Old Man of the Lake," which is a dead tree that has been bobbing in the lake for over 100 years.

08
of 10

Great Slave Lake (2015 ft or 614 m)

Sunset on the Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territory, Canada
Sunset on the Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territory, Canada. Dieter Hopf / Getty Images

The Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in North America. It is in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The lake takes its name from the Cree name for their enemies: Slavey. One of the lake's claims to fame is the Dettah ice road, a 4-mile road across the winter lake connecting the community of Dettah to the Northwest Territories capital of Yellowknife.

07
of 10

Lake Issyk Kul (2192 ft or 668 m)

Lake Issyk, Kyrgyztan
Lake Issyk, Kyrgyztan. Damira Nagumanova / Getty Images

The 7th deepest lake in the world is named Issyk Kul or Ysyk Kol and is located in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyztan. The name means "warm lake." Although the lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it never freezes. Like the Caspian Sea, it is a saline lake, about 3.5% the salinity of seawater.

06
of 10

Lake Malawi/Nyassa (2316 ft or 706 m)

Cape Maclear of Lake Malawi
Cape Maclear of Lake Malawi. © Pascal Boegli / Getty Images

The 6th deepest lake is known as Lake Malawi or Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique. The lake boasts the largest diversity of fish species of any lake. It is a meromictic lake, which means its layers are permanently stratified. Fish and plants only live in the upper portion of the lake because the lower layer is always anaerobic.

05
of 10

O'Higgins-San Martin (2742 ft or 836 m)

Lago O'Higgins, Chile
Lago O'Higgins, Chile.

betoscopio

The 5th deepest lake is known as Lago O'Higgins in Chile and San Martin in Argentina. The O'Higgins and Chico glaciers flow eastward toward the lake. The water has a distinctive milky blue color from the fine-grained glacial rock ("flour") suspended in it.

04
of 10

Lake Vostok (~3300 ft or ~1000 m)

Vostok Station, Antarctica
Vostok Station, Antarctica.

Antarctica has nearly 400 subglacial lakes, but Lake Vostok is the largest and deepest. This lake is found at the southern Pole of Cold. Russia's Vostok Station sits on the frozen surface, with the freshwater lake surface starting 4000 m (13100 ft) below the ice. Russia selected the site because of its potential for ice core drilling and magnetometry. Aside from its extreme depth below sea level, the lake is also located at the site of the coldest recorded natural temperature on Earth of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F).

03
of 10

Caspian Sea (3363 ft or 1025 m)

Shikhovo and oil rigs on the Caspian Sea.
Shikhovo and oil rigs on the Caspian Sea. Alan Crossland / Getty Images

The largest inland body of water is the 3rd deepest. Despite its name, the Caspian Sea is usually considered to be a lake. It is located between Asia and Europe, bounded by Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan. The water's surface is approximately 28 m (29 ft) below sea level. Its salinity is only about a third that of normal seawater. The Caspian Sea and Black Sea were part of the ancient Tethys Sea. Climate change evaporated enough water to landlock the sea about 5.5 million years ago. Today, the Caspian Sea accounts for 40% of the water in the world's lakes.

02
of 10

Lake Tanganyika (4823 ft or 1470 m)

Tanganyika near Kigoma city in Tanzania.
Tanganyika near Kigoma city in Tanzania. Eddie Gerald / Getty Images

Lake Tanganyika in Africa may be the world's longest freshwater lake, but it comes in second in other categories. It is the second largest, second oldest, and second deepest. The lake is bordered by Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Condo, Zambia, and Burundi. Lake Tanganyika is home to an abundance of wildlife, including Nile crocodiles, terrapins, snails, bivalves, crustaceans, and many types of fish, including over 250 species of cichlids.

01
of 10

Lake Baikal (5387 ft or 1642 m)

Elenka Island at sunset, Lake Baikal
Elenka Island at sunset, Lake Baikal. Anton Petrus / Getty Images

Lake Baikal is a rift lake in southern Siberia, Russia. It is the world's oldest, clearest, and deepest lake. It is also the largest lake, by volume, holding between 20% and 23% of the world's fresh surface water. Many plants and animals found in the lake exist nowhere else, including the Baikal seal.

Sources

  • Esko Kuusisto; Veli Hyvärinen (2000). "Hydrology of Lakes". In Pertti Heinonen. Hydrological and Limnological Aspects of Lake Monitoring. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-51113-8.
  • Walter K. Dodds; Matt R. Whiles (2010). Freshwater Ecology: Concepts and Environmental Applications of Limnology. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-374724-2.