The Lake Baikal
is located in the south of Eastern Siberia
, in the Buryat Autonomous Republic and the Region of Irkutsk, Russia
. Many people have marveled at this great inland lake, among them the Buryat – ethnic Mongols who has settled to its shores long before the 13th- century conquests of Genghis Khan. Russian fur traders arrived in 1640s. Scientists are still debating the lake's origin. Some are trying to prove that it emerged as a result of tectonic processes of orogenesis, while others consider it as having been formed as a result of the earth's crust gradually subsiding. So far nobody has been proved right.
Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest fresh water lake. Its average depth is 730 meters and its maximum depth in the middle - 1,620 meters. It holds some 20% of the world’s surface fresh water.
If drained, it would take the water of all five Great Lakes (Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior) to refill it. Best estimates are that Russia owns about 25% of the world’s fresh water. It covers 31,500 sq km and is 636 km long, an average of 48 km wide, and 79.4 km at its widest point. The average water level in the lake is never higher than 456 meters. It would take all the rivers of the world - Volga, Don, Dnepr and Yenisei, Ural and Ob, Ganges and Orinoco, Amazon and Thames, Seine and Oder - nearly one year to fill lake Baikal's basin. It would take four hundred years for all the rivers, streams and brooks now flowing into the Siberian lake-sea to perform the task.
The Lake Baikal area is a veritable treasure trove of mineral resources. Sables thrive in the region's taiga; valuable fur animals live in the surrounding mountains and valleys; and birds and fish abound in the forests and rivers of the area. The nearby Dauro-Mongolian steppes are very fertile. There are hot springs in the vicinity of Lake Baikal, the water of which is of excellent quality. The lake acts as a powerful generator and bio-filter producing this water.
The Lake Baikal has more endemics than any other lake in the world. Its great age - more than 25 million years - also sets it apart from other freshwater lakes as a living laboratory of evolution. During its life, 30 species of sculpins have evolved. In comparison, 10,000-year-old Lake Superior has but four species. Lake Baikal is a surprising and unique natural laboratory where one can study the life in abyssal fresh waters. New varieties and species of organisms are continuously developing in the lake. Throughout its history both Baikal itself and the organisms inhabiting its world have undergone a complicated evolution. Because of this, the lake is inhabited both by very ancient varieties of organisms that originated in small lake pre-dating Baikal and younger ones that originated in Baikal itself. There are more than 300 species of protozoans and about the same number of the most interesting amphipod crustaceans, various flat and round worms, lower crustaceans, insects, mollusks, fish, and the nerpa (seal).
Lake Baikal long ago became famous for the purity of its waters and surrounding shores. The Lake Baikal is a pristine state that had been seriously threatened by planned industrial development in recent years. Luckily, Baikal was one of the first regions to benefit from the new Russian government's reversal of decades of anti-environmental industrial policies. Since 1992 Lake Baikal and the entire surrounding area have been designated as a national park. The Lake Baikal is today a naturalist's paradise and an absolutely great holiday destination. With fine beaches, excellent hiking, birdwatching, and pleasure boating, Baikal is well-positioned to become one of the most attractive vacation spots in Asia.
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