A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing. However most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams.
Natural lakes are generally found in mountainous areas, rift zones, and areas with ongoing glaciation. Other lakes are found in endorheic basins or along the courses of mature rivers. In some parts of the world there are many lakes because of chaotic drainage patterns left over from the last Ice Age. All lakes are temporary over geologic time scales, as they will slowly fill in with sediments or spill out of the basin containing them.
Many lakes are artificial and are constructed for industrial or agricultural use, for hydro-electric power generation or domestic water supply, or for aesthetic or recreational purposes.
Largest by Continent
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The Ten Largest Lakes of the World
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List of lakes by area
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MOST UNIQUE LAKES
Lake Melissani, Cephalonia Island, Greece
Nature again has romantic designs with a lake in the shape of the universal symbol for love. This one is to be found in the less frost-bitten environment of Kerala, India.
Lake Karachay, Ural Mountains, Western Russia
|Name and location||km||km||m|
|Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan-Russia-
|Great Bear, Canada||31,080||373||82|
|Great Slave, Canada||28,930||480||614|
|Eyre, South Australia||6,216||209||varies|
|Torrens, South Australia||5,698||209||—|
|Mobutu Sese Seko, Uganda||5,299||161||55|
|Nettilling, Baffin Island, Canada||5,051||113||—|
|Great Salt, U.S.||4,662||121||5–8|
NOTE: Area more than 1,700 sq. mi.
1. The Caspian Sea is called “sea” because the Romans, finding it salty, named it Mare Caspium. Many geographers, however, consider it a lake because it is land-locked.
2. Figures represent high-water data.
3. Varies with the rainfall of the wet season. It has been reported to dry up almost completely on occasion.