Lake Baikal facts
|Primary inflows||Selenge, Barguzin, Upper Angara|
|Catchment area||560,000 km2 (216,000 sq mi)|
|Basin countries||Russia and Mongolia|
|Max. length||636 km (395 mi)|
|Max. width||79 km (49 mi)|
|Surface area||31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi)|
|Average depth||744.4 m (2,442 ft)|
|Max. depth||1,642 m (5,387 ft)|
|Water volume||23,615.39 km3 (5,700 cu mi)|
|Residence time||330 years|
|Shore length1||2,100 km (1,300 mi)|
|Surface elevation||455.5 m (1,494 ft)|
|1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.|
Baikal is about 636 kilometres (395 mi) long. It is 20 to 80 kilometres (12 to 50 mi) wide. At its deepest point, it is 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) deep. With this depth it is the deepest lake on Earth. The lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It holds about 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water,
The lake has fish that exist only here and nowhere else. It is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two-thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world.
At the Baikal Rift Zone, the Earth's crust pulls apart. It is the deepest lake in the world at 1,642 m (5,387 ft). The bottom of the lake is 1,186.5 m (3,893 ft) below sea level, but below this lies some 7 km (4.3 mi) of sediment. This means the rift floor is 8–11 km (5.0–6.8 mi) below the surface: the deepest continental rift on Earth.
In geological terms, the rift is young and active – it widens about two cm per year. The fault zone is also seismically active; there are hot springs in the area and notable earthquakes every few years.
Baikal's age is 25–30 million years: it is one of the oldest lakes. It is unique among large, high-latitude lakes, because its sediments have not been scoured by overriding continental ice sheets. U.S. and Russian studies of core sediment in the 1990s gave a detailed record of climatic variation over the past 250,000 years. Longer and deeper sediment cores are expected soon. Lake Baikal is the only confined freshwater lake in which evidence of gas hydrates exists.
The lake is completely surrounded by mountains. The Baikal Mountains on the north shore and the taiga are protected as a national park. It has 27 islands; the largest, Olkhon, is 72 km (45 mi) long and is the third-largest lake-bound island in the world. The lake is fed by as many as 330 inflowing rivers. It is drained through a single outlet, the Angara River.
Despite its great depth, the lake's waters are well-mixed and well-oxygenated throughout the water column, compared to the stratification that occurs in such bodies of water as Lake Tanganyika and the Black Sea.
Lake Baikal has over 1000 species of plants and 1550 species and varieties of animals. Over 60% of animals are endemic; that means of 52 species of fish 27 are endemic.
The omul fish (Coregonus autumnalis migratorius) is local to Lake Baikal. It is fished, smoked, and sold on all markets around the lake. For many travellers on the Trans-Siberian railway, purchasing smoked omul is one of the highlights of the long journey.
Baikal also hosts a species of seals, Baikal seal or nerpa.
- List of World Heritage Sites in Russia
- Marina Rikhvanova, an ecologist who works to protect Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.