Bafa Lake, Turkey

Lake Locations:

Turkey -

Also known as:  Lake Bafa, Bafa Golu

Bafa Lake has been eyewitness to history since before mankind began recording it. This lake in western Turkey was once a bay of the Gulf of Miletus on the Aegean Sea. Cave paintings in the mountains towering above the ancient harbor of Latmos Heraclea have been dated as originating 5000-6000 BC. According to Greek mythology, it was here in these mountains that the moon goddess Selene fell in love with the shepherd Endymion. She asked Zeus to command Endymion into a deep sleep, where she could visit him and ultimately bore him 50 children. Legend says that the mountains overlooking Bafa Lake have hosted cults devoted to the rain and weather gods, fertility and other local deities. In the seventh century and later, the mountains hosted many early Christian monasteries, the ruins of which can still be seen. Latmos was controlled by a succession of conquorers including the Carians, Hittites, Hellenists, Byzantines and Romans before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 13th century. All left bits of their history here, as the harbor was a major trade port off the Aegean Sea and later, part of a main trade route.

The Great Menderes Delta formed over time at the neck of the bay, eventually cutting off Bafa Lake from the Aegean Sea. This occurred during historical times, and the separation was complete during the Roman era. The separation was caused mostly by sedimentation building up from the Menderes River, although some geologists believe an earthquake in 17 AD completed the disconnection. Landlocked Bafa Lake is now about five miles from the sea. This disconnection likely led to the decline of Latmos Heraclea and the other villages around the shoreline. Evolution of the lake has created one of the most prolific birding areas in Europe and has made Bafa Lake an increasingly popular place for visiting naturalists, hikers and tourists wishing to get away from the crowds of Aegean seacoast resorts. In 1994, the Turkish government placed the entire lake and the cultural treasures surrounding it under protection as the 30,300-acre Aydin-Bafa Lake Nature Park.

Also known as Lake Bafa, the lake has no water sports or Riviera-style beaches, although sea-kayaks can sometimes be rented. What it holds is a charming series of guest houses, small hotels and ‘pensions’, plenty of campsites and excellent local restaurants. Tour boats can be arranged to take visitors to the north shore to visit ancient Latmos Heraclea. Local fishermen, for a small fee, will deliver visitors to the islands to view the ruins of monasteries or to observe nesting birds. Hiking opportunities abound, both rugged rock-climbing and the more genteel trekking along ancient paths of paving stones. A few informal swimming beaches exist, and several of the small hotels have swimming pools. Extensive wetlands along the western shore provide a natural haven for over 200 species of birds, some of which are endangered. Dalmatian pelican, pygmy cormorant, storks, fish eagle, common tern and heron can be found here, along with a number of birds that arrive seasonally. Sixty different varieties of orchids grow in the Lake Bafa area, while small forests of naturally-growing olive trees dot the hillsides.

A fishing cooperative operates commercial fishing on Bafa Lake. Although a freshwater lake, the water is slightly salty and holds a wide variety of fish including Bafa grey mullet, sea bass, sea bream and a famous local variety of eels. The local fishermen declare the eels breed in Mexico, then find their way across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Aegean and up the Menderes (sometimes called the Meander) River to Bafa Lake. The eels are a favored fare at local restaurants. In recent years, fishing has declined due in part to over-fishing: government officials are attempting to increase fish stocks. Even if eels are not one’s choice for dinner, the local restaurants offer a wide variety of locally-grown vegetables and fruits, with the local olive oil a prominent ingredient in many dishes. Some farming is performed around the shoreline, using Bafa Lake for irrigation.

Most visitors to Lake Bafa plan for much sight-seeing to the local antiquities. Some of the more popular destinations are: the Carian city of Latmos, Hellenistic Heraclea, Yediler or the Convent of the Seven Brothers, Stylos Monastery and numerous other ruins, city walls and fortresses depending on the departure point. If one has a car available, side trips to other ancient cities or to the coast can be reached within an hour or so. A few of the popular coastal resort cities offer tour buses to Lake Bafa, some of which include a boat tour of the islands or a trip to Latmos Heraclea. Lake Bafa is often considered a refuge of solitude from the busy and sometimes hectic resort activities, a perfect place to relax and catch one’s breath. Lake Bafa’s popularity is becoming better-known, and private vacation villas are being built around the shoreline. Many real estate advertisements tout building lots and existing properties.

Prior to 1978, Bafa Lake was privately owned and fishing was controlled. After the lake was nationalized, fishing cooperatives formed. Bafa Lake’s water has always come from the Menderes River during periods of high rainfall, via a canal and from underground springs. Changes in the landscape such as dams and levees caused by increased agriculture have threatened the lake’s very existence. In 1985, an embankment was built to protect cotton fields from the flooding river. As a result, inflows into Bafa Lake were interrupted. Warmer temperatures have caused higher evaporation and less water flowing through the Menderes River. The lake is relatively shallow, with an average depth of less than seven feet. Consequently, the lake began to dry up to the extent that the water level had to be artificially raised in 1990. At present, park officials and private groups are attempting to correct imbalances caused by man-made alterations and more tightly control fishing. If things go as planned, Bafa Lake will be around to witness many more millennia of history. So, get away from the hustle and bustle of the coast and let Lake Bafa’s history be a part of your future.

Things to do at Bafa Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Birding
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Bafa Lake

  • Bass
  • Eel

Bafa Lake Photo Gallery

Bafa Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 16,951 acres

Shoreline Length: 35 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 7 feet

Average Depth: 6 feet

Maximum Depth: 82 feet

Drainage Area: 122 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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