Lago San Pedro, Ecuador

Lake Locations:

Ecuador -

Also known as:  Lake San Pedro, San Pedro Lake, Imbakucha

Lago San Pablo is Ecuador’s second-largest lake but rapidly approaching first-place in popularity. Located less than two hours north of Quito, Lake San Pablo lies less than five miles from scenic Otavalo and is developing as a tourism destination in its own right. Set against a green backdrop of dormant volcanoes, the lake is easily accessible from the Pan American Highway and is becoming a favored location for holiday villas and weekend getaways. Lago San Pablo even sports a yacht club, and sailboats are commonly seen skimming the windy surface. Several lodges and resort hotels dot the shoreline and offer a variety of water-based and trail-oriented activities.

The ancient natural lake lies in a closed basin at an elevation of 8700 feet, so the water averages a cool 65 degrees. Swimming therefore isn’t usually high on the list of activities visitors enjoy here. Waterskiing, kite-skiing, tubing, personal watercraft, canoeing, kayaking and wakeboarding are all favorites, with a few resorts renting equipment and offering lessons. Most fishing is done by local anglers. The lake supports a form of largemouth bass and carp, but they are not plentiful, so fishing is not attractive enough to encourage angler tourism. A paved highway encircles the lake, providing ever-changing views that can be enjoyed from a vehicle. Many visitors enjoy hiking or horseback riding around the perimeter and into the surrounding highlands. Guided tours can be arranged for visitors. The majority of the lakeshore and surrounding hillsides is used for terraced farming, with corn, food crops, cattle and flowers being grown. There are currently some concerns about degraded water quality due to agricultural run-off that scientists are working to address.

Most of the water in the lake comes from River Itambi, a small mountain stream originating high on Imbabura volcano. Over 90% of the lake’s water originates here, although several other small tributaries provide inflow during the rainy season. Excess water escapes via a swampy area at the north end of the lake that gives rise to the River Peguche. The shallows around the lake support the type of reeds that the Quichua natives traditionally use to make their reed mats. The ecosystem created by the lake offers a wide variety of native birdlife including various ducks, herons and other waterfowl. The Peguche River descends rapidly via a series of spectacular waterfalls once it leaves the wetlands, cascading nearly 60 feet in a breath-taking display of nature.

The trail to Peguche Falls is well-maintained and is one of the most popular visits for tourists to Otavalo. The rain forest-like area created around the falls also supports large numbers of birds and masses of blooming flowers among the tall trees growing here. The location is less than five miles north of Otavalo and easily reached by car. The Peguche Waterfall is considered sacred to the local Quichua who imbue the falls and river with a legend of gold, guarded by the devil and two black dogs. The pool at the bottom of the falls is important for ritual bathing the night before the beginning of Inti Raymi, a religious event lasting several days. The Quichua community members living near the base of the falls are considered some of the region’s most skilled handicrafters and are always willing to display their wares for sale.

Otavalo is a choice destination for a traditional countryside visit outside of the big city of Quito. Otavalo is the center of Quichua cultural life. The marketplace on Saturday mornings is something no visitor to Ecuador should miss. This traditional marketplace begins at dawn, with the animal market occurring at six am. After the livestock are taken care of, the hundreds of stalls filled with local handicrafts, reed mats, textiles, vacuna wool sweaters, embroidered blouses, looms, leatherwork, rugs, beads, wood carvings, paintings, hats and wool ponchos become the focal point. The marketplace is held in the city ‘square’, called the Plaza de Panchos and is an excellent place to find one-of-a-kind items and gifts. Otavalo is particularly geared toward visitors, with several hotels and guest houses for rent. The town is filled with excellent restaurants, many offering specialty dishes derived from local cuisine.

Lago San Pedro and Peguche Waterfall are not the only ecology-based destinations within a short distance of Otavalo. Ten miles to the south, the Mojanda Lakes or Lagoons beckon energetic hikers who make the climb to view the three lakes within the collapsed twin volcano domes. The area around the lakes contains some of the last remnants of high-altitude forest, now protected in the area. The increasingly rare condor can sometimes be seen soaring nearby. Less than nine miles from Lago San Pedro, the Cuicocha Lagoon offers hiking, kayaking and guided walks. Known in the native language as Lake of The Gods, an interpretive center here teaches about the local flora and fauna. A four-mile hiking trail is very popular. Part of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, the large park serves to protect one of the last sections of coastal Andes rainforest in Ecuador. Only twenty miles from Lago San Pablo, the pyramids at Cochasqui are located near the village of Cayambe. This extremely important archeological site isn’t far off the Pan American Highway. A small museum on-site offers interpretive exhibits showcasing the astronomical alignments created by truncated pyramids and trenches built by the pre-Incan Caranqui. Located on the equator, the complex displays the advanced astronomical knowledge of the native people long before the Inca’s arrival.

Lago San Pedro and Otavalo are becoming more popular as holiday destinations for foreign visitors. Occasionally lakeside villas or ranches may be found for sale, although they are somewhat rare. A few owners rent either houses or entire estates on a short-term basis: Many can either be chosen as self-catering or a local cook and housekeeper can be arranged for. A number of special-interest lodgings and resorts in the area focus on entertaining visitors interested in photography, local Quichua culture or Andes ecology. Otavalo offers such entertainments as mini-golf but this is primarily a native town based around the Otavaleno culture. Although most shopkeepers and vendors speak Spanish and possibly some English, Quichua is still the native language and Quichua culture and dress are commonplace. A visit here is a cultural treat among people who have managed to hold onto their native traditions while surviving economically in the modern world. Therefore, visitors shouldn’t expect the usual highly-commercialized vacation hot-spot. Otavalo and Lago San Pedro are the very heart of Ecuador. Hope you can visit and experience it soon!

Things to do at Lago San Pedro

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lago San Pedro

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Carp
  • Largemouth Bass

Lago San Pedro Photo Gallery

Lago San Pedro Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,651 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8,727 feet

Average Depth: 80 feet

Maximum Depth: 116 feet

Water Residence Time: 3.2 years

Drainage Area: 57 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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