Laguna Bacalar, Mexico

Lake Locations:

Mexico - Yucatan Peninsula -

Laguna Bacalar boasts bright tropical birds that chatter overhead in coconut palms draped in orchids so exotic that they are reserved for special occasions in most parts of the world. Sailboats glide across the turquoise water, while on the shore sunbathers bake on the white sand beach. Called “Laguna de Siete Colores” or “Lake of Seven Colors,” Laguna Bacalar and the surrounding shore offer a kaleidoscope of colors and activities for almost every taste.

Mexico’s second largest natural lake, Laguna Bacalar stretches 35 miles down the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. The Maya gave the lake the name, the Lake of Seven Colors because on most days it is possible to count seven distinct colors of blue, green, and turquoise. The main reason for the difference in color is the depth of the lake. The lake is classified as oligotrophic, and its water is crystal clear. Part of what accounts for the difference in depth, however, are the submarine cenotes that feed Laguna Bacalar. The term cenote comes from the word for “well” – usually a sink hole with rocky edges that fills with ground water. In the case of Laguna Bacalar, the lake is actually fed from the ground water seeping into the cenotes under the lake’s surface. There are also cenotes around the lake, some over 600 feet deep. One in particular, known as Cenote Azul, is a beautiful, deep, blue pool on the shore of Laguna Bacalar. It is the largest sinkhole in the Yucatan Peninsula, and it is a favorite for diving, snorkeling, and swimming. In some cases cenotes were consider sacred to the Maya and a gateway to the afterlife. There is evidence that they threw offerings, both material and human, into some cenotes.

Another unique feature of Laguna Bacalar are the stromalites in the lake and around the shore. Forming in shallow water, stromalites are made of sedimentary grains that are trapped and bound by microorganisms. Although they look like insignificant rocks, stromalites provide records of life on earth from ancient time until the present. Scientists travel to Laguna Bacalar to study the stromalites, the unique features of the lake and the lake’s delicate ecosystem. In recent years, as Laguna Bacalar has become more popular as a tourist destination, increasing emphasis has been placed on protecting the lake. Several organizations work to promote ecotourism and sustainable tourism.

As this gem of the Yucatan becomes better known, it is certain the tourists will continue to flock to Laguna Bacalar. There is more than enough water to sail, pedal boat, and water ski. For paddlers, there are tours by kayak to nearby Mayan ruins and mangrove forests to explore. Most hotels and resorts have boat rentals, and some of the lakeside vacation rentals provide kayaks.

On the shore of the lake, the village of Bacalar dates back to the 16th century although Mayan settlement extends back far beyond that. It was a very important center for the Mayan people from 250 BC to 1540 AD. Bacalar is an authentic village not built for tourists, but there are more amenities being added all the time. In recent years, San Felipe, the old Spanish fort built in the late 1500’s, has been restored and opened as a museum. The museum illustrates the history of the region including the conflict between the Spanish and Maya as well as attacks by marauding 18th century European pirates. After a morning spent learning about the history of Bacalar, visitors can spend the afternoon exploring on a mountain bike or on a guided jungle walk.

Striking a careful balance between protecting the fragile ecosystem of Laguna Bacalar and allowing as many people as possible to share this magnificent lake is the task of locals, conservationists and tourists. With its clear turquoise water, jungles teaming with toucans, spider monkeys, and ocelots and the rich diverse history there will surely be more tourists coming to enjoy this extraordinary lake.

Things to do at Laguna Bacalar

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Snorkeling
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Laguna Bacalar Photo Gallery

Laguna Bacalar Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 769 acres

Maximum Depth: 82 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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