Lagunas de Ruidera, Castile-La Mancha, Spain

Lake Locations:

Spain - Castile-La Mancha -

Also known as:  The Ruidera Lakes

Often called the most beautiful waterscape in Spain, the Lagunas de Ruidera (Ruidera Lakes) hold a special spot in both literature and in the Castile-La Mancha Region. Parts of this series of 15 lakes feature prominently in Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Indeed, coming upon this series of connected lakes and pools in the midst of the desert-like vista of La Mancha, it would be easy to take flights of fancy such as old Alonso Quijano did. One might not remake themselves as Don Quixote, but the mysterious origins and path of the waters from pool to pool is enough to make the viewer believe in the impossible.

The watercourse appears to begin in a small pool within the Cave of Montesinos, travels through a series of waterfalls, rapids, small streams and underground watercourses through the series of lakes, only to fade once again in the Penarroya Marsh. When the water emerges from the marsh, it is impounded by the Penarroya Dam and becomes the Guardiana River. Completed in 1959 for irrigation purposes, the Penarroya Reservoir does not affect the levels of the pools upstream, but there is some concern that excessive well pumping of ground water for irrigation in the area may do so in the future.

The Lagunas de Ruidera are becoming one of the favorite vacation areas in central Spain. Most of the villages along the lakes’ course are geared to tourism, with a number of small hotels and guest cottages. Several restaurants provide delightful local fare, and businesses rent all sorts of small watercraft to visitors, including canoes, kayaks, row boats and paddleboats. The various lakes hold beaches, campgrounds, hiking and bicycle paths. Some of the lakes are off-limits to visitors to protect the breeding areas of waterfowl. Most of the shorelines support a heavy growth of reeds and emergent vegetation especially prized by waterfowl and shore-dwelling birds.

In spring, the wetlands explode in a riot of blooms. This unique landscape, and the variety of wildlife it attracts, caused the government of Spain to preserve the entire series of lakes and its marshy terminus into the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park. The 9,300-acre natural park protects the landscape from damage due to over-zealous farming and exploitation. Bird watching is one of the reasons many visitors arrive at the park: water birds like the common pochard, red-crested pochard, mallard, tufted duck, Eurasian coot, common moorhen, bearded reedling, little bittern, great reed warbler, purple heron and egrets are commonly seen. These extensive wetlands are one of the reasons that the Lagunas de Ruidera were included in the Mancha Humeda Biosphere Reserve.

Fishing is also popular in the Lagunas de Ruidera, although less productive than many would like. The clear lakes have little underwater vegetation to support large numbers of fish. Catfish are the most common species, as the lakes ordinarily maintain a growth of moss on their bottoms. Other species include vogue, flounder, blenny and roach, although non-native species such as largemouth bass, pike and sunfish have been introduced. The latter create even more pressure on the few indigenous fish as they are mostly predatory. But fishing is such a rare treat in dry La-Mancha that there are always willing anglers who will try for a catch.

Several cultural features make visiting the Lagunas de Ruidera region most interesting. The 18th century Royal Gunpowder Factory still stands in Ruidera. Besides the Cave of Montesinos and the Rochafrida Castle ruins of Don Quixote fame (both of which can be toured), nearby is Penarroya Castle which can be dated to about the tenth century. Alternately held by the Moors and the Spanish, the ancient religious battlement has been partially restored. A number of ancient ruins and historic places exist in the area which will interest any student of Spanish history. Near the small City of Consuegra, visitors can view some of the old stone windmills deemed giants by Don Quixote. The local area is also known for its vineyards.

Those who simply wish to relax in a quiet setting will be just as happy to settle in to one of the small hotels or a camping bungalow near the town of Ruidera. One could, in fact, spend a day or so just learning the names and locations of the 15 lakes within the complex. They are, from the highest (southernmost) to the lowest: Laguna Blanca, Laguna Conceja, Laguna Tomilla, Laguna Tinaja, Laguna de San Pedro, Laguna Redondilla, La Lengua, Laguna Salvadora, Laguna de Santos Morcillo, Laguna Batana, Laguna Colgada or Gran Colgada, Laguna del Rey, Cueva de la Morenilla, Laguna Coladilla and Laguna Cenagosa. Some of the lakes are quite large, although there are few official statistics for them.

The Lagunas de Ruidera are formed by the buildup of groundwater minerals, primarily calcium carbonate, sometime called travertine. This is the same mineral that creates stalactites and stalagmites, but in this case builds up a ‘lip’ around the outlet over which the water must eventually flow. This creates small waterfalls and rapids between the pools, with the best flow in the spring. It has recently been found that not all of the water travels above-ground; some pools are augmented by underground springs and seepage. The elevation drops 420 feet over the 16-mile course of the lakes; the sound of the rushing water gives the lakes their name (ruido = noise). The pools hold exceedingly clear water, often with over 30 feet of visibility. Once nicknamed “The Mirrors of La Mancha”, there are currently 15 lakes, Laguna Taza having been drained to build a campground. Other flat depressions in the area show evidence of once having been pools in the system also. The lakes have likely existed for millennia; archeology explorations have turned up artifacts dating far back into pre-history.

Although well-known in Spain, the Lagunas de Ruidera don’t appear to have yet become well-known among international tourists. A few tour groups schedule an afternoon’s visit here, but the small hotels, campgrounds and guest cottages attract primarily Spanish holiday-makers. Certainly this situation won’t continue as word-of-mouth spreads the news. Such a beautiful and naturally picturesque destination begs for a visit. Although there is likely little real estate for sale directly on the shorelines, the small hotels and guest houses are waiting. So bring your camera, binoculars and hiking shoes and visit Lagunas de Ruidera. You will be spellbound, as was Don Quixote. But please, no tilting at the windmills!

*Statistics listed are for Laguna Colgada only.

Things to do at Lagunas de Ruidera

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Lagunas de Ruidera

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Flounder
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Pike
  • Roach
  • Sunfish

Lagunas de Ruidera Photo Gallery

Lagunas de Ruidera Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 247 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 259 feet

Average Depth: 26 feet

Maximum Depth: 59 feet

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".

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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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