Lake Nicaragua

Lake Locations:

Nicaragua - Boaco - Chontales - Granada - Rio San Juan - Rivas -

Also known as:  Lake Cocibolca, Lake Granada, Lago Cocibolca, Lago Granada

Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, is so large that it has many sea or ocean characteristics. Lago Cocibolca, the native name for the freshwater lake that means “sweet sea,” boasts large waves, heavy storms that cause navigation problems, nothing but more water at its horizon, and sharks! Archaeologists believe that it was once a large bay along the Pacific Ocean, but volcanic eruptions over thousands of years filled in the land with lava forming the lake. With four main port cities on the shores of Lake Nicaragua — Granada, San Carlos, San Jorge, and San Miguelito — there is always something to do here.

The San Juan River connects Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea. It was through this route that the first Spanish conquerors discovered the area and established the first Nicaraguan city, Granada, in 1524 located on the northwestern shore, which has a rich and colorful history of marauding pirates and their hideouts. Residents of this first city sometimes still call the body of water Lake Granada. It is also through this route that sharks enter or leave the lake. The sharks can jump along the rapids of the San Juan River, almost like salmon, to complete their journey in as little as seven days. At one time, there were plans to use this passageway to build a canal, but the Panama Canal was built instead.

A volcanic chain runs through Lake Nicaragua and as a result of volcanic eruptions over the years, there are many beautiful and exotic islands in the lake. Located on the western side of the lake is the famous island of Ometepe, which is composed of two volcanoes: El Maderas, which is dormant, and El Concepcion, which is still active. El Concepcion is a rigorous climb and only suggested to the most physically fit climbers, but the view at the top of the crater is worth the effort. El Maderas is a much easier climb and goes through a thick tropical jungle with monkeys, boas, and jaguars and the reward for the climb is the mysterious, cold-water lagoon in the crater. Both of these hikes are provided with local guides for your protection from the elements and to prevent visitors from getting lost in the jungle. Cars, bikes, horses, kayaks and boats can be rented on the island that also boasts surfing and swimming along its beautiful Lake Nicaragua beaches.

Another volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua is Zapatera, which has few settlements and is relatively undeveloped. Thousands of artifacts and pre-Columbian statues have been found on this island and are currently on display in museums around the world. To allow visitors to enjoy the stunning beauty of this untouched paradise with its panoramic views, basic lodging and vacation rentals that resemble the rustic lifestyle of the inhabitants are available.

One of Lake Nicaragua’s great attractions is the Granada Islets, which are 365 islets that vary significantly in size. A whole community lives among these small islands including schools, shops, luxury hotels, restaurants, homes, and vacation homes located on their own smaller private islet. Transportation by boat is a must to get around these destinations and can be rented by tourists for cruising around among the palm covered shores.

Other islands located in Lake Nicaragua range from privately owned retreats, nature preserves, rustic communities and artist communes. Nature lovers will enjoy the many species of birds that live in the jungles and shorelines, from wading birds like egrets and herons to large hunting birds like cormorants. Wildlife is abundant and seen often as the animals come to the lake to drink and laze about in the warm sunshine.

Lake Nicaragua is a fishing paradise. Many of the locals make their living by fishing in the water of Lago Cocibolca. Bass, trout, rainbow fish, mahi mahi, guapote (rainbow bass), tuna, shark and sawfish are among the many species of fish that are available to patient anglers. Fishing charters are available with experienced crew members, along with bait and tackle to make your fishing adventure a memorable catch.

Cities around Lake Nicaragua offer old churches and historical architecture to explore, local markets to shop, colorful festivals to enjoy, and local cuisine made with locally grown ingredients to tempt your taste buds. With a wide range of vacation rentals available from rustic island accommodations to private island resorts, every visitor will be able to choose their perfect vacation spot.

There is so much to enjoy that words fall short of describing Lake Nicaragua. Locals boast that their “jewel of nature” continuously surprises visitors with the never-ending list of things to do, see, enjoy, and experience. Isn’t it time you were surprised? Visit Lake Nicaragua soon!

Things to do at Lake Nicaragua

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Nicaragua

  • Bass
  • Rainbow Bass
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Lake Nicaragua Photo Gallery

Lake Nicaragua Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 2,013,909 acres

Shoreline Length: 300 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 100 feet

Average Depth: 43 feet

Maximum Depth: 148 feet

Water Volume: 87,557,025 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 9,206 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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