Lake Tuz, Turkey

Lake Locations:

Turkey -

Also known as:  Tuz Golu, Salt lake

Known as Turkey’s great salt lake, Lake Tuz is a sight every visitor to the Anatolia region (Asian Turkey) must see. Second-largest lake in the country, Lake Tuz is very salty, with the waters consisting of over 32% salt. And, as is common with large salt lakes, Lake Tuz is also home to a large population of flamingos. Located along the main highway between the capital city of Ankara and the sightseeing favorite of Cappadocia, Lake Tuz has none of the usual tourist accommodations and few amenities created for visitors. The spectacle of the marvelous expanse of water and salt flats brings people just to gaze on the unusual sight.

There are no settlements along the shore of Lake Tuz. The salt marshes caused by overflowing water in heavy rainfall years makes the soil south of the lake unable to support crops. Crops are grown near the northern part of the shore, watered by irrigation wells. Where that shoreline is located changes year-to-year and with the seasons. Lake Tuz occupies a depression where two inflowing, freshwater rivers, Pecenek Cayn and Melendiz Cayn, deposit their waters. With no outflow channel, the water forms a shallow lake. The water is only about a foot deep much of the year and seldom reaches over 5 feet in depth. By late summer, much of the water has evaporated, sometimes to the point of being nearly all dry. This seasonal evaporation leads to one of the lake’s most startling features: the lake turns blood red on occasion.

Lake Tuz reaches its red phase through the evaporation of water needed by brine shrimp and plankton which feed on the dunaliella salina, a type of red algae. The red algae is the reason flamingos turn pink. The annual loss of the brine shrimp and plankton due to evaporation allows the red algae to ‘bloom’, or proliferate wildly, staining the water red. Later on during the summer, the water loss leads to the majority of the former lake becoming gleaming white salt flats. Local people harvest the salt. The resulting salt provides over 60% of Turkey’s salt production. Twenty-two different minerals are deposited by evaporation, many of which are used by local cottage industries to produce skin creams and cosmetics.

Home to the Mediterranean Basin’s largest flock of flamingos, the Lake Tuz flamingos nest and rear their young on a series of small islands in the southern part of the lake. Aerial surveys each year estimate the numbers of chicks hatched and raised. Sometimes those chicks number well over 10,000. Recent reductions in the amount of water flowing in to fill the lake have led to serious concerns over whether the flock will be able to survive in the future. A dam built in 1996 along one of the inflowing rivers had already reduced the amount of water needed to replenish the lake. Lake Tuz was reduced to 60% of its former size between 1987 and 2005.

Although Lake Tuz was declared a Special Environmental Protection Area in 2000, little action has been taken to actually protect the lake’s water. The former freshwater Esmekaya Marshes have already dried up, disrupting the local economy which relied upon them. Additionally, illegal deep wells for the irrigation of sugar beet fields have lowered the water table, reducing the amount of ground water entering the lake basin. Further water disruptions endanger the salt water marshes that still exist. Another concern is that plans by a Chinese firm to use the area as an underground natural gas storage location will further degrade the lake’s ecology. The process of building the storage chambers is also water-intensive.

Most tours of the Central Anatolia region include a short stop at Lake Tuz. Travelers often stop to wade in the shallow water, anticipating the white expanse to be similar to sand. Unexpectedly, they find that the ‘sand’ is really hard and rather sharp salt crystals, both along the shore and under the water. Wading is usually far more pleasant for those wearing flip-flops or water shoes. Restrooms are available, and vendors offer cosmetic concoctions and novelty souvenirs. Serious bird watchers will want to get off the main highway and travel to the southern parts of the lake where the flamingos can be seen. Although the large birds nest on the islands, they often feed on nearby ponds. Other waterfowl can be observed in the marshes near the lake. There are no lodgings available at the lake, but the nearby town of Sereflikochisar, six miles away, does have a couple of hotels.

Visiting Lake Tuz is usually a temporary stop on a trip from Ankara to breathtaking Cappadocia. The Cappadocia area is noted for its famous ‘fairy chimneys’ at nearby Goreme. The unusual geological features were created by soft volcanic rock weathering away to leave towers of rock. One of the ‘chimneys’ contains a church, and several were previously used as houses. The multiplicity of cave houses and hotels in the Cappadocia region allows visitors to experience the unusual geology of the area and learn of its storied history dating back to around 5000 BC. One of the most spectacular adventures is a guided tour of the Underground City at Derinkuyu. Several underground complexes in the area encourage visitors; a guided tour is the safest way to see the most spectacular sights. Hot air balloon tours and horseback tours are also available.

For more historically enlightening stops, tourists can visit the Guray Museum in Cappadocia where ceramics are displayed dating as far back as 5000 years. The Cappadocia Art & History Museum is another location where the past comes alive. Both of these facilities are located in caves, as are most of the hotels and many of the local attractions. Nearly all attractions involve some climbing, so they may not be appropriate for those with mobility issues. Still, Lake Tuz and its environs are a bucket-list destination with sights found nowhere else in the world.

*Estimates of the lake’s size are not current and are continually changing.

Things to do at Lake Tuz

  • Horseback Riding
  • Birding
  • Museum

Lake Tuz Photo Gallery

Lake Tuz Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 321,237 acres

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 2,969 feet

Average Depth: 1 feet

Maximum Depth: 5 feet

Drainage Area: 4,600 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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