Lake Volta, Ghana

Lake Locations:

Ghana - Volta Region -

Also known as:  Volta Lake or Volta Reservoir

Lake Volta, the world’s fourth largest reservoir, is located in the west African nation of Ghana. Known to locals as Volta Lake, it was built to provide electricity, fresh water and economic opportunities to the people of Ghana. The lake borders the regions of Volta, Central, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, and Great Accra. In 1961, the Volta River Authority commissioned an Italian firm to build a dam across Akosombo Gorge, near the conjunction of the White Volta River and the Black Volta River. The United States and World Bank provided funding to the newly-formed republic. The resulting lake displaced 78,000 people along with their farm animals. The dam now provides electricity for most of the nation of Ghana and a reliable supply of fresh water for villages in the area. As fish is the primary source of protein for the people of Ghana, expanded fishing opportunities provide a better diet and improved water transportation to enhance trade. It is hoped that irrigation of crops will further increase the food supply but change comes slow to this small country formerly known as the Gold Coast.

There is little development along Lake Volta’s shoreline. At least 20 small villages hug the shore, most without road transportation or electricity. The regular freight and ferry visits provide the opportunity to sell local products and crafts to visitors and the occasional tourist. The ferry service also allows locals to visit with distant relatives too far away to paddle by small boat. Freight barges allow products such as yams to be moved downriver to markets at the capitol of Accra. Increasingly, the lake brings tourists to the region, aiding a burgeoning industry vital to the economic growth of Ghana.

Lake Volta increasingly has become a destination for visitors. The small town of Akosombo, growing up around the dam, has become more tourism-oriented. Fishing excursions and water sports have become available through the local vacation resorts and lodgings in the area. Fishing for Volta perch, African tiger fish, Nile tilapia and several varieties of catfish are a favorite of charter expeditions as native guides know the location of underwater snags and hot spots. The Digya National Park, encompassing part of the northwestern shore, encourages wildlife safaris, where visitors may catch sight of elephant, buffalo, water buck, hartebeest, bush pig, baboons, five species of monkeys, crocodiles and the clawless otter. The 2160-acre park is largely savannah woodland and gallery forest along the riverbanks.

Lake Volta is filled with submerged hardwood trees such as ebony, teak and mahogany. A recent project begun by an investment firm is to harvest this valuable wood from underwater, thus protecting dry land forests from cutting and providing needed funds for the government. The project has been met with mixed emotions among local fishermen: the trees catch and damage their nets but also provide cover and spawning areas for the fish that provide their livelihood. Ghana is truly a country in transition and change is always difficult.

Experienced travelers may wish to utilize a tro-tro, or local small passenger vehicle, to get from the capital city to Lake Volta. These vans have no set schedule and travel when filled to capacity. Others arrange for a rental in Accra, but need to be aware that there are few improved roads in the interior of the country and an SUV is a better option. The vast majority of visitors arrange in advance for a tour of the areas they wish to visit. And there are a great many colorful and historic places to choose from around Lake Volta.

Typically, the visitor to the Lake Volta region will fly into the capital of Accra or one of the other airports along the Atlantic Coast. Accra is well-supplied with Western-style amenities but retains many African cultural attitudes. No visitor will want to leave Accra without visiting the Accra Centre for National Culture, which presents traditional handicrafts in various forms from all over Ghana. It includes workshops, art galleries, arts and crafts and stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs and goods. Another place most want to visit is the Makola Market. The hundreds of stalls are filled with foods, produce, goods, imports and hand-crafted “necessities” from all over the world.

A third market, the Osu Night Market, is the place to get authentic African foods after dark, when the area is lit by candles and lanterns. And no one should miss a trip to the coffin industry in Teshie/Nungue, a suburb of Accra, where coffins are made in the shape of cars, planes, animals and mythical beasts. Prized as sculpture by collectors, these coffins are far too expensive for most Ghana citizens but faithfully reproduce symbols of the many animist religions represented among local tribesmen. Visitors should also make a trip to Osu Castle or Fort Christiansborg, a former Danish fort that was used as headquarters for the slave trade and later the by the British colonial government. The Republic of Ghana government used it as the seat of government until a new Presidential palace was built recently.

When beginning the journey to Lake Volta, many choose to stop at Aburi Botanical Gardens, about 20 miles north of Accra. Charged with scientific research, horticultural training, growing endangered plants, managing natural reserves and environmental education, Aburi is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and fascinating places in Ghana. The Tetteh Quarshie’s Cocoa Farm is the original farm that began the Ghana cocoa industry, importing seeds into the country. The Shai Hills Resource Reserve is on the main road between Accra and the Volta Region. The reserve supports 31 species of mammals, more than 175 species of birds and 13 reptile species.

Arriving at Lake Volta, arrange for a trip aboard the Dodi Princess cruise ship to the newly-developing resort areas of Dodi Island. A fisherman may wish to arrange a fishing excursion with a native fisherman to one of the uninhabited islands for a chance to land the trophy fish of his dreams. Or choose to hire a local guide and driver to visit the waterfalls in the highlands at the eastern edge of the Volta region. This hiker-friendly area is the home of the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and the former German mission of Amedzofe.

A visit to Ho, capitol of the Volta region, gives the visitor the chance to see the HO marketplace and the variety of goods exported from the region. These goods include cocoa, the kola nut, cotton, palm oil, cloth (most notably the traditional Ghanaian Kente cloth), banana and cassava. The town has a regional museum for visitors to enjoy. Festivals are common in the villages around Lake Volta. A full schedule can be obtained from the Ghana tourism department and many area tour operators. A festival is held every month of the year somewhere in Ghana.

A must-visit while at Lake Volta is village of Salaga, between the White Volta and Black Volta Rivers. Once part of the vast slave trade network in Ghana, slaves were sold here until 1899. Some remnants of the slave trade still remain and most visitors are shocked to realize that the outlawing of slavery in Great Britain and the United States did not end the local slave trade. They are even more shocked to find that slaves are still owned and sold in this small West African country: children as young as five are sold by their parents to fishermen working the fishing boats on Lake Volta. Several human rights groups are actively working to free these children and raise them in a safe environment. They cannot be returned home as they will likely be sold again. Only increased economic development and higher annual incomes will end this trade and move Ghana toward a country fully recognizing the human rights of it’s people.

Lake Volta is a very different lake than those in most tourist areas. Vacation rentals in the form of guest houses are available in most villages. Larger cities provide more traditional lodgings, and real estate opportunities are available in the rapidly-growing towns around Lake Volta. The traveler here is not simply a tourist but an agent of change. Come make Lake Volta part of your mission. It’s both a bargain and the experience of a lifetime.

Things to do at Lake Volta

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Volta

  • Catfish
  • Perch
  • Tiger Fish
  • Tilapia

Lake Volta Photo Gallery

Lake Volta Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Volta River Authority of Ghana

Surface Area: 2,096,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 2,983 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 279 feet

Average Depth: 62 feet

Maximum Depth: 246 feet

Water Volume: 119,985,553 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1966

Water Residence Time: 4.3

Drainage Area: 149 sq. miles

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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