Periyar Lake, Kerala, India

Lake Locations:

India - South - Kerala -

Also known as:  Periyar Reservoir, Thekkady Lake

Periyar Lake in India’s State of Kerala is one of the few places you can view Asian elephants and tigers in their natural habitat from the water. The 6425-acre reservoir is home to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, located within the Periyar National Park. The tiger reserve was created soon after the dam was originally built in 1895. Originally part of a game reserve, the tiger reserve was combined into the Periyar National Park, which has expanded to 300 square miles and consolidated a huge area of protected tropical forest along the shores of the former Periyar River.

Built under British colonial rule, the dam across the Periyar River collected a storage pool of water from which a tunnel removed water across the Western Ghatt mountains into arid Tamil Nadu. Located in the rain shadow of the mountains, Tamil Nadu was desperate for water to irrigate crops. So, although the dam and reservoir are within Kerala, the dam is controlled by the government of Tamil Nadu under a 999-year lease. This is rural India and is far more relaxed and less hurried than the more populated parts of the country. The area surround the lake and National Park primarily consists of tea and spice plantations.

The Periyar Lake region is the natural habitat for a variety of exotic and endangered species. Many of the people of the region originally made their livelihood hunting, fishing and harvesting forest products. Encouraging the local people to protect the endangered animals and plants required some alternate form of income. In what has been considered a successful effort, former poachers now guard the forest trails against poaching, and lead visitors along the jungle trails on their rounds. Government and private funding set up many of the locals in the spice and tea agriculture business, and a great many of them have now found work in the tourism trade as more and more visitors enjoy the local eco-tourism.

Some eco-tours offer ‘bamboo raft’ excursions on the lake, while others lead nature tours and jungle treks. The close historical relationship the local guides have with the native landscape makes them excellent and highly-informative. Many of the expeditions require visitors to be physically fit as they are quite strenuous. Night trekking under armed guard is popular with adventurous visitors. Most forest treks are somewhat primitive, with a favorite form of lodging being a night in a ‘tree-house’. These spartan accommodations consist of only a bare box in a tree to which a guide will accompany visitors on one morning and come back to collect them the next. All food and sleeping gear must be carried in, but the opportunity to view wandering, hunting and grazing wildlife from a hidden vantage point among the leaves offers an opportunity that can be experienced in few other places.

Few visitors to Periyar Lake will want to miss a boat cruise to view the local wildlife. The small launches are somewhat loosely scheduled, and ticketing must be done at the launch site about two hours before the cruise departs. The wait and inconvenience are worth it, particularly for those who take either the earliest or the latest boat of the day. These are the times when many animals come down to the water’s edge to drink and bathe, providing the best opportunities for great photographs and exciting scenes from the safety of the boat. The boat cruises are located within the National Park, only a short distance from Thekkady and the park entrance. Experts suggest that visits to the National Park are best during September to May, as inland water holes dry up during the dry season and more animals venture to the lakeshore. This area of India is one of the most authentic in terms of natural habitat and memorable ambiance.

On land, treks along the Periyar Tiger Trail can be arranged under the direction of local guides. Again, the jungle trail is strenuous, and trekkers must meet medical standards. A huge number of native species inhabit the national park, including gaur, bison, sambar (horse deer), barking deer, mouse deer, dholes (Indian wild dogs), mongoose, foxes, leopards and the elusive Nilgiri tahr. Nearly 1000 elephants live in the preserve, along with over 50 tigers. The forests alternate with extensive patches of grasslands. Periyar’s rich birdlife includes the giant hornbill, cormorant, darter, osprey and racket-tailed drongo. The Indian python and king cobra are among the reptilian fauna. Four primate species live in the preserve also.

Visitors to Periyar Lake who wish a less strenuous activity can always take an elephant ride, or tour the countryside in a traditional bullock cart. Jeep tours can also be arranged, and there are organized tours to local tea and spice plantations. Some visitors check into one of the local camps or lodges and tour the local country roads via bicycle. Camping within the National Park is permitted under stringent regulation, and those planning to camp should speak with the proper authorities well in advance of their stay. Although Thekkady is the largest village along the lake, many Indian tour agencies make Periyar Lake a regular part of their tours. There is little formal literature available about tourism opportunities in the region except that of advertising put out by area tour companies, so it is wise to arrange a visit with a knowledgeable tourism firm. Some of the lodgings advertised are quite opulent for such a remote region, offering spas, fine dining and well-appointed rooms. Lodgings are likely plentiful, but a first-time visitor may need some assistance in locating just the right place.

Periyar Lake is used for commercial fishing locally, primarily for carp and tilapia. As yet, there is little in the way of sport fishing, but local officials are considering developing the activity. The many wetlands along the shores offer fine spawning and nesting grounds for both fish and waterfowl, and the many submerged trees left standing when the area was flooded offer fine underwater habitat that could likely support a sport fishery.

The 100-year-old Mullaperiyar Dam has survived Indian Independence, regional disagreements over water levels and water usage, and losses of contracts between the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The water level was lowered after an earthquake did minor damage to the structure in 1979. Since that time, the two states have argued over the optimal water levels to be maintained in the storage pool, with Kerala expressing concern for people downstream in the case of a breach, and Tamil Nadu desiring to bring the water levels up to full capacity of “152 feet” (it is not clear at what point this depth is measured). Recent earthquake activity in the area has apparently settled the issue: engineering studies show the old dam will likely not survive a strong quake. A new dam will be built downstream, while the old dam is partially demolished. This will relieve pressure on the old dam, yet maintain both the water resources for the Periyar National Park and irrigation needs in Tamil Nadu. It is unclear at this point how far the water levels will be lowered on a permanent basis, but wildlife welfare agencies are lobbying to protect the valuable water resources of the National Park and Periyar Tiger Reserve. Meanwhile, the elephants, tigers and other wildlife enjoy their tranquil life along the lakeshore, oblivious to the problems human attempt to solve in their behalf. And, they are expecting your visit. So come to Periyar Lake and enjoy the lovely lake and local wildlife in their perfect habitat.

Things to do at Periyar Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Periyar Lake

  • Carp
  • Darter
  • Perch
  • Tilapia

Periyar Lake Photo Gallery

Periyar Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Govt of Tamil Nadu

Surface Area: 6,425 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,848 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 2,848 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 2,864 feet

Water Volume: 359,332 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1895

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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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