Poyang Lake, East China, China

Lake Locations:

China - East China -

Also known as:  Boyang, Po Yang Hu, Poyanghu

Poyang Lake is China’s largest freshwater lake-also known as one of China’s five Great Lakes. This massive shallow lake is located in Jiangxi Province, in the east region of the country. Long revered and the source of life and income for many in the region, Poyang Lake has changed radically in recent years, and not for the better. The lake has always been seasonal, growing and shrinking according to rainfall and water entering from its five main tributary streams and the Yangtze River. Several years of prolonged drought and the diversion of water caused by the new Three Gorges Dam have deprived Poyang Lake of much of the water that fills it each spring and summer. From a maximum of about 1,087,264 acres the lake has, since 2012, reduced in size to around 49,421 acres. Both locals and international researchers are attempting to get the lake back to its average wet season size of 864,869 acres.

Poyang Lake’s unusual life-cycle first began to occur during the Han Dynasty. Previously, the Yangtze River followed a more northern course, and the area now covered by Poyang Lake was a plain along the Gan River. The Yangtze River changed course around 400 AD, causing the Gan River to back up and flood the Pengli Marsh and eventually the former plain. The resulting lake flooded Haihun County and Poyang County, forcing the local people to migrate to Wucheng Township. During the Tang Dynasty, Poyang Lake covered more than 14,826,320 acres at its largest. During the winter months, the lake shrinks to an average of about 247,105 acres as a series of marshes and small lakes connected by a network of waterways. During the summer months, the many small villages atop area hills become islands. For many years, the lake was both a transportation waterway and a source of fishing.

The seasonal water fluctuations have provided critical habitat for several species of bird life of international concern for many hundreds of years. Ninety-five percent of the world’s critically-endangered Siberian Cranes, most of the endangered Oriental storks, and several species of cranes and geese depend on the wetlands of Poyang Lake to over-winter. The lake is also home to the jiangzhu finless porpoise, called the river pig locally. Nearly half of the world’s finless porpoises live in Poyang Lake, with most of the rest found in the Yangtze River. The porpoise population is dropping by about 7% a year, due to several factors, one of which is suspected to be sand dredging.

In an effort to earn a living, local residents have taken up sand dredging to produce income, which muddies the waters and disrupts many forms of wildlife. Because the unique ecology at Poyang Lake is so important, 5900 acres was designated a RAMSAR site. RAMSAR International has called attention to the dire situation at Poyang Lake, prompting visiting scientists and local government officials to attempt to find solutions to the growing problem. Jiangxi Normal University and Central Michigan University’s Institute for Great Lakes Research are cooperating to study impacts to the area’s environment. Increasingly, the Chinese government appears to be concerned about the environmental damage the Three Gorges Dam may be causing, and it is hoped operational policies may be altered to mitigate such damage.

Several solutions to the shrinking lake have been proposed, including building a dam to prevent the lake from draining to the Yangtze through its usual channel. Researchers aren’t sure that would work as predicted. In the meantime, Mother Nature appears to have provided at least a temporary solution: heavy rains in 2015 and 2016 have gone a long way toward refilling the lake to the point that the main highway across the lake used by tour buses has recently been flooded. Recent efforts to increase tourism at Poyang Lake have resulted in optimism that more employment will be the result. Bird watching and nature observation are becoming increasingly popular, with tours arriving from Nanchang on the Gan River and other places in the region. Poyang Lake National Wetland Park attracts many visitors along Dahuchi water highway for fishing and nature observation.

Poyang Lake also has made the news for reports of unusual shipwrecks and anomalies which have occurred throughout history and to the present day. Strange ship sinkings and loss of life have given Poyang Lake the reputation of “Bermuda Triangle of the East”. According to popular media, over 200 boats sank in one section of the lake from 1960 to the late 1980s, with over 1600 people missing and 30 survivors who became mentally ill. Although the stories related are no doubt embellished to some extent, the waters near Laoye Temple near the northeastern shore seem to be particularly dangerous-highly unusual for a lake with an average depth of less than 28 feet deep. Known as the Laoye Temple waters, this area appears to suffer from sudden weather phenomena and rapidly-shifting sand bars. Whirlpools created by shifting sandbars has been suggested as a possible explanation for the many shipwrecks. However, nothing has been found to account for the sudden disappearance of entire ships and the fact that no wreckage is ever found. Even divers who have attempted to research the area have met the same fate.

There is little information available about local lodgings. Most visitors stay in Nanchang, a beautiful city noted for cultural sites and famed Nanchang cuisine. One must-see location in Nanchang is Tengwang Pavilion, dedicated to the arts and letters of China’s most famous persons. Frescoes, bas-relief, steles, plaques, poetry adorning columns, musical instruments, serial bells, and other sacrificial and ritual articles provide a cultural history by immersion. The Nanchang August 1st Uprising Museum marks the location where the 1927 Peoples Liberation Army was formed, leading to the Peoples Republic of China. Also most interesting is the Nanchang Bayi Square, the second-largest in China after Tienanmen Square, a popular gathering place for kite flying. Nearby are Lushan National Park, Mt. Jinggang and Dragon and Tiger Mountain.

Nanchang holds a variety of lodgings, including the usual western-style hotels, local guest stays, and less regulated home stays. Those unsure of either the language or the local customs may wish to arrange travel and accommodations through a travel agent familiar with the local area. And don’t forget to arrange for the tour of Poyang Lake.

* Statistics for Poyang Lake are highly variable. Those listed are the most commonly quoted.

Things to do at Poyang Lake

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

Poyang Lake Photo Gallery

Poyang Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,087,264 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 39 feet

Average Depth: 28 feet

Maximum Depth: 82 feet

Water Volume: 2,391,608 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 62,635 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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