Rangkul Lake & Shorkul Lake, Tajikistan

Lake Locations:

Tajikistan -

Also known as:  Ozero Rangkul, Ozero Shorkul

Those with a taste for unusual and somewhat extreme adventure will certainly want to put Rangkul and Shorkul Lakes on their list. These two natural, scenic lakes in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan are accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles. Tajikistan, a country with over 50% of its landmass at over 9,800 feet in elevation, is unique and historic. The Pamirs were part of the Southern route of the Silk Road. The country, although inhospitable during the long, cold winters, has been inhabited for the better part of 4,000 years.

Rangkul Lake, or Ozero Rangkul, is the larger of the two with about 1,980 acres of surface. A short distance to the west, Ozero Shorkul covers about 1,730 acres. The two are connected by a natural channel, the Uziukdar’ia or Iziuk Channel. Rangkul Lake is a freshwater lake which gains its water in this desert climate mostly from snowmelt. Shorkul Lake is brackish. During spring flooding, both lakes expand considerably. Small villages of local Tajik people are located near the lakes. The primarily Muslim population engages in livestock herding during the short cool summers. Both lakes are shallow, so they freeze completely in winter, making it impossible for fish to live. In summer, however, a variety of insects swarm around the lakes amid the prolific rushes and marsh grasses. The lakes are incredibly scenic, with blue waters rimmed by green rushes and grasses against the backdrop of craggy peaks and glaciers crowning some of the highest valleys.

There are no modern hotels or tourist facilities at Shorkul and Rangkul Lakes. A growing network of homestays and tourist yurts provides basic lodgings to those who come to climb the nearby mountains. Tourists who come for the day can visit ancient Kyrgyz graves or the rock outcropping called Chiragh Tash. The name translates to ‘lamp rock’, with an attendant legend that says a light shines from a cave 40 feet above the ground in the eastern side. Legend says that the light is the eye of a dragon guarding an ancient treasure within the cave. The legend was repeated to the English-speaking world by two visitors during the Great Game period in the late 1800s. Knowledge of the Great Game reached Western consciousness via Rudyard Kipling’s novel “Kim”. The ‘great game’ itself was a period of geopolitical rivalry in Central Asia between Great Britain and Russia. Geopolitical strife has been the situation in Tajikistan for over a thousand years.

From Rangkul Lake, visitors can see the peak of Mustagh Ata in China’s Tashkurgan Autonomous County. Called ‘Father of the Ice Mountain’ at 24,757 feet, the mountain is on the other side of the Sarikol range. The area between the two lakes contains marshes and wetlands highly attractive to a variety of birds. Because of its unique setting, the area was named the Rangkul Valley IBA or Important Bird and Biodiversity Area in 2006. The protected area includes 398,349 acres, including 3,700 acres of wetland. Some of the birds seen here are the Tibetan snowcock, Himalayan snowcock, alpine chough, Himalayan vulture, bar-headed goose and Brandt’s mountain finch.

It seldom rains in this high mountain desert valley. The only vegetation growing on the dry desert are low shrubs and perennial grasses. Wind is nearly constant, and windstorms can occur at any time. Tajikistan’s population is quite poor, and the chief exports are cotton and aluminum. There is a large potential for hydroelectricity due to mountain snowmelt,and some in government hope that development of hydroelectric power can offer a more stable export commodity, providing a higher quality of life for its people. The small country is about 55,000 square miles, and divided into two main districts. Rangkul Lake and Shorkul Lake lie within Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast in the eastern half of the country.

Bordered by China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan has been ruled by Persia, the Mongol Empire, the Hephthalite Empire and most recently, Russia and the former Soviet Union until 1991. Due to its remote location, the populace retains remnants of a variety of cultures and religions. The people love music and dance and are hospitable to strangers. Under Soviet rule, some rudimentary roads were built and the country gained a high level of literacy, although it still struggles with basic infrastructure, health services and economic opportunity. Now a democratic republic, its president and parliament are elected by the populace. Tourism is one of the ways which the country hopes to raise its standard of living. Tourists are warmly invited, and the visa system has been streamlined to provide faster access to travel paperwork. A growing tourism industry is creating tour itineraries with lodgings.

Murghab is the nearest town, a growing city of 4,000 people. Tours to the lakes usually begin here. Late May to early September is the best time to come. Weather conditions make many of the roads impassible six months out of the year. Although the lowest valleys may be hot, up here at 12,400 feet, it will no doubt be cool . . .even downright chilly after sunset. Call a travel agent and start planning your ‘extreme’ adventure.

*Statistics listed are for Rangkul Lake. Official sources differ somewhat in statistics for these lakes, so the numbers should be considered a general guide.

Things to do at Rangkul Lake & Shorkul Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Birding

Rangkul Lake & Shorkul Lake Photo Gallery

Rangkul Lake & Shorkul Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,977 acres

Shoreline Length: 10 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 12,400 feet

Maximum Depth: 20 feet

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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