Sea of Galilee, Israel

Lake Locations:

Israel -

Also known as:  Lake Galilee, Lake Tiberias, Lake Kinneret

The Sea of Galilee holds a special position in the history of the modern age. Also known as Lake Kinneret, this is the body of water where Jesus lived and performed most of His miracles. The Sea of Galilee has also allowed Israel to produce miracles of cropland, gardens, farms and an entire modern culture based upon irrigation from its waters. This large freshwater lake – the largest freshwater body in the country of Israel – is actually the centerpiece of an entire water system that has allowed this small country to thrive in the desert. A full 50% of the water used in Israel comes from the Sea of Galilee. That may be changing, however, as years of drought and water overuse have endangered the ancient lake.

For many years, the Sea of Galilee has provided the main source of both water and recreation to Israeli citizens and visitors. Tourists to Israel seldom miss spending a day or two along its shores. From the ancient city of Tiberius to the smallest village, the lake offers swimming, boating, fishing and water sports. Tiberius (named after the Roman emperor Tiberius who ruled from 14-37 AD) is the largest city around Lake Kinneret; although established after Jesus’ death, it is assumed to have been built upon the site of a former village referred to in biblical stories. Certainly, the mineral baths for which Tiberius is known have been in heavy use for thousands of years due to their perceived healing properties. Sprawled on its western shore, Tiberius’ location produces a beautiful view of the entire Lake Kinneret and the Golan heights.

It is Tiberius where most Holy Land tours spend their time on the Sea of Galilee. Not only is the city historically important, its position on the huge lake allows it to offer such attractions as cruise boats from the local marina, well-maintained swimming beaches and opportunities for watersports such as water skiing, tubing, wind surfing and personal watercraft. It is at Tiberius more than other shoreline cities where you will find the sailing crowd. The city is well-supplied with hotels and resort lodgings, both upscale and modest. In Tiberius, visitors can windsurf in the morning and have a luxurious spa massage in the afternoon before heading out in the evening for either a round of nightclubs or a visit to museums holding art or artifacts of great historic significance.

There is something for everyone to see or experience at Tiberius. Visitors can cast a line into the Sea of Galilee and catch some of the same types of fish that the Christian disciples (and generations of Israelis) have angled for. Or, one can spend the day in the older parts of the city investigating shrines, historic churches and synagogues, admiring the architectural elements added by two thousand years of conquering rulers. Indeed, all of the cities and towns surrounding the Sea of Galilee have historic paths, shrines and religious artifacts. Many towns which are no longer on the Sea have lost their historical shoreline status due to dropping lake levels caused by an earthquake in 363. Everywhere one sees sights made famous in the religious lore of both Jews and Christians alike.

Another ancient city along the shore is Capurnaum, which is referred to in many religious texts as home to many biblical fishermen. Again, the city holds its historical buildings, sites and artifacts in great reverence. A third town along the coast is Ginosar, where a 2000-year-old fishing boat uncovered by the receding coastline can be seen in what is known as ‘The Jesus Boat Museum’. There is no evidence that Jesus ever used this particular boat, but it is considered a very typical example of the boats used by fishermen during His lifetime. Hiking opportunities are common along the shoreline of Lake Kinneret, and more adventurous visitors will enjoy camping and paragliding in the Golan Heights area.

Israel is a very modern nation and a leader in technology. One of the reasons for the country’s success has been the plentiful fresh water provided by the Sea of Galilee. Irrigation projects allowed the desert to bloom with orchards, farm fields, greenhouses and vegetable plots. Lake Kinneret provides water for drinking and industry. At one time, hydroelectric power from the power station at Degania Dam (built in 1932) utilized the flow from the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan River and south to the Dead Sea. As the Sea has regular, major water fluctuations, and the entire area experiences multiple disagreements over land and water with its neighbors, hydroelectric power from the Sea soon became unreliable. In 1964, Israel began operating a pipeline that diverts water from the Sea of Galilee, a major Jordan River water provider, to the National Water Carrier system. Also in 1964, Jordan constructed a channel that diverted water from the Yarmouk River, another main tributary of the Jordan River. Syria has also built reservoirs that catch the Yarmouk’s waters. This has seriously reduced the water flow out of the Sea of Galilee toward the Dead Sea.

Due to over-utilization and natural drought cycles, water levels in the Sea of Galilee are currently very low. The Degania Dam sits high and very dry, the water not reaching its base much of the time. This is of major international concern; the reduced flow into the Jordan River and downstream is causing the Dead Sea to dry up. The lower the water levels get, the more evaporation takes place, further lowering the surface of the water in both bodies, although the situation at the Dead Sea is far worse. Although the Sea of Galilee has hosted a thriving commercial fishery for thousands of years, catch levels have reduced so much due to overfishing and reduced habitat that the Israeli Government is seriously considering prohibiting fishing for a period of years to try to rebuild the fishery.

The entire area around the Sea of Galilee is below sea level by some 685 feet. Low water levels have caused the lake’s surface to reach as much as 705 feet below sea level in recent years. Salt water streams flow underneath the bottom of the lake, with only the pressure of the water above keeping them breaking through as springs and contaminating the fresh water above. There is serious scientific concern that if water levels become much lower, salt water will change the salinity of the lake, destroying its delicate ecological balance. Therefore, the entire Jordan River system is of serious worldwide concern and will no doubt contribute to further destabilization of the Middle-East balance of peace if the situation is not corrected. Israel and the State of Illinois have recently signed a ‘Sister Lakes’ agreement between Lake Kinneret and Lake Michigan, with the hope of future technology transfers and water quality help.

Visitors wanting to visit the Sea of Galilee will find that there are all types of lodgings available, from youth hostels to kibbutz rooms to modern resort hotels, complete with mineral baths and spas. Although there are plenty of tours scheduled to Israel on a regular basis, those wishing to visit on their own should have no problem finding a vacation rental or planning an itinerary. Some real estate is always available near the lake, although the most common offerings are apartments with a lake view. So come visit the Sea of Galilee at your earliest opportunity. It will be the trip of a lifetime!

Things to do at Sea of Galilee

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Museum

Sea of Galilee Photo Gallery

  • Sea of Galilee Panorama from Ein Gev, Tiberias

Sea of Galilee Statistics & Helpful Links

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Surface Area: 40,960 acres

Shoreline Length: 33 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): -686 feet

Average Depth: 79 feet

Maximum Depth: 157 feet

Water Volume: 3,364,460 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 4.8 years

Lake Area-Population: 255,000

Drainage Area: 2,700 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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