Wular Lake, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Lake Locations:

India - North - Jammu and Kashmir -

Also known as:  Wullar Lake

Wular Lake, located in the Jammu and Kashmir region of northern India, is something of a mystery. The name Wular is believed to be a corruption of the Sanskrit word Ullola, meaning turbulent. Formed by tectonic activity, Wular Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. The exact size is unrecorded as the lake varies in size between 12 square miles (7,680 acres) and 100 square miles (64,000 acres), depending on the season. Wular Lake acts as a natural flood reservoir for the River Jhelum and several smaller rivers that flow through this part of the Indus Valley.

Most of Wular Lake is extremely shallow, and the deepest portions are about 20 feet deep. The lake is surrounded by important wetlands which are continually being drained to provide small farm plots by local residents. The Indian government estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 fishermen earn their living from fish caught on Wular Lake, providing 60% of the entire fish yield of Kashmir. Fish caught include several species of carp, catfish, loaches, sheatfish, killifish, salmon and trout. Kashmir residents grow water chestnuts on the swampy shores both for food and export. As farming pressures have grown, the lake has become increasingly silted. Records show that Wular Lake has lost half of its size in the last hundred years.

The small town of Ningal Nullah acts as the tourism hub for Wular Lake. Here, visitors can rent sailboats, doongas (the un-ornamented floating living quarters for fishermen), and houseboats. The three main anchor destinations are at Ningal Nullah, Kiuhnus Bay, and Ajus Spur on the south east side. Would-be boaters are warned that, although the shallow lake appears calm, fierce winds are known to appear quite suddenly. These storms have claimed victims in the past; the deepest part of the lake is known as Mota Khon, the ‘Gulf of Corpses.’ Locals with small boats ordinarily cross the lake in the early morning to avoid storms. Those unsure of their skill are advised to hire a cruise from an experienced tour guide. An artificial island was constructed on the lake hundreds of years ago. Zaina Lanka was built by King Zain-ul-abidin in the 15th century for sailors to find shelter from unexpected storms. Ruins from those ancient times still exist here. Due to silting, the island is currently reported to be connected to the southern shore.

Interesting sights are plentiful around Wular Lake. Sopor (also spelled Sopur) near Ningal Nullah at the southern end of the lake is a larger city in an area known for growing apples and walnuts. Sopor offers a marketplace and many small local shops that will fascinate the visitor. Bandipur on the eastern shore is an important market town known for its fine woven blankets and woolen carpets. Ornithologists often visit this lake and the nearby Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. Birds such as Himalayan golden eagle, short-toed eagle, Himalayan pied woodpecker, eared kite, sparrow hawk, blue rock pigeon, alpine swift, cuckoo, Kashmir roller and golden oriole can often be seen here. As the wetlands surrounding Wular Lake have increasingly gained the attention of environmentalists, efforts have begun to recover much of the former wetland area and increase eco-tourism.

Viewing parks with many flowers and gazebos have been established along the Wular Lake shoreline to encourage visitors to enjoy lake views. One such garden has been developed on Manasbal-Bandipora road where visitors may stroll among fountains and plantings overlooking the lake with the Himalayas in the background, and dine in the newly-opened cafeteria. Several camping areas are set aside where trekking visitors may camp. The nearby mountain ranges attract many more adventurous visitors for mountain skiing, hiking and climbing. The surrounding countryside is well-supplied with picturesque shrines, temples, and ruins, many of which can be reached by bicycle.

Because tourist rentals are limited at Wular Lake, it is common for visitors to stay at Srinagar, a major tourism city 40 miles up the River Jhelum. Here, visitors can take their holiday on one of the famous houseboats on beautiful Dal Lake or one of the many hotels, hostels, villas, Kothi (guest houses) and bed-and-breakfasts in the area. The elaborate houseboats began as lodging for British government officials in the 1800s after the Maharajah refused them permission to build on land; they have changed very little since then. Houseboat rentals are becoming increasingly rare here; regulations no longer allow new houseboats to be built. Tour buses leave Srinagar daily for Wular Lake and stop at many of the more interesting sights on the shore. Some cruise boats take passengers down the River Jhelum to Wular Lake and back – a most pleasant and scenic trip.

Tourism has been limited at Wular Lake due to its volatile political location: portions of Kashmir were divided among India, Pakistan and China in 1947, but none of the three countries has ever been completely satisfied with the division. Flowing from Wular Lake less than 15 miles from the Pakistan border, the River Jhelum is an important water source for Pakistan, and water shortages often create dissension. India is attempting to dam the lake outlet to increase water depths upstream for transportation purposes, much to the consternation of Pakistan who believes it violates water treaties. Because of border disputes, local maps within each controlling country may lay claim to more land than is actually within their borders. Visitors are advised to purchase accurate maps locally when they arrive in the country. If one can overcome the difficulties of area travel, a trip to Wular Lake can be the holiday of a lifetime. So put on your adventurer’s hat and come see Wular Lake and the fabled beauty that is Kashmir.

Things to do at Wular Lake

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Wular Lake

  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Wular Lake Photo Gallery

    Wular Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Surface Area: 64,000 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,180 feet

    Average Depth: 12 feet

    Maximum Depth: 21 feet

    Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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