16 of the Deepest Lakes in the World

An aerial view of Lake Toba in Indonesia with lush green vegetation around it.
Aerial view of Lake Toba, Indonesia.

Kriswanto Ginting / Getty Images

We marvel at the mysteries of the deep sea, but what about the world's deepest lakes? The 16 lakes listed below are spread out among 20 nations, tropical, temperate, and arctic environments, and vary in age from about 100 years old to over 25 million years old. Discover fascinating facts about each of these massive and seemingly bottomless bodies of water.

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Sarez Lake

With a maximum depth of about 1,476 feet deep, Tajikistan's Sarez Lake is the 16th deepest lake in the world. The Lake formed in 1911 after a large earthquake. A landslide blocked the Murghab River, forming a dam and allowing Sarez Lake to form. The dam, known as the Usoi blockage, is the world's tallest natural dam.

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Lake Tahoe

An aerial view of Lake Tahoe with snowy forest around it and a sunset in the distance.
Lake Tahoe is the 16th deepest lake in the world.

Rachid Dahnoun

Lake Tahoe is about 1,645 feet deep and the second deepest lake in the United States. Behind the Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe is the largest lake by volume in the United States. Sixty-three tributaries feed into Lake Tahoe, but only the Truckee River is the lake's only outlet. The Lake became a major tourist attraction following the 1960 Winter Olympics at nearby Squaw Valley.

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Lake Toba

An aerial view of Lake Toba with lush greenery in the foreground.
Indonesia's Lake Toba formed about 70,000 years ago following an explosive volcanic eruption.

Kriswanto Ginting / Getty Images

Lake Toba is about 1,667 feet deep and sits within the caldera of a supervolcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The supervolcano last erupted about 70,000 years ago and is the largest-known explosive volcano eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. Following the eruption, the volcano's caldera collapsed and filled with water, forming Lake Toba.

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Quesnel Lake

Quensel Lake is located in British Columbia, Canada. At about 1,677 feet deep, Quensel Lake is only slightly deeper than Indonesia's Lake Toba. It is the deepest fjord lake in the world, the third-deepest lake in North America, and the deepest lake in British Columbia.

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Hornindalsvatnet, Hornindal, Mogrenda, Noruega
Juan Carlos Hernández Hernández / Getty Images

Norway's Hornindalsvatnet is about 1,686 feet deep, making it Europe's deepest lake. The bottom of the lake sits below sea level. The Lake provides important freshwater habitat for migrating Atlantic salmon.

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Lake Buenos Aires

An aerial view of General Carrera Lake (Lake Buenos Aires).
Lake Buenos Aires, or General Carrera Lake, was formed by glaciers.

Christian Heinrich / Getty Images

Lake Buenos Aires sits on the border between Argentina and Chile, where it is also known as General Carrera Lake. The Lake is surrounded by the Andes mountains and was formed by glaciers. At its deepest point, the Lake is 1,923 feet deep. The Lake's bottom sits about 1,000 feet below sea level.

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Lake Matano

Lake Matano is located in East Luwu Regency in the South Sulawesi province in Indonesia. With a maximum depth of about 1,940 feet, Lake Matano is the tenth deepest lake in the world and the deepest lake in Indonesia. The lake is uniquely rich in iron and methane, a combination rare on Earth today, but similar to what the planet's oceans may have been like during the Archean Eon between 2,500 and 4,000 million years ago.

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Crater Lake

An aerial view of Oregon's crater lake.
Oregon's Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.

Brinley Clark / EyeEm / Getty Images

Oregon's Crater Lake is relatively young, having formed only about 7,700 years ago when a violent volcanic eruption caused a mountain peak to collapse. Remnants of the mountain's peak sit in the center of the lake today. No rivers flow in, to, or out of Crater Lake; instead, the lake receives all of its water through rain and snowfall and loses water through evaporation.

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Great Slave Lake

Great Slave Lake is about 2,014 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in North America. Indigenous peoples settled around the massive lake after glaciers retreated from the area at the end of the last ice age. Based on archaeological evidence, people have lived around the lake for at least 5,000 years. While some have pushed for the lake to be re-named to one of the names given to it by the area's indigenous peoples, the lake's official name remains the Great Slave Lake today.

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Lake Ysyk-Kol

A view of the shoreline of Lake Issyk Kul.
Kyrgystan's Lake Ysyk-Kol is the seventh-deepest lake in the world.

Evgenii Zotov / Getty Images

Lake Ysyk-Kol, or Issyk-Kul, is located in northern Kyrgyzstan. At about 2,192 feet deep, Lake Ysyk-Kol is the fifth deepest lake in the world. The Lake receives freshwater from over 100 rivers and streams but lacks an outlet. Instead, much of the Lake's water leaves through evaporation. The salt left behind makes Lake Ysyk-Kol a relatively salty lake.

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Lake Nyasa

Lake Nyasa, or Lake Malawi, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. The Lake has a maximum depth of about 2,575 feet, making it the third largest freshwater lake in Africa after lakes Victoria and Tanganyika and the second largest lake by volume after Lake Tanganyika. In addition to its size and depth, Lake Nyasa is unique in that its water layers don't mix—the lake is permanently in layers with varying water chemistry. Lake Nyasa is also an important source of fish in the area. The Lake's rich assemblage of fish includes chambo, sardines, and catfish. Many of the fish that live in Lake Nyasa are not found anywhere else in the world.

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O'Higgins/San Martín Lake

o'higgins lake

betoscopio / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Like Lake Buenos Aires, O'Higgins Lake sits on the border between Argentina and Chile; it is known as O'Higgins Lake in Chile and San Martín Lake in Argentina. At about 2,743 feet deep, the lake is the deepest lake in the Americas. Unlike most lakes, O'Higgins Lake has a complex, channelized shape formed by the Lake's glacial origins. Glacial ice melt continues to raise the water level of O'Higgins Lake today.

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Lake Vostok

The surface of Antarctica's Lake Vostok sits about 2.5 miles below the ice. The Lake's maximum depth remains uncertain, but estimates suggest it's about 3,500 feet deep. Despite Antarctica's extremely low temperatures, the water of Lake Vostok remains liquid thanks to the immense pressure exerted by the thick ice sheet above. The incredible pressure lowers water's melting point, meaning that the ice melts at temperatures lower than what we experience on Earth's surface.

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Caspian Sea

A view of the Caspian Sea from the shores of Azerbaijan
Despite its name, the Caspian Sea is technically a lake.

Marc Guitard / Getty Images

The Caspian Sea is located between five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan. The Caspian Sea receives about 80% of all of its water from the Volga River. Despite its name, the Caspian Sea is considered a lake because it is enclosed on all sides. At over 14,000-square-miles in size, the Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world. The Caspian Sea is more than four times larger than the world's second-largest lake, Lake Superior, and 1.5-times larger than all five Great Lakes combined.

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Lake Tanganyika

landscape of lake Tanganyika
MOIZ HUSEIN / Getty Images

At about 4,822 feet deep and at least 9 million years old, Africa's Lake Tanganyika is both the second oldest and the second deepest lake in the world. This massive lake is located near the western branch of the East African Rift on the border of Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Zambia. Every year, Lake Tanganyika provides around 200,000 tons of fish, making the lake one of the largest inland fisheries in the world.

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Lake Baikal

An aerial view of one of Lake Baikal's shores.
Russia's Lake Baikal is both the oldest and the deepest lake in the world.

Peerasit Chockmaneenuch / Getty Images

Russia's Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world by far. With a depth of about 5,487 feet, Lake Baikal is nearly 15% deeper than Lake Tanganyaki, the second deepest lake in the world. Lake Baikal is also the largest lake in the world by volume, accounting for over 20% of all surface waters in the world. The Lake was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Lake Baikal is about 25 million years old, making the lake the oldest in the world, too. The Lake's incredible age has allowed a rich, unique assemblage of life to flourish, including the Baikal seal, the Baikal oil fish, and the Baikal omul fish. The lake's diversity has led some to refer to it as the "Galapagos of Russia".

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