Lake Turkana
Lake Turkana formerly known as Lake Rudolf, is a lake in the Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa...

 in Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, with its far northern end crossing into Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. It is the world's largest permanent desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 lake and the world's largest alkaline lake. By volume it is the world's third-largest salt lake after the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 and Issyk-Kul (passing the shrinking South Aral Sea
South Aral Sea
The South Aral Sea is a lake in the basin of the former Aral Sea which formed in 1986 when that body divided in two, due to diversion of river inflow for agriculture...

), and among all lakes it ranks twenty-fourth. The water is potable but not palatable. It supports a rich lacustrine
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

 wildlife. The climate is hot and very dry.

The rocks
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 of the surrounding area are predominantly volcanic. Central Island
Central Island
Central Island, also known as Crocodile Island, is a volcanic island located in the middle of Lake Turkana in Kenya. It is also the location of Central Island National Park, which is governed by the Kenya Wildlife Service....

 is an active volcano, emitting vapors. Outcrops and rocky shores are found on the East and South shores of the lake, while dunes, spits and flats are on the West and North, at a lower elevation.

On-shore and off-shore winds can be extremely strong as the lake warms and cools more slowly than the land. Sudden, violent storms are frequent. Three rivers (the Omo
Omo River
The Omo River is an important river of southern Ethiopia. Its course is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia, and empties into Lake Turkana on the border with Kenya...

, Turkwel
Turkwel River
The Turkwel River is a river flowing from Mount Elgon in the border of Kenya and Uganda to Lake Turkana. The river is called Suam River from its source to the border with the West Pokot District of Kenya...

 and Kerio
Kerio River
Kerio is a river in Rift Valley province, Kenya. It flows northward into Lake Turkana. It is one of the longest rivers in Kenya, originating near the equator. In south it flows through the Kerio Valley between Tugen Hills and Elgeyo escarpment. The river also partly bounds the South Turkana...

) flow into the lake, but lacking outflow its only water loss is by evaporation. Lake volume and dimensions are variable. For example, its level fell by 10 metres between 1975 and 1993.

Due to temperature, aridity and geographic inaccessibility, the lake retains its wild character. Nile crocodile
Nile crocodile
The Nile crocodile or Common crocodile is an African crocodile which is common in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Gabon, South Africa, Malawi, Sudan, Botswana, and Cameroon...

s are found in great abundance on the flats. The rocky shores are home to scorpion
Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognized by the pair of grasping claws and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger...

s and carpet vipers. Although the lake and its environs have been popular for expeditions of every sort under the tutelage of guides, rangers and experienced persons, they certainly must be considered hazardous for unguided tourists.

Lake Turkana National Parks
Lake Turkana National Parks
Lake Turkana National Parks is a group of three national parks located in Kenya. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and expanded in 2001. Reasons for the park's importance include its use as a stopping point for migratory birds, as a breeding ground for the Nile crocodile,...

 are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

.Sibiloi National Park
Sibiloi National Park
Sibiloi National Park lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. Established in 1973 by the government of Kenya for the protection of wildlife and palaeontological sites there, it covers 1570 km² and is internationally known for its fossils...

 lies on the lake's eastern shore, while Central Island National Park and South Island National Park lie in the lake. Both are known for their crocodile
A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae . The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e...


The Lake Turkana area is regarded by many anthropologists as the cradle of humankind due to the abundance of hominid fossils.


The lake was named Lake Rudolf (in honor of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
Rudolf , archduke of Austria and crown prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, was the son and heir of Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, and his wife and empress, Elisabeth...

) by Count Sámuel Teleki de Szék
Sámuel Teleki
Count Sámuel Teleki de Szék was a Hungarian explorer who led the first expedition to Northern Kenya. He was the first European to see, and name, Lake Rudolf .-Early life:...

 and his second-in-command Lieutenant Ludwig Ritter Von Höhnel
Ludwig von Höhnel
Ludwig Ritter von Höhnel was an Austrian naval officer and explorer. He was trained at the naval academy in Rijeka.- Journey with Teleki 1887-1888 :...

, a Hungarian and an Austrian
Austrians are a nation and ethnic group, consisting of the population of the Republic of Austria and its historical predecessor states who share a common Austrian culture and Austrian descent....

, 6 March 1888. They were the first Europeans to have recorded visiting the lake after a long safari
A safari is an overland journey, usually a trip by tourists to Africa. Traditionally, the term is used for a big-game hunt, but today the term often refers to a trip taken not for the purposes of hunting, but to observe and photograph animals and other wildlife.-Etymology:Entering the English...

 across East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

. Native peoples who live around lake Turkana include the Turkana
Turkana people
The Turkana are a Nilotic people native to the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, a dry and hot region bordering Lake Turkana in the east, Pokot, Rendille and Samburuto the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan and Ethiopia to the north...

, Rendille, Gabbra, Daasanach, Hamar Koke, Karo, Nyagatom, Mursi, Surma
Surma people
Surma is a panethnicity residing in South Sudan and southwestern Ethiopia. It includes the Nilo-Saharan-speaking Suri, Mursi and Me'en.-Overview:...

 and Molo
El Molo
El Molo is a village in Kenya, situated on the southeast shore of Lake Turkana, just 10 km north of Loiyangalani town. Its population is about 200. The tiny population fishes the lake for giant Nile perch...

. For the location of many of these peoples refer to the dialect map in the article.

J. W. Gregory reported in The Geographical Journal of 1894 that it had been called "'Basso Narok' This means black lake in the samburu language and basso naibor for lake Stefanie meaning white lake in the Samburu language. The Samburu are among the dominant tribes in the lake Turkana region when the explorers came." What the native form of this phrase was, what it might mean and in what language is not clear. The lake kept its European name during the colonial period of British East Africa. After the independence of Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, the president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
Jomo Kenyatta
Jomo Kenyattapron.] served as the first Prime Minister and President of Kenya. He is considered the founding father of the Kenyan nation....

, renamed it in 1975 after the Turkana
Turkana people
The Turkana are a Nilotic people native to the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, a dry and hot region bordering Lake Turkana in the east, Pokot, Rendille and Samburuto the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan and Ethiopia to the north...

, the predominant tribe there.

At some unknown time the lake became known as the Jade Sea from its turquoise colour seen on approaching from a distance. The colour comes from algae that rise to the surface in calm weather. This is likely also a European name. The Turkana refer to the lake as anam Ka'alakol, meaning the sea of many fish. It is from the name Ka'alakol that Kalokol
Kalokol is a town on the western shore of Lake Turkana. The town is the administrative Head Quarters of Kalokol Division of Turkana District...

, a town on the western shore of Lake Turkana, east of Lodwar
Lodwar is the largest town in northwestern Kenya, located west of Lake Turkana on the A1 road. Its main industries are basket weaving and tourism. The Loima Hills lie to its west. Lodwar is the capital of Turkana District...

, derives its name. The area still sees few visitors, being a two-day drive from Nairobi
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also forms the Nairobi County. The name "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to "the place of cool waters". However, it is popularly known as the "Green City in the Sun" and is...

.The lake is also an imaginary boundary of the Rendille and Borana and Oromo to the Turkana land.The area is basically a clay based soil and there is more alkaline in the sea water.



The major biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s are the lake itself, which is an aquatic biome, and the surrounding region, which is classified as desert and xeric shrubland
Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands is a biome characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture.-Definition and occurrence:...

. The Chalbi desert
Chalbi Desert
The Chalbi Desert is a small desert in northern Kenya near the border with Ethiopia. The desert is located east of Lake Turkana, the largest permanent desert lake in the world. The settlement of North Horr lies in the desert. Marsabit is the closest major city....

 is east of the lake. During moister times a dry grassland appears, featuring Aristida adcensionis and A. mutabilis. During drier times the grass disappears. The shrublands contain dwarf shrubs, such as Duosperma
The family Acanthaceae is a taxon of dicotyledonous flowering plants containing almost 250 genera and about 2500 species....

and Indigofera
Indigofera is a large genus of about 700 species of flowering plants belonging to the family Fabaceae.The species are mostly shrubs, though some are herbaceous, and a few can become small trees up to tall. Most are dry-season or winter deciduous. The leaves are pinnate with 5–31 leaflets and the...

. Near the lake are doum palm
Doum palm
Hyphaene thebaica, with common names doum palm and gingerbread tree, is a type of palm tree with edible oval fruit. It is native to the Nile valley in Egypt and Sudan, and in riverine areas of northwestern Kenya.-Uses:...



Both phytoplankton
Phytoplankton are the autotrophic component of the plankton community. The name comes from the Greek words φυτόν , meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye...

 and zooplankton
Zooplankton are heterotrophic plankton. Plankton are organisms drifting in oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The word "zooplankton" is derived from the Greek zoon , meaning "animal", and , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter"...

 are found in the lake. Of the former, cyanobacteria are represented by Microcystis
Microcystis is the genus of freshwater cyanobacteria which includes the harmful algal bloom Microcystis aeruginosa.-Etymology:The generic moniker Microcystis derives from the Greek mikros + kystis...

and microalgae by Botryococcus braunii
Botryococcus braunii
Botryococcus braunii is a green, pyramid shaped planktonic microalga that is of potentially great importance in the field of biotechnology. Colonies held together by a lipid biofilm matrix can be found in temperate or tropical oligotrophic lakes and estuaries, and will bloom when in the presence...

. Also present are Anabaenopsis arnoldii, Planctonema
In taxonomy, Planctonema is a genus of algae, specifically of the Trebouxiophyceae.-Scientific databases:* * *...

, Oocystis
In taxonomy, Oocystis is a genus of algae, specifically of the Oocystaceae.-Scientific databases:* * *...

, Sphaerocystis
Sphaerocystis is a genus of algae, specifically of the Chlorophyceae....

, and some others. The zooplankton include copepod
Copepods are a group of small crustaceans found in the sea and nearly every freshwater habitat. Some species are planktonic , some are benthic , and some continental species may live in limno-terrestrial habitats and other wet terrestrial places, such as swamps, under leaf fall in wet forests,...

s, cladocera
Cladocera is an order of small crustaceans commonly called water fleas. Around 620 species have been recognised so far, with many more undescribed. They are ubiquitous in inland aquatic habitats, but rare in the oceans. Most are long, with a down-turned head, and a carapace covering the apparently...

ns and protozoa
Protozoa are a diverse group of single-cells eukaryotic organisms, many of which are motile. Throughout history, protozoa have been defined as single-cell protists with animal-like behavior, e.g., movement...



In total, the lake holds about 50 fish species, including 11 endemics such as the cichlids Haplochromis macconneli
Haplochromis macconneli
Haplochromis macconneli is a species of fish in the Cichlidae family. It is endemic to Lake Turkana, northern Kenya.-References:* Odhiambo, E.A. & Hanssens, M. 2005. . Downloaded on 4 August 2007....

, H. rudolfianus
Haplochromis rudolfianus
Haplochromis rudolfianus is a species of fish in the Cichlidae family. It is endemic to Lake Turkana in Kenya.-References:* Odhiambo, E.A. & Hanssens, M. 2005. . Downloaded on 4 August 2007....

and H. turkanae
Haplochromis turkanae
The Turkana Haplochromis , also known in brief as Turkana Haplo, is a species of fish in the Cichlidae family. It is endemic to Lake Turkana in Kenya.-References:...

, the barb Barbus turkanae, the robber tetras Brycinus ferox and B. minutus, the Rudolf lates Lates longispinis
Lates longispinis
Lates longispinis, also known as the Rudolf lates or Turkana perch, is a species of latid fish that is endemic to Lake Turkana in Kenya and Ethiopia. It grows to in length. Lates longispinis is important to commercial fisheries and is also known as a gamefish...

, and the cyprinid Neobola stellae
Neobola stellae
Neobola stellae is a species of ray-finned fish in the Cyprinidae family.It is endemic to Lake Turkana in Ethiopia and Kenya.-References:* Odhiambo, E.A. 2005. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

. Non-endemics include species such as Nile tilapia, bichir
The bichirs are a family, Polypteridae, of archaic-looking ray-finned fishes, the sole family in the order Polypteriformes.All species occur in freshwater habitats in tropical Africa and the Nile River system, mainly swampy, shallow floodplains and estuaries.-Anatomy and appearance:Bichirs are...

s, the elephantfish Mormyrus
Mormyrus is a genus of fish in the Mormyridae family.- Species :* Mormyrus bernhardi Pellegrin, 1926 * Mormyrus caballus Boulenger, 1898** Mormyrus caballus asinus Boulenger, 1915...

, African arowana
African arowana
The African arowana, Heterotis niloticus, is a member of the arowana family. Despite being called an "Arowana", the African arowana is more closely related to Arapaima gigas, the only other member in the subfamily Heterotidinae...

, African knifefish
Gymnarchus niloticus
Gymnarchus niloticus – commonly known as the aba, aba aba, frankfish, freshwater rat-tail or African knifefish – is an electric fish, and the only species in the genus Gymnarchus and the family Gymnarchidae within the order Osteoglossiformes...

, Distichodus
Distichodus is a genus of fish in the Distichodontidae family. It comprises 23 species....

, the Nile perch
Nile perch
The Nile perch is a species of freshwaterfish in family Latidae of order Perciformes. It is widespread throughout muchof the Afrotropic ecozone, being native to the Congo, Nile, Senegal, Niger, and Lake Chad, Volta, Lake Turkana and other river basins. It also occurs in the brackish waters of...

, and numerous others. During the early Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

, the water level of lake Turkana was higher, and the lake overflowed into the Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 River, allowing fish and crocodiles access. Consequently, the non-endemic fishes in the lake are mainly riverine species of Nilotic origin. Some of the non-endemics do not breed in the lake, but migrate up the Omo River
Omo River
The Omo River is an important river of southern Ethiopia. Its course is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia, and empties into Lake Turkana on the border with Kenya...

 and other affluents to breed. The lake is heavily fished.


The Lake Turkana region is home to hundreds of species of birds native to Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. The East African Rift System also serves as a flyway for migrating birds, bringing in hundreds more. The birds are essentially supported by plankton masses in the lake, which also feed the fish.

Some birds more common to Turkana are the Little Stint
Little Stint
The Little Stint, Calidris minuta , is a very small wader. It breeds in arctic Europe and Asia, and is a long-distance migrant, wintering south to Africa and south Asia...

, the Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
The Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, is a small wader. This Eurasian species is the smallest of the shanks, which are mid-sized long-legged waders of the family Scolopacidae.- Description and systematics :...

, and the Common Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
The Common Sandpiper is a small Palearctic wader. This bird and its American sister species, the Spotted Sandpiper , make up the genus Actitis. They are parapatric and replace each other geographically; stray birds of either species may settle down with breeders of the other and hybridize...

. The African Skimmer
African Skimmer
The African Skimmer is a skimmer that lives in Senegal to northern Congo River and southern Nile Valley, southern Tanzania to the Zambezi Valley, and then to Natal and Angola.- Appearance :...

 (Rhyncops flavirostris) nests in the banks of Central Island. The White-breasted Cormorant
White-breasted Cormorant
The White-breasted Cormorant is a member of the cormorant family Phalacrocoracidae. It is sometimes treated as a subspecies of the Great Cormorant, in which case it is referred to as Phalacrocorax carbo lucidus. However some authorities The White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus) is a...

 (Phalacrocorax lucidus) ranges over the lake, as do many other waterbirds. The Greater Flamingo
Greater Flamingo
The Greater Flamingo is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is found in parts of Africa, southern Asia , and southern Europe...

 wades in its shallows. Heuglin's Bustard
Heuglin's Bustard
Heuglin's Bustard Neotis heuglinii is a species of bird in the bustard family. It is a fairly large species, at up to in length. The males weigh and the much smaller females weigh . It is It is found in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.-References:* BirdLife International 2004. . ...

 (Neotis heuglinii) is found in the east of the lake region.


The lake formerly contained Africa's largest population of Nile crocodile
Nile crocodile
The Nile crocodile or Common crocodile is an African crocodile which is common in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Gabon, South Africa, Malawi, Sudan, Botswana, and Cameroon...

s: 14,000, as estimated in a 1968 study by Alistair Graham—see the book 'Eyelids of Morning' for an account of the lake and its crocodiles.

The lake also has a large population of large water turtles particularly in the area of Central Island.


Over the dry grasslands ranges a frail population of grazing mammals and predators. The grazers are chiefly Grevy's zebra
Grevy's Zebra
The Grévy's zebra , also known as the Imperial zebra, is the largest extant wild equid and one of three species of zebra, the other two being the plains zebra and the mountain zebra. Named after Jules Grévy, it is the sole extant member of the subgenus Dolichohippus. The Grévy's zebra is found in...

, Burchell's Zebra
Burchell's Zebra
Burchell's Zebra is a southern subspecies of the Plains Zebra.-Range:Formerly Burchell's zebra ranged north of the Vaal/Orange river system, extending northwest via southern Botswana to Etosha and the Kaokoveld, southeast to Swaziland and Kwazulu-Natal...

, the Beisa Oryx, Grant's Gazelle
Grant's Gazelle
The Grant's gazelle is a species of gazelle. Its populations are distributed from northern Tanzania to southern Sudan and Ethiopia, and from the Kenyan coast to Lake Victoria. Its Swahili name is Swala Granti.-Taxonomy and genetics:...

, the topi
The Tsessebe , is one of five subspecies in the binomial class D. lunatus. The other subspecies include Korrigum , Tiang , Coastal Topi , and Topi . Tesessebe are found primarily in Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa...

 and the reticulated giraffe. They are hunted by the lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

 and the cheetah
The cheetah is a large-sized feline inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The cheetah is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, most notable for modifications in the species' paws...

. Elephants
African Bush Elephant
The African Bush Elephant or African Savanna Elephant is the larger of the two species of African elephant. Both it and the African Forest Elephant have usually been classified as a single species, known simply as the African Elephant...

 and the black rhinoceros
Black Rhinoceros
The Black Rhinoceros or Hook-lipped Rhinoceros , is a species of rhinoceros, native to the eastern and central areas of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Angola...

 are no longer seen, although Teleki
Sámuel Teleki
Count Sámuel Teleki de Szék was a Hungarian explorer who led the first expedition to Northern Kenya. He was the first European to see, and name, Lake Rudolf .-Early life:...

 reported seeing (and shooting) many. Closer to the dust is the Cushioned Gerbil (Gerbillus pulvinatus).


Lake Turkana is an East African Rift
East African Rift
The East African Rift is an active continental rift zone in eastern Africa that appears to be a developing divergent tectonic plate boundary. It is part of the larger Great Rift Valley. The rift is a narrow zone in which the African Plate is in the process of splitting into two new tectonic plates...

 feature. A rift
In geology, a rift or chasm is a place where the Earth's crust and lithosphere are being pulled apart and is an example of extensional tectonics....

 is a weak place in the Earth's crust due to the separation of two tectonic plates, often accompanied by a graben
In geology, a graben is a depressed block of land bordered by parallel faults. Graben is German for ditch. Graben is used for both the singular and plural....

, or trough, in which lake water can collect. The rift began when East Africa, impelled by currents in the mantle
Mantle (geology)
The mantle is a part of a terrestrial planet or other rocky body large enough to have differentiation by density. The interior of the Earth, similar to the other terrestrial planets, is chemically divided into layers. The mantle is a highly viscous layer between the crust and the outer core....

, began separating from the rest of Africa, moving to the northeast. Currently the graben is 320 km wide in the north of the lake, 170 km in the south. This rift is one of two, and is called the Great or Eastern Rift. There is another to the west, the Western Rift.

The basement rocks of the region have been dated by two analytical determinations to 522 and 510 million years ago (ma or mya). No rift was in the offing at that time. A rift is signalled by volcanic activity through the weakened crust. The oldest volcanic activity of the region occurred in the Nabwal Hills northeast of Turkana and is dated to 34.8 mya in the late Eocene
The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...


The visible tectonic features of the region result from extensive extrusions of basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 over the Turkana-Omo basin in the window 4.18-3.99 mya. These are called the Gombe Group Basalts. They are subdivided into the Mursi Basalts and the Gombi Basalts.

The two latter basalts are identified as the outcrops that are the rocky mountains and badlands around the lake. In the Omo portion of the basin, of the Mursi Basalts, the Mursi Formation is on the west side of the Omo, the Nkalabong on the Omo, and the Usno and Shungura east of the Omo. Probably the best known of the formations are the Koobi Fora
Koobi Fora
Koobi Fora refers primarily to a region around Koobi Fora Ridge, located on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in the territory of the nomadic Gabbra people. According to the National Museums of Kenya, the name comes from the Gabbra language:...

 on the east side of Turkana and the Nachukui on the west.

Short-term fluctuations in lake level combined with periodic volcanic ash spewings over the region have resulted in a fortuitous layering of the ground cover over the basal rocks. These horizons can be dated more precisely by chemical analysis of the tuff
Tuff is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered...

. As this region is believed to have been an evolutionary nest of Hominins, the dates are important for generating a diachronic array of fossils, both Hominoid and non-Hominoid. Many thousands have been excavated.

Terraces representing ancient shores are visible in the Turkana basin. The highest is 75 m above the surface of the lake (only approximate, as the lake level fluctuates), which was current about 9500 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

. It is generally theorized that Turkana was part of the upper Nile system at that time, connecting to Lake Baringo
Lake Baringo
Lake Baringo is, after Lake Turkana, the most northern of the Great Rift Valley lakes of Kenya, with a surface area of about and an elevation of about . The lake is fed by several rivers, El Molo, Perkerra and Ol Arabel, and has no obvious outlet; the waters are assumed to seep through lake...

 at the southern end and the White Nile
White Nile
The White Nile is a river of Africa, one of the two main tributaries of the Nile from Egypt, the other being the Blue Nile. In the strict meaning, "White Nile" refers to the river formed at Lake No at the confluence of the Bahr al Jabal and Bahr el Ghazal rivers...

 in the north, and that volcanic land adjustments severed the connection. Such a hypothesis explains the Nile species in the lake, such as the crocodiles and the Nile Perch.


Around 2 million–3 million years ago, the lake was larger and the area more fertile, making it a centre for early hominins. Richard Leakey
Richard Leakey
Richard Erskine Frere Leakey is a politician, paleoanthropologist and conservationist. He is second of the three sons of the archaeologists Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, and is the younger brother of Colin Leakey...

 has led numerous anthropological
Human evolution
Human evolution refers to the evolutionary history of the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species and as a unique category of hominids and mammals...

 digs in the area which have led to many important discoveries of hominin remains. The two-million-year-old Skull 1470 was found in 1972. It was originally thought to be Homo habilis
Homo habilis
Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis Homo...

, but the scientific name Homo rudolfensis
Homo rudolfensis
Homo rudolfensis is a fossil human species discovered by Bernard Ngeneo, a member of a team led by anthropologist Richard Leakey and zoologist Meave Leakey in 1972, at Koobi Fora on the east side of Lake Rudolf in Kenya. The scientific name Pithecanthropus rudolfensis was proposed in 1978 by V. P...

 derived from the old name of the Lake Rudolf, was proposed in 1986 by V. P. Alexeev. In 1984, the Turkana Boy
Turkana Boy
Turkana Boy, also occasionally, Nariokotome Boy is the common name of fossil KNM-WT 15000, a nearly complete skeleton of a hominid who died in the early Pleistocene. This specimen is the most complete early human skeleton ever found. It is 1.5 million years old...

, a nearly complete skeleton of a Homo erectus
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

 boy was discovered by Kamoya Kimeu
Kamoya Kimeu
Kamoya Kimeu, is one of the world's most successful fossil collectors who, together with paleontologists Meave Leakey and Richard Leakey, is responsible for some of the most significant paleoanthropological discoveries...

. More recently, Meave Leakey
Meave Leakey
Meave G. Leakey is together with her husband Richard Leakey one of the most renowned contemporary paleontologists. She studies the origin of mankind in Africa.-Flat-Faced Man of Kenya:...

 discovered a 3,500,000-year-old skull there, named Kenyanthropus platyops
Kenyanthropus platyops
Kenyanthropus platyops is a 3.5 to 3.2 million year old hominin fossil that was discovered in Lake Turkana, Kenya in 1999 by Justus Erus, who was part of Meave Leakey's team...

, which means "The Flat-Faced Man of Kenya".

Wind power

The Lake Turkana Wind Power consortium (LTWP) plans to provide 300 MW of clean power to Kenya's national electricity grid by tapping the unique wind conditions around the lake. The plan calls for 360 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850 kilowatts. As of March 2010, the project had found financing, and the Kenyan government will take responsibility for the construction of the transmission lines. If completed, it will become the largest wind power project in Africa.

In popular culture

  • The lake is featured in Fernando Meirelles's film The Constant Gardener
    The Constant Gardener (film)
    The Constant Gardener is a 2005 drama film directed by Fernando Meirelles. The screenplay by Jeffrey Caine is based on the John le Carré novel of the same name. It tells the story of Justin Quayle, a man who seeks to find the motivating forces behind his wife's murder.The film stars Ralph Fiennes,...

    , which is based on the book of the same name
    The Constant Gardener
    The Constant Gardener is a 2001 novel by John le Carré. It tells the story of Justin Quayle, a British diplomat whose activist wife is murdered...

     by John le Carré
    John le Carré
    David John Moore Cornwell , who writes under the name John le Carré, is an author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pseudonym "John le Carré"...

    , although some of the footage was actually filmed at Lake Magadi
    Lake Magadi
    Lake Magadi is the southernmost lake in the Kenya Rift Valley, lying in a catchment of faulted volcanic rocks, north of Tanzania's Lake Natron. During the dry season, it is 80% covered by soda and is well known for its wading birds, including flamingos....

  • In his book A Lifetime with Lions, George Adamson
    George Adamson
    George Adamson , also known as the "Baba ya Simba" , was a British wildlife conservationist and author...

     describes various adventures along Lake Turkana.
  • The travel writer John Hillaby
    John Hillaby
    John Hillaby was a British travel writer and explorer.Hillaby was the son of a Yorkshire printer. He was educated at Woodhouse Grove School, Leeds. He embarked on a career in journalism, interrupted by service in the Second World War...

     describes a camel safari undertaken along the shore of the lake in his 1964 book Journey to the Jade Sea (Paladin Press -ISBN 0-586-08140-2).
  • Eyelids of the Morning: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Alistair Graham and Peter Hill Beard; originally published in 1973 (New York Graphic Society - ISBN 0-8212-0464-5).
  • In Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
    Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
    is a console role-playing game for the PlayStation 2 and the first title in the Xenosaga series. Der Wille zur Macht, "The Will to Power", is a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche's posthumous collection of notes and unused aphorisms, which was intended to become his magnum opus...

    , the Zohar is located in the lake.

External links

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