Land and Resources, Rivers and Lakes
Lake Managua, Zapatera, Ometepe, Lake Nicaragua, San Juan River
Lake Nicaragua, known as the Great Lake, is the region’s largest, covering about 8,000 sq km (3,100 sq mi). It is dotted with more than 350 islands, including Ometepe, the site of two volcanoes; Zapatera, a national park that contains archaeological sites from pre-Columbian native cultures; and the Solentiname Archipelago, the site of a well-known artists’ colony. The lake’s southeast corner lies only 19 km (12 mi) from the Pacific Ocean, and it is connected to the Caribbean by the San Juan River. Because of this, Nicaragua was once an important route for travel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and has been considered a possible site for a canal across the Central American isthmus. The Tipitapa River links Lake Nicaragua to Lake Managua, which covers 1,050 sq km (405 sq mi).
All of Nicaragua’s major rivers run into the Caribbean. The Rio Grande and its tributaries are the most extensive river system, while the Escondido provides a major transportation route between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Coco runs along the border with Honduras, and the San Juan begins in Lake Nicaragua and forms part of the border with Costa Rica. There has been limited hydroelectric development on smaller rivers.
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