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The largest and best known lake in Panama is Gatun Lake. Created between 1907 and 1914 in order to create the Panama Canal,

it was necessary to dam the Chagres River where it flowed into the Caribbean sea, and thus flood 164 square miles of the Chagres River Valley with 5.2 cubic kilometers of water (approximately the amount that flows down the Chagres River in a year). At the time of its creation, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world and the Gatun Dam the largest earthen dam. Gatun Lake is abundant with marine life, from large crocodiles and caiman, to the incredibly aggressive Peacock Bass (Sargento), Oscar, and Tarpon. The fishing is just incredible. The lake is also filled with 'islands' that were once the summits of hills located throughout the Chagres River valley, and thus is the home to an extensive sampling of the bird, animal and plant life that Panama is famous for. The best known island is Barro Colorado (Red Clay Island), which is controlled and protected by the Smithsonian Tropical Reasearch Institute. Studies are done there on everything from the wild mushrooms to the big cats of Panama, such as the Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, and Jacarundi.

Up river from Gatun Lake is Madden Lake, now known as Lago Alajuela. This is also an artificial lake formed by the Chagres River, and was created both for hydroelectric power as well as a back up water reserve to run the Canal locks if necessary. If you go to visit one of the four Embera Indigenous villages located in Chagres National Park you will meet your guides at Lago Alajuela and be taken up river by 'Cayuco' - dug out canoe - to explore the waterfalls, jungles and villages of the park. There is also the option to do an extended day trip, rafting down the Rio Chagres from near Cerro Azul, that can also be split into a multi-day trip where you will camp and spend the night with one of the tribes along the way. Tubing is also an option during some times of the year, as well as an extensive selection of jungle hikes and photo safaris at all difficulty levels. Explore the incredible diversity of birds, plants, animals, and insects of the jungles of Panama.

East of Panama City about an hour is Bayano Lake, also a man-made lake created to supply hydroelectric power to Panama City. Formed in 1979, the majority of the area around the lake is inhabited by the indigenous groups that were displaced when the Bayano River valley was flooded to form the lake. It is an incredible, relatively ignored natural resource, with a plethora of activity options including fishing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, etc.

West of Panama City are many other lakes. An hour away is La Laguna, a small mountain lake at the base of a sheer mountain face rising up a thousand feet, and covered by jungle that is filled with wildlife. The lake is stocked with fish and is a great place to spend a day hiking, swimming or just relaxing in an environment that calls to mind a traditional Asian painting or drawing. 

Even further west is La Laguna de la Yeguada, a man made lake in the mountains of the province of Veraguas, above the city of Santiago. Used both for hydroelectric power and for irrigation, this important resource has been protected as a forest reserve, as part Panama's system of national parks. It is surrounded by non-native pine trees and has a variety of other attractions, including several waterfalls created by the various streams and rivers that feed the lake. This is part of the Trans-Panama Trail and a welcome rest stop as you make your way along the cordillera's steep peaks and valleys.

Join Us on Related Tours:

Freshwater Fishing

Kayaking or Whitewater Rafting

Canal Zone in Miraflores



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