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Lake Profile


Lake Natron

General Information

Description Lake Natron is a soda lake in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. It is surrounded by escarpments and volcanic mountains, one of which is active.

In early 2002 the Kenyan government announced its intention to deforest close to 70,000 hectares of government-owned land. Large parts of the Mau forest, which are home to the Lake Natron headwaters, are believed to be targeted.

Country Kenya
Latitude -2° 15' 0" (-2.2500)
Longitude 36° 2' 0" (36.0333)


 Africa Lake Biodiversity Conservation Priorities 2003

Physical Characteristics

Description The Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River is the main tributary into Lake Natron. The lake is also fed by hot mineral-laden springs that bubble up on the periphery of the lake. In fact, the water of Lake Natron is so rich in dissolved sodium carbonate that it often feels viscous to touch.

Lake Natron is a closed drainage system and highly alkaline, as freshwater evaporates and leaves high salt concentrations. Sodium bicarbonate concentrations are crucial for the abundance of blue-green algae, which is food for the lesser flamingo.

Volume 0.35 km3
Surface Area 600.00 km2
Type Soda
Catchment Catchment size: 932.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 2:1


Economic Value Members of the Masai tribe practice extensive semi-nomadic pastoralism within the Ramsar site at Lake Natron.
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Issues A proposed hydropower plant for the Ewaso Ngiro River in Kenya and planned soda ash exploitation in Lake Natron itself are potential threats.

Ongoing long term climatci desiccation also threatens the lake.

Other Issues Hydropower

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Lake Natron is the only regular breeding area for Lesser Flamingos in East Africa, with approximately 2.5 million individuals. The lake also provides support for 100,000 other waterbirds, many of which are Palearctic migrants. The only fish found in abundance in the lake is the white-lipped or alkaline tilapia (Oreochromis alcalicus), which appears to be endemic to saline Rift Valley lakes. This small fish lives on the edges of the hot spring inlets, where the water is between 36 and 40 degrees C.
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
Ramsar Site
Species of Concern


World Wildlife Fund



Beyond boundaries: regional overview of transboundary natural resource management in Eastern Africa (2001)
Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Earth Observatory News Room: new images of Lake Natron
East African halophytics: WWF terrestrial ecoregions
Kenyan forests and international law
Ramsar information sheet on Lake Natron Basin
Satellite tracing lesser flamingos in East Africa


4/11/2013 - Successful Flamingo breeding reported at Lake Natron!
1/27/2004 - Flamingo lakes of Kenya explored
2/29/2000 - Flamingoes dying in Kenya

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
World Wildlife Fund ecoregion profiles

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