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Lake Chapala Geography

Image credit: Jesuschurion57 | Fotolia
Image credit: Jesuschurion57 | Fotolia

Sitting at an elevation of 5,000 ft., Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest natural freshwater lake, extending 50 miles from east to west and about 11 miles north to south. A shallow lake, its average depth is about 15 feet and it borders the states of Jalisco and Michoacán.

The lake was formed 12 million years ago and was significantly larger than it is now, covering the area where Guadalajara is now located. The lake also provides 55 percent of Guadalajara’s drinking water. Lake Chapala is fed at its eastern end by the Lerma River and by the Rio Santiago at its northeastern corner.

Lake Chapala is also home to three islands: Isla de los Alacranes, Isla Mezcala and La Isla Menor.

The region’s tropical latitude, elevation and moderating influence from the lake provides it with one of the best climates in the world. Located about 30 miles south of Guadalajara, the lake’s northwestern shore is laced with a string of small towns and villages that are home to an estimated more than 30,000 expats: Chapala, Riberas del Pilar, Chula Vista, San Antonio Tlayacapan, La Floresta, Ajijic, San Juan Cosala and Jocotepec.

The Sierra de San Juan Cosala Mountain forms a towering backdrop on Chapala’s northern shore and separates the lake communities from Guadalajara. About 8,000 ft. above sea level, the mountain range provides not only a lush green forest, but lots of recreational activities with its hiking trails, caves and waterfalls.

Lake Chapala’s towns and villages are in the Central Standard Time zone and observe daylight saving time beginning the first Sunday in April and ending the last Sunday in October.