I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.
~ Susan Sontag
A Mirror of Blue Reflects to Gold on Lake Chapala
LAKE CHAPALA, MEXICO - Regardless of the day or time of day, as I stood on the shore of Lake Chapala, I noticed that it readily changed color, mood and activity. One afternoon, right at sunset, I stood on the Ajijic malecon and watched the lake change from a mirror of silver blue to a glowing liquid gold. The transformation was remarkable. The beauty breathtaking. And the gift of nature apparent. I soaked in the moment and understood, putting aside wonderful weather and a welcoming local culture, what a magical draw Lake Chapala seemed to have on people from all over the world.
Lake Chapala, the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, is located about 45 miles south of Guadalara and sits at 5000 feet above sea level.
On the north shore, an area affectionately called "Lakeside", is home to the towns of Jocotepec, Ajijic, Chapala and others, each presenting their own unique character.
The lake is shallow with a maximum depth of about 34 feet and covers an area 50 miles wide and 8 miles north to south. Fed by four different rivers, the lake flows by way of the Rio Grande of Santiago to the Pacific Ocean. There are 3 small islands. The larger, because it is shaped like a scorpion, is called Scorpion Island (Isla de los Alacranes).
The water level of the lake has risen and dropped over the years. That, along with pollution problems and overgrowth of an invasive species of water hyacinth, makes the long term health of the lake of real concern. Recently, the water level has risen and water treatment plants on the Lema River, one that feeds into the lake, has reduced contamination of the water. So, although there has been some improvement, more could still be done.
The shorebirds are abundant, including American White Pelican, egrets and black water birds with white bills called the American Coot. In 2011 the official count was 173 different species. Many migratory birds make Lake Chapala their winter home.
There is a lot of life along the shore, be in on the village malecons, the waterfront park of Jocotepec or the natural shoreline. Families walk together, children run and play, dogs chase each other into the water, horses carry their riders, and rhythmic music from a restaurant down the lake can be heard amongst the songs of birds.
Although the health of the lake and the delicate balance of the ecosystem is of on-going concern, the life along the shores of the lake is definitely alive, well and thriving.