1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maracaibo (lake)
MARACAIBO, a large lake of western Venezuela, extending southward from the Gulf of Venezuela, into which it opens through a long neck, or strait, obstructed at its mouth by islands and bars, and having a large drainage basin bounded on the W. by the Eastern Cordillera, on the S.E. by the Cordillera de Merida, and on the E. by a low range of mountains extending N. by W. from Trujillo to the coast. The lake is roughly quadrangular in shape, and extends from the 9th to the 11th parallel of S. lat. and from the 71st to the 72nd meridian. It opens into the Gulf through 13 channels, the depth on the bar in the main channel ranging from 7 ft. at low water to 12 ft. at high water. Inside the bar the depth is about 30 ft., and the lake is navigable for vessels of large size. It receives the waters of many rivers, principally on its west and south sides, the largest of which are the Catatumbo and Zulia, Escalante, Chanudo, Ceniza, Sant’Ana, Negro, Apan and Palmar. The first three have navigable channels for river steamers. There are a number of small lakes near Lake Maracaibo’s southern and western margins, the largest of which is the Laguna de Zulia. The heavy rainfall on the eastern slopes of the Eastern Cordillera, which is said to exceed 86 in. per annum, is responsible for the great volume of water discharged into the lake. The average annual precipitation over the whole basin is said to be 70 in. In the upper half of the lake the water is sweet, but below that, where the tidal influence is stronger, it becomes brackish. The only port of consequence on the lake is Maracaibo, but there are small ports at its upper end which are in direct communication with the inland cities of Trujillo, Merida and San Cristobal. The Catatumbo River, which enters from the west near the north end of the lake, and its principal tributary, the Zulia, are navigable as far as Villamizar, in Colombia, and afford an excellent transportation route for the coffee and other products of Santander.