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Lake Edward in DR Congo and Uganda
Lake Edward Information and Facts
Lake Edward is the smallest of the African Great Rift Lakes, located on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Lake Edward, located on the Albertine Rift, the Western Branch of the East African Rift, is the fifteenth largest lake on the continent. It is bordered by the high Rwenzori Mountains on the West, less steep grounds with rolling hills on the East, flanked by lowland valley savannahs and swamps on the South, in the valleys of the Rwindi, Rutshuru and Ishasha rivers. The Rwenzori Mountain range rises to 5119 meters at Margherita Peak.
The lake is located between two ecoregions. On the north-western part one can encounter rich montane forests of the Albertine Rift. This area is renowned for many endemic species including the mountain gorillas. The eastern precinct is mostly characterized by rolling hills, forests and savannahs. Some of the main plateaus of the Victoria Basin can also be found here.
There are two national reserves on the shores of the lake. Virunga National Park is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the lake’s North-Western shores, the Semliki Valley and the lowland valley savannahs and swamps of the Rwindi, Rutshuru and Ishasha rivers. Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in Uganda, occupying most of the lake’s North-Eastern shore, and it is recognized for its ecological significance. Kigezi Game Reserve is located on the South-Eastern shores of Lake Edward.
During the past 500 years there were many volcanic activities documented in the region. Two important volcanic fields, the Katwe-Kikorongo and the Bunyaruguru Volcanic Fields lie close to the Kazinga Channel on the North-Western side of the lake, having extensive cones and craters. On the Western shores of the lake the Great Rift Valley towers up to 2000 meters above the lake’s coastline. The Southern and Eastern shores are mainly dominated by flat lava plains.
Lake Edward and its neighbor Lake George supposedly formed one large lake in the past, but the lava from the surrounding fields, the Nyamuragira and the Maya-ya-Moto volcanoes flowed in and separated the two, leaving only the Kazinga Channel between them.
The Katwe-Kikorongo field features not only craters and cones between Lake Edward and Lake George, but is also home to 7 crater lakes. The largest of the seven is the 2.5 kilometers long Lake Katwe, which is located 300 meters’ distance from Lake Edward and is 100 meters deep. The Bunyaruguru field on the other part of the channel has nearly 30 crater lakes; some are even larger than Lake Katwe.
Lake Edward has numerous tributaries such as the Nyamugasani, Ishashar, Rutshuru, Ntungwe and Rwindi rivers. Out of these, the most important is Rutshuru River, considered a Western tributary of the Nile. The rift lake’s main outflow is the Semliki River, which begins near Ishango in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the North-West, meanders to the North and is flanked by the Rwenzori Mountains. Through this river the lake is connected to the Nile river system. Lake George, located on the North-Eastern part of the lake, empties into Lake Edward via the 32-kilometer long Kazinga Channel.
Ecology and Human Settlements
The lake is home to many fish, and because of this fishing is an important activity for locals. The shoreline has a diverse fauna, where chimpanzees, elephants, crocodiles, lions and hippopotamuses can be spotted. Lake Edward and its surroundings are also home to many perennial and migratory bird species.
There are no large settlements along the lake’s shores except for Ishango in the North, part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Vitshumbi in the Congo part and Mweya and Katwe of Uganda are smaller towns on the coastline. The nearest cities are Kasese on the Ugandan side, located North-East at a distance of 50 kilometers, and Butembo in the Congo, lying 150 kilometers North-West of the lake.
The first European to document the lake was Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh explorer, who visited the lake in 1888 during the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition. He first thought the lake was part of Lake Albert and named the body of water Beatrice Gulf. He later realized it was a different lake and named it after Prince Albert Edward, who was the Prince of Wales, son of Queen Victoria, and later became Edward VII.
In 1973, Uganda and Zaire renamed the lake Idi Amin Dada after Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator. After his overthrow in 1979, the lake recovered its initial name, Lake Edward.