Some paragraphs has been taken from the article by Andrew J.Morris that you can find here :

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Views of Cahapala lake that is situated at an average height of 1500 metres (5000 ft.).Photo by Arturo Garcìa

A crystal blue mountain gem, teaming with fish. Massive waves crashing to shore when the winds come, or placid waters dotted with fishing boats - a changing character, with moods to match the weather. That was Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest lake, just a decade or two ago.

Now it is more likely to be described as a muddy brown puddle, a mere remnant of what was. But that is unfair. Even in its reduced state, Chapala is still Mexico's largest lake. True, it is nowhere more than a few meters deep, but it is still a huge body of water.

In the Chapala are, there is a rainy season in late summer and early fall during which the mountains explode in color and the majority of rainfall is at night. These villages on the lake have close to perfect weather all year round. The warmest month is May with an average high of 30C (87F) and a low of 18C (65F). The high for January is 22C (68F) and a low 13C (55F). In the rainy season the average humidity does not exceed 68%, nor does it go below 52% during the year.

Today's lake fluctuates between 1100 and 1900 million cubic meters (Mm3) of water, a fraction of the 7900 Mm3 that is the natural capacity of the basin. When the waters reached 9700 Mm3 in 1926 flood waters lapped at the steps of the church, and the train station was abandoned. But in 1955 the levels dropped to 950 Mm3, and back in 1897 it was an estimated 600 Mm3.

Some pics of the lake and its environs. Courtesy of Andrew J.Morris , author of the website : (it worth a visit also to look many beautiful postcards and old pics of the lake since 1920)


PHOTO 1 : The sidewalks are crowded with vendors, shop goods and signs. Since the lake has begun to revive, the Guadalajara crowds arrive each weekend in droves, and one tends to shuffle more than walk along the most popular blocks, dodging and weaving between obstacles.

PHOTO 2 : Chapala has a beach again, and it took no time for the Lirio (Water Hyacynth) to lay claim to it. Within two weeks of being inundated, the area was again thick with these persistant plants. Now each week crews remove them from the beach, and huge piles are hauled away in garbage trucks -- only to be replaced within a few days by new growth.

PHOTO 3 : Part of the Sunday morning crowd on the pier (numbers increase greatly later in the day), including a forest ranger who is part of the Lirio clean-up crew. Below, a bunjee style carnival and food tents crowd the water's edge.



Two shots from the same area. The first has been taken on 23 September 2003 in a rainy day. The second one has been taken on 8 October , only 2 weekd later!

From the article by A.Grioche. You can find it in the goodeids’ related articles:

“…Guadalajara is not a nice town, with a lot of building. But, it's only one hour driving for the lake "Chapala". This is the largest lake of all Mexico. 100 km longs for 12 km wide. Well, in fact it was the largest… Now it's a dry place, one of the greatest ecological damage of Mexico. We walked something as 1,5 km, from the antic border, to find the water. It was impossible to reach the water because there was, all around it, 15 to 20 meters of a deep and amorous mud. We go along the mud, trying to find a solid substrate where we could walk to the water. We finally find a kind of bridge that allowed people to take boats…”

“… The water was 15 to 20 cm deep at the extremity of the bridge. It was muddy and opaque. The bottom of the lake was the same deep mud as those we risk our life few minutes before. I find here a lot of Poeciliopsis infans, few Gambusia sp. and some "Charales", a small atherinid, eat by the locals. After half an hour fishing around the bridge… no sign of Goodeids, until I really go into the wheels with my net. They hid in the wheels ! I catch few Chapalichthys encaustus, mainly pregnant females, and a fry supposed to be of Zoogoneticus quitzeoensis. temp. air 35°C, water 28.8°C, pH 8.4, Nitrate and nitrite 0, Gh 16, Kh 20…”

Today's Lake Chapala suffers from overdevelopment of the surrounding area, particularly agricultural development in the Lerma Basin. Guadalajara is often blamed for the problem, but it is the need to feed those six-million plus residents (plus 18 million more in Mexico City) that causes trouble, not the relatively small amount of water drawn directly into their water pipes. This region only gets about a meter of rainfall per year. I haven't seen any figures, but I'm sure the annual rate of evaporation from the lake far exceeds that. It is not the rain falling directly on the lake that fills it, but the rivers and sub-surface aquifers for the entire hydrological basin, which extends over 200 miles east from the lake into the Estado de Mexico. Most of that water is being diverted for irrigation, or cached in upstream dams, and never reaches the lake. Obviously, the solution lies in reducing the need for irrigation by growing more drought-tolerant crops, and improving the efficiency of irrigation where it is used.

There are people working to remedy the situation, but how effective they can be remains to be seen. The lake has been tentatively accepted into the Living Lakes program, and there are local groups like Amigos del Lago ( and Fundación Cuenca Lerma Chapala-Santiago working for rehabilitation of the lake, we wish them luck.