A Guide To Lake Kamnarok National Reserve
Lake Kamnarok National Reserve is the only ox-bow lake in Kenya, having the second largest population of crocodiles in Africa after Lake Chad. The name originated from the word Narok, which is a species of water plant widely found in the lake in the early stages of lake formation.
Lake Kamnarok National Reserve is a little-known reserve in the spectacularly beautiful Kerio Valley that furrows the North Rift. The Reserve occupies 87.7 Km2 of land that lie approximately between 1,520 and 1,680 M above sea level.
The reserve, which was gazetted in 1983, is about 350 Km from Nairobi and is home to Lake Kamnarok which is named after the narok or white water lilies that float on its surface. The narok are a major source of food among the Tugens in times of hardship. The Tugen boil and eat the roots of the water lilies and grind the rest of the plant into a kind of millet which is made into porridge.
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The Lake within the reserve used to be a swamp back in the 1890s. Great rains between 1901 and 1927 resulted in the rapid expansion of the lake which then dried up in 1935 due to drought. It is said that when the waters returned, they brought with them a new member of the community – the Nile Crocodile. The Nile Crocodile quickly adapted to this environment, multiplying in number.
During this period the lake housed an estimated 20,000 Nile Crocodile hence its other name, ‘The Place of a Thousand and One Crocodiles’. At that time Lake Kamnarok had the second highest concentration of Nile crocodiles in Africa after Lake Chad. Then came the drought of 2007-2008 and the lake dried up again and despite subsequent rains, it never recovered. There were images in the media of dead crocodiles scattered all over the bed of the lake – the famous Lake Kamnarok was no more!
The reasons that were cited for the death of the lake included the uncontrolled burning of charcoal and tree felling in the 21,933.9 ha Embobut forest which resulted to the degradation of the Lake’s catchment. The rapid dehydration of Kerio river, which was a main inlet for the lake, as a result of the drought, was a second contributing factor. The fact that the surrounding community did not get adequately involved in the on-going conservation efforts such as the building of gabions, is thought to have also contributed to the demise of the lake. There was of course the unending dispute regarding the relocation of people out of the area to establish the Lake Kamnarok National Reserve (hence, perhaps, the reason for lack of community participation).
Facts About Lake Kamnarok National Reserve
Area- 87.7 Km2
Altitude- 1,520 and 1,680 M above sea level
Distance from Nairobi- 350 Km
What To See At Lake Kamnarok National Reserve
The Reserve, just like the Rimoi National Reserve, has a variety of birdlife including the African Jacana, grebe, hammerkop, heron, egret, ibis, tree duck and the Egyptian goose. Elephants which can be seen under the close cver of the bush during the day are in abundance – in fact at one point the elephant population in this reserve numbered over 500. You can catch thoe jumbos at dawn as they go down the banks of Kerio River to drink. Other wildlife to see here include the Bushbuck, dik-dik, Olive baboons, vervet monkeys, impala, leopard, hyena and waterbuck.
Lake Kamnarok National Reserve Contacts
Attraction Type: Wildlife
Category: Game Reserve
Region: North Rift
City / Town: Kerio valley
Road / Street: Biretwo-Chesongoch Road
Telephone: 254 20 600 0800 254 20 600 2345 254 20 237 9407
Entrance Fee: Yes