Rift Valley in Kenya – Great Rift Valley Kenya
The Great Rift Valley in Kenya: Land has literally been cut into two by the Great Rift Valley that runs from Syria in East Asia to Mozambique in the southern part of Africa. The valley enters Kenya at Lake Turkana and exits at the coast.
Originally named the ‘Great Rift Valley’ by British Explorer John Walter Gregory, the Rift Valley is a geographic stretch extending 6000km across the Middle East and Africa from Jordan to Mozambique. The valley encapsulates tremendous changes in topographic diversity with its scarps and volcanoes, lakes, ancient granitic hills, flat desert landscapes and coral reefs and islets. The astounding view, as you approach from Nairobi, Kenya is quite unbelievable. To show you just how expansive the rift is, the ground unexpectedly disappears from under you, extending thousands of kilometers in either direction. An excellent starter to the Kenyan Rift Valley, it may appear, the most amazing part of this experience is sinking deeper to explore the Lake System of the Rift.
Leisure Activities along the Kenyan Rift Valley
Hiking, trekking, game viewing, photography, guided walks around the crater lakes, picnic lunch, bird watching, golfing and community visits.
The Great Rift Valley covers over 8,700 Kms. (5,400 miles) running from Jordan Valley in the Middle East and taking in the whole of the Red Sea before cutting through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and ﬁnally reaching the Indian Ocean at Beira near the Zambezi River. The Great Rift Valley Kenya is much more deﬁned in Kenya than anywhere else.
The Great Rift Valley Kenya – Gregorian Rift
That section of the The Great Rift Valley Kenya in Kenya, also known as the “Gregorian Rift” after J. W. Gregory, the Great geologist who ﬁrst described it, is dotted with recent volcanoes like Mt. Longonot (still partially active), Suswa, Ebum, Menengai, Londiani, Kakorinyo, Central and Northern Islands in Lake Turkana.
It also contains seven lakes all of which have no outlets. These are Lake Turkana (The Jade Sea), Baringo, Bogoria, Nakuru, Elementaita, Naivasha and Lake Magadi.
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When it rains on the The Great Rift Valley Kenya escarpments and on the surrounding highlands, water runs down rivers and streams to the lake basins. The high rate of evaporation is the only major way through which water escapes from the lakes. The evaporation leaves behind a large accumulation of salts and minerals in the lakes.
This makes all but two of the lake Naivasha and lake Baringo contain high alkaline contents, a factor that makes the highly alkaline soils in and around the lakes turn bones and ivory into fossils. The fossilization process over the years has made Rift Valley in the country preserve remains of ancient animals and human beings into the form of fossils; thus affording us important information of the ancient past.
Features of the Rift Valley in Kenya – Great Rift Valley Kenya
The valley is bordered by escarpments to the east and west. The floor is broken by volcanoes, some still active, and contains a series of lakes. Some of the soils are Andisols, fertile soils from relatively recent volcanic activity.
Lake Turkana occupies the northern end of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. There are also volcanoes in Lake Turkana. The Suguta Valley, or Suguta Mud Flats, is an arid part of the Great Rift Valley directly south of Lake Turkana. The shield volcano Emuruangogolak straddles the valley to the south of Suguta, and further south Mount Silali and Paka rise from the valley floor. Paka is a shield volcano, with widespread geothermal activity. South of Paka are Mount Korosi, Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. Menengai is a massive shield volcano in the floor of the rift with a caldera that formed about 8,000 years ago. It overlooks Lake Nakuru to the south. This region also includes Lake Elementaita, Mount Kipipiri and Lake Naivasha.
The Hell’s Gate National Park lies south of Lake Naivasha. In the early 1900s, Mount Longonot erupted, and ash can still be felt around Hell’s Gate. Mount Longonot is a dormant stratovolcano located southeast of Lake Naivasha. Suswa is a shield volcano located between Narok and Nairobi. Lava flows from the most recent eruptions are still not covered by vegetation, and may be no more than one hundred years old. Lake Magadi is the most southern rift valley lake in Kenya, although the northern end of Lake Natron in Tanzania reaches into Kenya.
The Elgeyo escarpment forms part of the western wall. The Kerio Valley lies between the Tugen Hills and the Elgeyo escarpment at an elevation of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) There are large deposits of Fluorite in the Kerio Valley area. Further south the Mau Escarpment is a steep natural cliff approximately 3,000 m (10,000 ft) high, running along the western edge of the Great Rift Valley about Lake Naivasha. Yet further south the Nguruman Escarpment is around 50 kilometers long and elongated in N-W direction. Its northern edge is about 120 kilometres (75 mi) southwest of Nairobi, while the southern edge is near the Tanzanian border, at the northwestern corner of Lake Natron. The Aberdare Range forms a section of the eastern rim of the Great Rift Valley to the north of Nairobi. Mount Satima lies at the northern end of the Aberdares and is their highest point, and Mount Kinangop at the southern end is the second highest. The mountains form a ridge between these two peaks. Ngong Hills are peaks in a ridge along the east of the Great Rift Valley, located southwest near Nairobi.
Rift Valley Lakes in Kenya – Rift Valley Kenya
Kenya is home to 64 (9.50%) of the total lakes found within the continent of Africa. Eight of these make up the main lakes in the Kenyan Rift Valley. From north to south, the names of these lakes are Lake Turkana, Lake Logipi, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elmenteita, Lake Naivasha, and Lake Magadi Of those eight, only Lakes Baringo and Naivasha are fresh water.
Lake Turkana, at the northern end of the rift, is 250 kilometres (160 mi) long, between 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) and 30 kilometres (19 mi) wide and is 125 metres (410 ft) at its greatest depth. Most of the other lakes are shallow and poorly drained, and therefore have become alkaline. They have waters that are rich in blue-green algae, which feed insect larvae, small crustaceans and lesser flamingos. The larvae and crustaceans are food for fish and greater flamingos. Massive flocks of these birds have been found to have an effect on the lakeside sediments also. Their numbers cause trampling of the silts in certain areas, while the feeding grounds are oxygenated due to probing beaks in the mud. Their nest mounds can also be preserved and cemented as the lake’s water levels change. These form irregularities in the lakeside topography.
Trona, an evaporative mineral, used for sodium carbonate production, has been mined at Lake Magadi for nearly 100 years. It produces about 250,000 metric tonnes per year. Other precious minerals like rubies and pink sapphires have been found and mined from areas around Lake Boringo. In 2004, over 2 kilograms of corundum were collected.
Lake Bogoria is a caustic cauldron fringed by geysers and populated by over a million flamingoes. Three shallow alkaline lakes and the surrounding lands make up the Kenya Lake system: Lake Bogoria at 10,700 hectares (26,000 acres), Lake Nakuru at 18,800 hectares (46,000 acres) and Lake Elementaita at 2,534 hectares (6,260 acres). This system has one of the most diverse populations of birds in the world, and is the home of thirteen globally threatened species of bird. It is an important nesting and breeding site for great white pelicans, and is the most important feeding area for lesser flamingos in the world. The system is home to globally important populations of black-necked grebe, African spoonbill, pied avocet, little grebe, yellow-billed stork, black-winged stilt, grey-headed gull and gull-billed tern.
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The Kenya Lake system is a key location on the West Asian-East African Flyway, a route followed by huge numbers of birds in their annual migration from breeding grounds in the north to wintering places in Africa. The lands around the lakes include large populations of black rhino, Rothschild’s giraffe, greater kudu, lion, cheetah and wild dogs. The Kenya Lake system is surrounded by the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley, which provides a spectacular backdrop.
Other lakes are Lake Chew Bahir, in the northeast extension. This lake lies mainly in Ethiopia but extends into Kenya in the rainy season. Lake Kamnarok is another small lake.