7 junio, 2024

Lake Maracaibo depression: constitution, relief and economy

What is the depression of Lake Maracaibo?

The Lake Maracaibo depression It is one of the 9 natural regions of Venezuela. It is a tectonic rift of a structural nature. This depression gradually descends as the Sierra de Perijá and the Andes mountain range rise in Venezuela.

Lake Maracaibo is located in western Venezuela, specifically in the Zulia state. The chroniclers of the lake define it as the great semi-enclosed bay of Venezuela. It has an area of ​​about 13,500 km² and is the largest lake in South America.

The Lake Maracaibo basin was covered by shallow water for millions of years. Throughout these years, sediments and organic remains were deposited, which are directly responsible for the lake being the source, today, of one of the most important oil and gas deposits. from the country.

The subsoil of the depression has been the object of multiple investigations for geologists and geographers, since it is a phenomenon registered in few parts of the world. The extraordinary thing about this depression is that, while it is sinking, it has one of the largest sources of wealth in Venezuela and is connected to the Caribbean Sea.

Lake Maracaibo places this city as the most important from the demographic point of view after the capital, Caracas.

The potential of the area is immense, in view of the importance of the lake and the lands on the eastern coast, propitious for agricultural and livestock activities.

Constitution of the depression of Lake Maracaibo

The depression of the lake is subject to various interpretations about what may happen to it. It is not known for sure if the wealth that is located in its subsoil will end up below or will remain at the point to continue extracting it.

The subsoil strata of the depression are formed by sandstones, shales and groups of rocks of different geological ages. The perforation of the same is what allows the extraction of gas and oil.

Some environmentalists argue that the damage that has been done to the lake is incalculable. Oil extraction wiped out marine fauna and flora, giving rise to a polluted lake that is only good for maritime navigation and oil activity.

At the beginning of the Oligocene period, the Andes mountain range and the Perijá mountain range were constantly rising, while the weight of the lake’s sediments made it sink more and more. This process was giving rise to the current physiognomy of the northwestern area of ​​the country.

One of the most important characteristics of the lake is that it is directly connected to the sea, which is the case only with this lake in the whole world. However, this was not always the case: during the Miocene period, maritime waters penetrated the lake, which gave rise to a significant increase in sedimentation.

The sedimentation of the rivers eroded the mountains of the region, the sea gradually withdrew and the mountains continued their elevation process, increasing the sedimentation even more.

These sedimentary layers are known by the name of La Rosa formations, and it is what has made possible one of the most important sources of energy wealth in the country.

depression relief

The depression of Lake Maracaibo has a flat relief whose highest altitude does not exceed 80 centimeters. It has direct violent contact with the Sierra de Perijá and the Sierra de Siruma to the west. It shows some irregularities in the south of the depression, in the Sierra de Tarra.

Its total extension is 15,000 km², the central part of the depression is a body of fresh water, in which the depth does not exceed 50 meters. To the north of the lake is the famous Gulf of Venezuela, which is also the epicenter of significant oil and gas wealth.

The area where the sea and the lake meet is a bar that forms an important accumulation of sand that has been dredged, and today it can be crossed without danger by commercial vessels and of any kind.

In the center of the depression, temperatures are equally high, and the rains are for specific periods of the year. The same is true in the northern part of the lake, where temperatures can easily exceed 40ºC.

The vegetation in the southern part of the lake constitutes a hydrophilic zone, which indicates high temperatures and rainfall. This factor is increased by the proximity of the Andes mountain range, whose humid winds stimulate constant rainfall.

The abundant rainfall keeps the riverbed at its maximum level constantly. Its main rivers are the Chama, the Motatán and the Escalante. Even rainfall levels are sometimes so high that they have long histories of flooding in the region.

Geo-economy of the lake

The main source of wealth is the oil deposits that caused the high accumulations of sedimentation over thousands of years. These constitute the most important oil deposits in the country.

The region bordering the lake is type A land and is par excellence the area where the best cattle and milk production in the country occur. It is also conducive to large banana and sugar cane crops.

The intercommunication channel between the lake and the sea has made it possible for oil tankers to navigate directly between the Zulia refineries and the Gulf of Venezuela. This streamlines extraction processes and significantly lowers costs.

The city of Maracaibo has a petrochemical complex located in the El Tablazo area, which gives added value to oil and where raw materials such as polymer are extracted, which is then passed on to industries for processing.


Maracaibo lake. Retrieved from wikipedia.org.
Chroniclers of Lake Maracaibo (2001). V Centennial of Lake Maracaibo. Unermb Publishing Fund. Venezuela.

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