The Turkana Basin is located at the northern end of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, a trench that runs north to south in the African country. A primary feature of the Turkana Basin is Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world. Surrounding the body of water, which is a stopover for migrant waterfowl as well as a breeding ground for the Nile crocodile, the landscape and climate are arid with areas devoid of life. Besides the lake, the region is known around the world for its extensive fossil deposits that have led scientists to a greater understanding of the evolution of the human species.
With average monthly temperatures in the nearby town of Lodwar ranging from 28°-30° Celsius (83°-86° Fahrenheit), the Turkana Basin is a hot place. It does not get much relief from rainfall, however. The annual rainfall in the area is less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) with the highest probability of precipitation occurring in the months of March, April, and May.
Population Density and Land Use
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Geographic Information Science & Technology Group uses computer models, satellite imagery, and GIS to measure and map population density. According to researchers at this group, the population density surrounding Lake Turkana is light to very light. In a region that stretches about 322 kilometers (200 miles) north and south of the lake and 241 kilometers (150 miles) east to west, there is an estimated human population of just 785,000. Less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Lake Turkana, Lodwar is the biggest town in the area, with a population of around 25,000. The group also notes that the rural area near the lake is arid and has mostly sparse desert vegetation except for some scattered grasslands.
Even though scientists estimate there are more than 2,000 lions in Kenya, just 100 are believed to be in the northern part of the country, where the Turkana Basin is located. Most lions can be found in the country’s central Laikipia area and southern Maasai land and Tsavo regions. The only known permanent lion range in the Turkana Basin is in and around Sibiloi National Park, which is on the northeast side of the lake.
Lake Turkana is at an elevation of 360 meters (1,181 feet) while the surrounding basin is anywhere from 375-914 meters (1,230-3,000 feet). An extinct volcano, Mount Kulal, rises 2,285 meters (7,497 feet) and is located just east of the lower section of Lake Turkana.