Geoparks.Africa
Geoparks and Geotourism in Africa. World Heritage Sites

Mount Kenya: The Pillar of Lakes and Tarns

There is more to Mount Kenya than being the second highest peak in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro. Mt Kenya is probably the only high Mountain with many lakes at various levels of its elevation

Mount Kenya is home to many lakes

Lake Alice

It is located in a crater near the Ithangune hill.

It seats on altitude of 3,550m above sea level.  It got its name from the Duchess of Gloucester, who visited Kenya and tried to climb Mount Kenya  only to reach 4,300m elevation. It is the largest covering an area of 48 acres. It has a large fish concentration making it ideal sport fishing. 

Lake Michaelson

It is found in the Gorges valley, above Vivienne falls just below the 300m cliff of the Temple. Its rated number 117 highest waterfall in the world.

The elevation is 4,000m above sea level. The lake feeds the Nithi river. It was named by Mackinder, after a friend he climbed with in 1899. It measures 30 acres. The lake also has trout to spice up the visit.

Lake Ellis

It is located at the base of Mugi hill at an attitude of 3,500m asl. It was named after Thomas Evelyn Scott-Ellis, who was the first European to reach the lake in 1927 accompanied by Eric Dutton.

It ranks third in size, occupying  28 acres. It offers great day hikes as well as overnight for fly fishers.  It has been incorporated as a stopover camp for climbers doing Chogoria route.                                           

Lake Rutundu.

Located at the base of Rutundu  hill at 3,100m asl. It got it’s name from the hill adjacent to it which resembles packed tobacco in Meru dialect. It has a size of 25 acres.

It is a haven for anglers. It was brought to media limelight by marriage proposal done by UK’s Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2010. 

Lake Höhnel

Situated  at the end  of Hohnel  valley, just Castlehill. 

It was named after Lieut. Ludwig von Höhnel, who was 2nd in command on Teleki’s expedition to the mountain. It occupies an area of 21 acres. It is a fishing spot at 4,300m asl.

The highest lake you can do fishing in Mt Kenya.

Carr Lakes

The two masses are located in the lake-rich Hobley valley, just below Thompson tarn, Gallery tarn, Hanging tarn and the Enchanted lakes.

Mackinder river drains to it before becoming Rupingazi river. It was named after Ernest Carr, who discovered the Lakes and erected two huts on the mountain.

He helped design and  built a road up the east side of the mountain from Chogoria, and was the founder of the Mountain Club of East Africa. It has a size 20 acres at 4,00m asl. 

Enchanted lakes 

It is located to the right in the Hobley valley just above Carr lakes. It was probably named due its delight and charm. With beautiful blue water.  It’s size is 10 acres at 4,250m above sea level.

Apart from the lakes, Mount Kenya features series of Tarns. These are the type of lakes that form in glacially-carved cirques

Teleki  tarn

It situated in the Teleki valley across the Rangers post near Shipton’s peak. It is on 4,300m asl. Named after Count Samuel Teleki, who led the first expedition to penetrate the forest zone of Mount Kenya in 1887. It has a size of  8.5 acres

Hidden tarn

Stashed well in at the source of  Nyamindi river.

It’s location is secluded due to the steep terrain hence the name. It has an elevation of 4,270m above sea level and sits on a 7.8 acres.

Halls tarn

This is definitely among the most well-known and reached tarns. They are found at Mintos hut/ campsite along Chogoria route.

The elevations is 4,300m above sea level. It was named after F. G. Hall, the District Commissioner at then Fort Hall (Murangá).  It measures 5 acres.

Hut tarn

It is also kown as Two tarn is located on the Teleki ridge.

It is along the Western peak-circuit just above American camp before Nanyuki tarn. There used to be a small shelter by the tarn. The elevation of 4,490m asl and a size of 4.5 acres.

Oblong tarn

You will find this one on the Hausberg valley at an altitude of 4,370m asl. They are separated with Hausberg tarn by the western peak-circuit trail. 

The tarn drains to the main Nanyuki river. The Oblong tarn lies closer to the point Peter and Piggot peaks.  It covers an area of  4.2 acres.

Thompson tarn

It is located in the Hobley valley to the left below Austrian hut at 4,350m asl. It lies below the Tilman and Grigg peaks. To its right is the Gallery tarn. It got the name from W. Bird Thompson, who was the leader of the British East African expedition to the mountain in 1891. It has a 4 acres size. 

Emerland tarn

It is located along the western peak circuit, between Nanyuki tarn and the Arthur’s seat. I think it got it its name from the bright greenish color it displays with beady ripples during windy episodes. It drains its water to Nanyuki river. The size is 3.2 acres at 4,450m above sea level. 

Lewis tarn

Located below Lewis glacier at an altitude of 4,800m above sea level. It’s size is 2.8 acres. Its slowly draining away as the Lewis glacier melts away.

Hausberg tarn

Located in the Hausberg valley at an altitude of 4,370m above sea level. They are like twin lakes, separated with Oblong tarn by the western peak-circuit trail. 

The tarn drains to the main Nanyuki river. The Oblong tarn lies closer to the Pt. Peter and Piggot peaks while Hausberg tarn is to the flow. It covers an area of 2.6 acres

Gallery tarns

It is located in the Hobley valley near the Coryndon peak. Its elevation is  4,450m asl. It was named for its appearance. It covers 2.6 acres.

Hanging tarn

It is found along the Gorges valley near Delamere peaks at 4,430m asl. It was formerly named after Gitchini, the personal servant of Melhuish, who accompanied him on many expeditions. Latter adopted the name Hanging tarns due to its looks and position. It occupies 2.6 acres.

Nanyuki tarn

It is adjacent to point Piggot along the western peak circuit trail. The tarn is named after the river that it flows into.  It covers 1.7 acres at an altitude of 4,470m asl.

Tyndall tarn

It is direct below Tyndall glacier between Pt. Slade and Midget peak.  Sitting in 1.2 acres at 4,450m asl.

Polishman’s tarn

It is located near the Hausberg col along the ridge with an altitude of 4,440m asl. It got its named after a Polish artist searching for a good view of the peaks saw the tarn. It occupies 1 acre.

Kami tarn

It is close the Batian peak and used to be the base camp for North face route. The name might be a corrupted version of ‘Kikami,’ meaning hyrax from the Meru dialect.

The area has a lot of them. The elevation is 4,400m asl. The tarn is emaciating fast from its former size of 0.7 acres.

Harris Tarn

It is located near point Lenana along the trail at 4,750m asl. It was named after P. Wyn Harris, who made the first ascent of Nelion and second ascent of Batian with Shipton in 1929. It’s size is 0.5 acres.

Upper Simba tarn

It is located just below Simba col. Simba means lion. It was named after the porters claimed to have sighted a lion within the area in 1924. It is at 4,600m asl. It occupies 0.5 acres.

Square tarn

It is just below the point Lenana, at the start of Gorges valley. It’s shape gave it a name since looks like a square. At an altitude of 4,700m asl and covering 0.2 acres.

Lower Simba tarn

It is situated towards the start of Mackinder valley with an elevation of 4,390m asl. Simba means lion.  It was named after the porters claimed to have sighted a lion within the area several times in 1924. It has an area of 0.2 acres.

Note that there are some notable ponds too.  Curling and Mpaku ponds being case examples.

 Kaburu Stellah Njeri is a Lead Mountain and trail Guide for Mara Expeditions and Kenya Wildlife Services