Lago Lacanja, Chiapas, Mexico

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Mexico, Chiapas, Ocosingo Municipality

Selva Lacandona contains part of the Grijalva-Usumacinta watershed, Mexico’s largest, which is 11,550,700 hectares and drains 85 trillion m3 of water on average every year.

Montes Azules is found within the Lacantún River Basin. This river, along with the Jataté and Lacanjá rivers, form the reserve’s natural borders. Within the reserve there are several different bodies of waters, originating from soluble limestone hollows fed by subterranean water creating these lakes in karstic hollows.

A lagoon complex, made up of the following lagoons, is located in the northern part of the reserve: Laguna Ojos Azules, Laguna Yanqui, Laguna Ocotal and Laguna El Suspiro (García-Gil y Lugo 1992). The largest lagoons are Laguna Miramar (7.906 ha) and Lacanjá (1.030 ha) and they are located in the midwestern and northwestern portion of the reserve.

The Lacanja is located inside the “Reserva de la Biósfera Montes Azules” established in 1978 in Chiapas, Mexico, near the border with Guatemala. This reserve covers part of the Lacandon Jungle, covering 331,200 hectares, only one fifth of the original rainforest in Chiapas, where live the Lacandon Maya, the original indigenous group of the area and that holds the title to most of the lands in Montes Azures.

Lago Lacanjá has an elevation of 265 meters above sea level. It is also known as Laguna Lacanja, Laguna Lacanja Chansayab, Laguna Lacanjá, Laguna Lacanjá Chansayab.

Since 1992 the Lacantun Reserve includes also the Classic Maya archeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak.

Submitted by
Heiko Bleher
16.6932621, -91.1051025
Geographical region
Central America
Drainage Basin
River catchment
Water body type
Water body name
Water body part
Water body course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
29.2 °C at 15:30 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

Dissolved Oxygen

Substrate in nature

Stone form
Submerged terrestrial vegetation

Aquatic Biotope

Date of collecting
April, 2016
Collecting area
Edge of reservoir
Water depth
Air temperature
29 °C
Full sun


Surrounding area

Lacandon Jungle has been home and stronghold of fascinating civilization in the region and of nature itself.

Made up of an exuberant and varied flora and a wide wealth of fauna, with endemic and endangered species. Its interior has protected areas such as Na Ha and Maetzabok to preserve different species of endangered animals.

To the south it borders the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. The current settlers are descendants of the Lacandon, Chole and Tzetzal Maya. They take care of, administer and protect the area. This people offer guides to wonderful places along rivers, waterfalls and lagoons; tours to discover the habitat of endangered species or magnificent guided visits to the mysterious and ancient archaeological sites.

On such a walk in the Lacandon Jungle, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the trails that are very beautiful. The departure is nirmally scheduled just after sunrise (6:00 am) until it is about to set (5:00 pm). All day living with nature and the environment, without a doubt, is a unique experience.

Underwater landscape

Near the lake one has to cross a large swamp area, before reaching water and see the crystal clear lake full of water lilies, with floating and submerse leaves, a real paradise. When I swam into the lake a Trichromis salvini pair was guarding its fry in a cave.

And I saw an unbelievable quantity of cichlids, more than 15 different species dominating this underwater world. The roughly 2 km long karst lake has no inflow (except for 2 tiny creeks) – nor any outflow. It rained endless that night, our tents got flooded, and we had to walk back in the water.

Here dwell at least 15 cichlid species:

  • Cincelichthys pearsei
  • Chuco intermedium
  • Theraps irregularis
  • Wajpamheros nourissati
  • Cincelichthys ufermanni
  • Oscura heterospila (described from Atlantic slope)
  • Vieja melanurus
  • Vieja bifasciata
  • Vieja breidohri
  • Vieja hartwegi
  • Mayaheros urophthalmus
  • Amphilophus trimaculatus
  • Trichromis salvini
  • Rheoheros lentiginosus
  • Cribroheros robertsoni
  • Petenia splendida (with thousands of fry)

And at least 3 possibly undescribed species: 1 with a extreme large (almost round) caudal peduncle spot; 1 with a large black spot in its tail-base plus 2-3 small black spots in the caudal peduncle; and 1 steel blue Thorichthys species, and blue Astyanax species.

The aquatic vegetation consists of:

  • Carex species
  • 2 Nymphaea species
  • 2 Potamogeton species
  • Vallisneria americana
Threats to ecology

Montes Azules contains a high diversity of ecosystems and species. It contains 28.4% of the country’s mammalian species, 31.8% of the birds, 11.7% of the reptiles, 8.8% of the amphibians and 14.4% of the freshwater fish species. It constitutes one of the last redoubts of rainy tropical forests in the country and together with the Guatemalan Petén and the forests of Belize, Campeche and Quintana Roo, it forms one of the most important massifs of tropical humid forest in Mesoamerica in terms of biological diversity and climatic regulation. The latter is due in part to the fact that it is within the basin with the highest rainfall in the country, the Usumacinta basin.

In addition to its great richness in species and ecosystems, and its contribution in the form of ecological services, it is worth highlighting its potential of useful resources. For example: the Lacandón, Zoque, Tzotzil, Tzeltzal, Tojolabal and Chol groups make use of the plants of the reserve and there are many useful plants they know. All this underscores the true priority of the protection of the Lacandon Jungle, and the Montes Azules Reserve plays a fundamental role.

On the other hand, given the natural beauties of the area, the reserve presents a notable tourist potential increased by the presence of archaeological remains inside and near it. Bonampak, for example, is less than 10 km northeast of the reserve boundary. Within this area, the permanent bodies of water known as Laguna Miramar, the largest in the reserve, and lagoons El Ocotal, Ojos Azules and El Suspiro stand out as tourist attractions. It is known that these sites are visited for recreational purposes, but there is no influx data. For the rest, the reserve does not have the infrastructure or services to meet the tourist demand. The work to protect natural resources requires, for its execution, an infrastructure that allows the staff to stay, especially surveillance.

Only recently has the demarcation of the field and the marking of the reserve been undertaken. The lack of these actions has been a factor that makes it difficult to control activities compatible and incompatible with the purposes of the area.

The reserve has survived without a guiding development and protection program, an absence that has prevented the application of coherent and continuous actions in accordance with the objectives that created it. Consequently, with the exception of the Chajul Station in the last two years, the area has lacked an administrative and research body specifically dedicated to directing it and generating knowledge and proposals for the management of natural and human resources under its jurisdiction.

During the second half of this century, immigration from other regions of Chiapas, mainly from Los Altos del Norte, and from other states of the Republic, accelerated the incorporation of the Lacandon Jungle into agricultural and forestry production, with the consequent change of land use and the drastic decrease in wooded area. The opening of the border highway and oil exploration and exploitation have accentuated the phenomenon.

There are more than 200 irregular human settlements, which have land tenure problems.

A multitude of different ethnic groups coexists: ejidatarios, community members, small owners and a large number of governmental and non-governmental organizations that use or influence the use of the area’s resources without having a comprehensive plan known and accepted by all. The devastation of the forest in the last 35 years has been staggering.