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Lake Titicaca is a large, deep lake in the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Peru. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America. Lake Maracaibo has a larger surface area, but it is a tidal bay, not a lake.
It is often called the "highest navigable lake" in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 ft). Although this refers to navigation by large boats, it is generally considered to mean commercial craft. Today the largest vessel is most likely the similarly sized, but broader, train barge/float Manco Capac, operated by PeruRail. Numerous smaller bodies of water around the world are at higher elevations.
The lake is located at the northern end of the endorheic Altiplano basin high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department.
The lake is composed of two nearly separate sub-basins connected by the Strait of Tiquina, which is 800 m (2,620 ft) across at the narrowest point. The larger sub-basin, Lago Grande (also called Lago Chucuito), has a mean depth of 135 m (443 ft) and a maximum depth of 284 m (932 ft). The smaller sub-basin, Winaymarka (also called Lago Pequeño, "little lake"), has a mean depth of 9 m (30 ft) and a maximum depth of 40 m (131 ft).
Five major river systems feed into Lake Titicaca. In order of their relative flow volumes these are Ramis, Coata, Ilave, Huancané, and Suchez. More than twenty other smaller streams empty into Titicaca. The lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated.
Having only a single season of free circulation, the lake is monomictic, and water passes through Lago Huiñaimarca and flows out the single outlet at the Río Desaguadero, which then flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopó. This only accounts for about 10% of the lake's water balance. Evapotranspiration, caused by strong winds and intense sunlight at high altitude, balances the remaining 90% of the water loss. It is nearly a closed lake.