STS091-715-005 Issyk-Kul, Kyrgystan June 1998
Located in northeast Kyrgyzstan, Issyk-Kul is one of the deepest mountain lakes in the world with a maximum depth of 2303 feet (702 meters). Named for the "warm water" that the lake contains, this slightly brackish lake never freezes. Issyk-Kul could be called "Mile High Lake" since the surface of the lake is 5280 feet (1609 meters) above sea level. The lake is 115 miles (185 km) in length and 38 miles (61 km) at its widest point. The basin that the lake sits in is the result of a block of the earth's crust that subsided between two faults, known as a graben. Eroded debris (lighter-colored landscape) from the elevated mountain slopes is more recognizable around the western end of the lake and the darker terrain around the eastern end of the lake shows cultivated field patterns (mainly wheat fields). The north and south shorelines around the lake were once part of the Great Silk Road that connected China with the Middle East and parts of Russia. Although the region is semi-arid, snowmelt (runoff) from the surrounding mountains (seen here as snow capped mountains) provides sufficient fresh water to allow dry land farming on the flatter plains within the valleys. Mountain ranges north (Kiungey-Ala-Too) and south (Terskey-Ala-Too) of the lake with peaks that range between 13000 feet (3962 meters) to 18000 feet (5486 meters) are part of the regional Tien Shan (mountains).

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