Garabogazköl or Kara-Bogaz-Gol is one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth and a very interesting natural phenomenon with great tourism potential. It is a shallow lagoon and bay with a surface area of about 18 000 km2 (6950 mi2), located in the northwest of Turkmenistan and the east of the Caspian Sea.
The lagoon gave its name to the nearby city of Garabogaz. Originally, this name referred to the narrow strait connecting it with the Caspian Sea. Because the water in the strait, called the “throat” (Turkmen: bogaz), was darker than the water on either side, it was called “dark” or “black” (Turkmen: gara/kara), hence garabogaz. The Turkmen word köl means “lake” and refers to the isolation of the lagoon from the Caspian Sea.
The water surface of the lake is lower than the Caspian Sea at levels ranging from a few meters to a few centimeters, and therefore there has been a constant flow of water from the Caspian Sea into this lake. According to measurements, the salinity rate is around 270-300 g/l and naturally various evaporites (salt rocks) form within the lake. Due to the exceptionally high salinity, comparable to the Dead Sea, there is virtually no marine vegetation.
In March 1980, workers blocked the Caspian Sea line over fears that evaporation was accelerating the decline of the Caspian Sea. The resulting “salt bowl” caused widespread problems with salt being carried away, reportedly poisoning the soil and causing health problems hundreds of kilometers downwind to the east.
In 1992, the dam was destroyed and the lagoon was refilled with water at a rate of 1.7 meters per year. The water level of the lagoon fluctuates annually and seasonally, similar to the Caspian Sea. The surroundings of the lagoon have semi-desert characteristics due to a harsh continental climate. The hydrogeological and hydrochemical regime of the lagoon is determined by the water flowing from the Caspian Sea, and the flow rate of this water controls the properties of the lagoon’s water.