Bhimtal Lake is a lake in the town of Bhimtal, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, with a masonry dam built in 1883 creating the storage facility. It is the largest lake in Kumaon region, known as the “lake district of India”. The lake provides drinking water supply and supports aquaculture with variety of fish species. There is an island at the centre of the lake which has been developed as a tourist attraction and has an aquarium.
The lake and the dam are located at an elevation of 1,375 meters (4,511 ft) in Bhimtal town in the Nainital district in Uttarakhand. The lake drains a catchment area of 17.12 square kilometers (6.61 sq mi).
According to geologists the origin of the lake is attributed to a number of faults which occurred due to shifting of the earth’s crust. This caused blockade of the overland flows and resulted in creation of the lake. The catchment area of the lake, particularly the hills have dense forest cover; the type of forest vegetation consists of chir pine, ban oak and mixed deciduous forests. The basin experiences varying tropical to sub-tropical weather conditions. Precipitation in the basin is very high, mostly occurring during the monsoon period.
A peripheral road on the banks of the lake provides clear views of fish life in the lake. The lake has steep banks covered with shingle at lower elevations and bushes and grass at higher elevations. The western side of the lake is a forest area where cottages have been built; while on the opposite side there are terraced fields. A perennial tributary stream feeds the lake from the west and the banks of this stream have been extensively developed with residential complexes, after Indian Independence, which has brought in shale and debris into the lake, and this process is said to be still continuing. There is a small shopping center on the southern shore of the lake. A small sanitarium on the northern shore of the lake at 1,525 meters (5,003 ft) elevation is said to be free from malaria and hence healthy. There is also a prison camp which was established in 1902 here at the northern end of the lake to house prisoners of the Boer war.
It is 22.5 kilometers (14.0 mi) away from the district town of Nainital. Kathgodam is the nearest rail-head which is 20 kilometers (12 mi) away.
The dam was built in 1883 when Kumaon region was under the British Raj following the Anglo-Nepal War (1814–16). Nainital had then been established as their summer capital.
The town and the lake are named after Bhima, one of the Pandavas of the epic story of Mahabharata who is said to have visited the place. On the banks of the dam there is an old temple which was built by Raja Baj Bahadur Chand of Kumaon Kingdom during the 17th century.
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