A look at the Country’s Topography

The Great Rift Valley

It is the country’s length from its north marked by Lake Turkana to the Southern side marked as well by Lake Turkana. Both of its ends are low-lying, arid and rugged, with spectacular volcanic landforms. It also features the Aberdare Mountains and Mt Kenya to the east and the Mau Escarpment and Cherangani Hills to the west.

Western and northern Region

To the west of the inland plateau rising beyond the Kenyan coastline which plateau rises into central highlands, the land drops again to the Nyanza plateau that surrounds the Kenyan sector of Lake Victoria; and to the north, to the rugged low country around Lake Turkana.

Kenyan Coastline

It comprises of beaches, coral cliffs and reefs, creeks and numerous offshore coral islands. Coastal inland is a mainly level but narrow coastal plain that lies on sedimentary rocks, with some igneous intrusions such as Dzombo and Mrima. Beyond low rolling hills lies the so-called Nyika Plateau, mainly on sedimentary rocks, this landscape covers almost the entire northeastern sector of the country, on very gradual slopes.

The Taita Hills, rising from the southeastern plateau, are ancient fault-block formation, the northernmost of a chain of isolated peaks (the ‘eastern arc’) that stretches south to Malawi through eastern and southern Tanzania.


Major Drainage basins


Lake Victoria, the Rift Valley, the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River (and Coastal areas to its south), the Tana River and the northern Ewaso Ng’iro are the five major drainage basins in Kenya

Interestingly, the Country has only a small part of Lake Victoria’s water surface, but the Kenya catchment contributes a disproportionate 33% of its surface inflow, some 470 million cubic meters a year.


Internal drainage basins


These are found within the Rift Valley, forming a chain of endorheic lakes from Lake Natron on the Tanzanian border, through Lakes Magadi, Naivasha, Turkana, Elementaita, Nakuru, Bogoria and Baringo.

The lakes have various alkalinity levels - from fresh water Lake Naivasha to the intensely alkaline Lake Magadi. Lake Turkana is notable as a major volume of (more or less) fresh water in an otherwise arid and barren part of the county, while a number of rivers, including the Turkwel, Kerio, Athi-Galana, Tana and Northern and Southern Ewaso Ng’iro, flow for long distances through dry parts of the country. 

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