Gatún Lake (gätōnˈ) [key], artificial lake, 163 sq mi (422 sq km), Colón Prov., Panama, formed by the impounding of the Chagres River. Gatún Dam (completed 1912), 11/2 mi (2.4 km) long and 115 ft (35 m) high, controls the level of the lake (c.85 ft/26 m above sea level), which is part of the canal route. Barro Colorado Island, high ground to which animals fled as the basin slowly filled, is a wildlife sanctuary. The lower Chagres valley, now submerged, was first selected as a transisthmian route (for a railroad) in 1848 by John Lloyd Stephens, the American author and traveler.
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