The Peñalara Massif is the site with the highest concentration of high mountain lakes and ponds in the Sierra de Guadarrama.
At the Peñalara Massif there are several wetlands with a great interest and ecological value, which origin is linked to the glacial activity of the last glaciations period. Among all of them we should emphasize the Peñalara Lake (La Laguna Grande de Peñalara) due to its size and location at an extraordinary beautiful cirque. There are however other of less entity such as The Birds lake (La Laguna de los Pájaros) and The Carnations lake (La Laguna de Claveles), and numerous ponds and peat soils disseminated all over the massif. This high-mountain aquatic ecosystems richness has allowed the Peñalara Massif Wetlands inclusion as a Ramsar Site on the list of wetlands of international relevance.
When those lacustrine enclaves are located sporadically in a region, they reach a remarkable representative degree and even an emblematic character, very often proper of other latitudes great lakes. That is the case of The Peñalara Lake, one of the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park visitors’ favorite destinations. In the past that lake suffered an important damage due to an inappropriate tourist use, leading to the accomplishment of a relevant ecologic restoring project. At the present time this enclave visit is limited in certain aspects to maintain its ecological status in excellent conditions.
Those lakes may turn out not so eye-catching, if we compare them to other lakes with identical origin of other mountain ranges, such as The Pyrenees or The Cantábrica Chain. However its location at The Central Mountain Range grants them an interesting biogeography transition character between the Peninsula northern alpine areas, very related with the central Europe Mountains such as The Alps, and the great Sierra Nevada mountains range with a high Mediterranean character.
The Peñalara Lake (La Laguna Grande de Peñalara)
The Peñalara Lake, located at 2.019 m of altitude at the Peñalara glacial cirque, presents much reduced dimensions in comparison with some Iberian Pyrenean lakes. It is however very similar to lakes of other mountain chains, like the Iberian Range, the Peninsula Northwest sierras, the Sierra Nevada range or the closer Sierra de Gredos. Its small volume of 11.563 m3 ensures that certain environmental factors such as the wind or the rain have a quicker and more drastic influence in the water mass conditions than in larger lakes. Its maximum depth attains 4,7 m, and its water surface reaches 5.779 m2.
A limnology tracking is taking place at the Peñalara Lake, obtaining a large amount of data related to this lake ecology.
The Carnations lake (La Laguna de los Claveles)
It is located at a moraine arch in the superior zone of The Pepe Hernando cirque. It is a temporary lake, drying generally in the mid summer season. The depression bottom is occupied by middle size stones (0,1-1 m of diameter), with barely silt deposits, which grants it a very permeable condition. Although its depth attains 2,6 m, after the thaw it reaches a total volume similar to the Peñalara Lake one, and a surface slightly larger.
The Birds lake (La Laguna de los Pájaros)
Located at the north side of the Peñalara Massif, and nearly on the ridge divisor line, it is the highest lake (2.170 m of altitude) and the smallest of the massif principal ones. It shows a curious shoe sole shape, with a maximum depth of 0,5 m. Unlike the previous one, it is a permanent lake during the whole year, with a small fluctuations level, due to the presence of a silt substrate blocking the water infiltration on the soil.