Victoria, Lake, Africa's largest lake and a part of the Nile River system. It lies in a broad, shallow basin on the vast East African Plateau and is shared by Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Measuring about 150 miles by 250 miles (240 by 400 km), Lake Victoria has an area of some 26,800 square miles (69,500 km2); it is second in area only to Lake Superior among the world's freshwater lakes. It is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of only 269 feet (82 m). Islands dot the northern and southern waters, and much of the shoreline is deeply indented by bays and inlets.
Numerous rivers drain into Lake Victoria. One, the Kagera, originates in the highlands of Burundi and is the Nile's most remote source. At Jinja, in Uganda, the waters of the lake pour out as the Victoria Nile, passing through the generating turbines of the Owen Falls Dam. Steamers carrying freight and passengers regularly serve Kisumu. Mwanza, and other ports on the lake.
Parts of the lake's shores are densely settled, but other areas are made uninhabitable by the presence of the tsetse fly, which carries African sleeping sickness. In the late 1990's, the lake became infested with the water hyacinth, a nonnative plant from South America.
John Hanning Speke was the first European to reach the lake, in 1858; he later named it for Queen Victoria. Henry M. Stanley explored the lake in 1875.