Wanderlust | Bringing life back to Lake Leonard

OUR recent trip to Compostela Valley took us to Lake Leonard, located in a valley 2,572 feet above sea level in Barangay New Leyte, Maco.

From Mainit Sulfuric Spring/Mainit Hot Waterfalls, the freshwater crater lake, a tributary to the Hijo River Basin, is just 15 minutes away by car.
The lake got its name from mining prospector Leonard Kniaseff who first saw the lake while exploring for minerals back in the area sometimwe in the 1930s. Kniaseff eventually became the first general superintendent of Samar Mining Company, Inc when it opened its Masara mining operations after World War 2. 4

The Philippine Volcanology and Seismology described Mount Leonard Kniaseff as one of country’s most active volcanoes, with its last recorded eruption in 120 AD. Its volcanic activity was said to have begun 1.1 million years ago when one of its biggest lava domes collapsed, forming a caldera that is known today as Lake Leonard.

Over several thousands of years, rain filled the caldera and transformed it into a freshwater lake that has sustained life beneath and around the surface.

The lake may have some western sounding name today but before it was christened after Kniaseff, way before he stepped foot on its shores, the Mansaka tribal community had already named it as Crocodile Lake due to the presence of the much dreaded reptile back in the day. Stories surrounding the exploits of local crocodile hunters confirm the presence of crocodiles that once lorded over the warm lake waters. Aside from the reptiles, birds, deers, boars, wild geese, bats, freshwater fish and various birds species also found home in Lake Leonard.

According to the locals, Lake Leonard (current land area: 210 hectares) has grown in size over the years. In the 1970s, its basin was just about 194 hectares, widened only after the North Davao Mining Corporation used it as their tailings pond for 11 years. The mining activity relocated the entire barangay from the valley to its current location on an elevated portion of the mountain. A flashflood in the 1980s was said to have also contributed to its widening.

It was also the mining industry that almost obliterated wildlife in Lake Leonard, wiping out the population of its most notorious reptilian residents. Mining operations only ceased in 1992 when it started to lose business.
For more than two decades, the lake underwent a process of natural rehabilitation. The persistence of the local community to recover its once lost natural beauty and to promote the lake also benefited in the revival of life in Lake Leonard.
Since then, the municipality has declared Lake Leonard and its environs as a protected area, while the province is working on a sustainable development plan that will have Lake Leonard as one of its main highlights.

“The province is currently promoting Lake Leonard as an eco-tourism site and its Agri-Ecotourism and Wellness Loop, a 50-kilometer road corridor stretching from the Davao-Butuan National Highway and Mawab junction in the municipality of Mawab to the highland municipalities of Maco, Maragusan, and Pantukan,” shared provincial tourism officer Christine Dompor.
With its strategic location in the Leonard Kniaseff Mountain Range, the lake has also become a staging and kick-off area to various mountain climbing and trekking activities.

“Aside from its picturesque highland location and cool climate, picturesque panoramas, tourists visit Lake Leonard to do birdwatching, camping, kayaking using local bamboo rafts, experience organic farming and sustainable fishing,” she added.
Life is truly back in Lake Leonard. Not bad for a lake that was already considered dead two decades ago.

Posted in Lifestyle