Mount Elgon
See also Mount Elgon District
Mount Elgon District
Mount Elgon District is an administrative district in the Western Province of Kenya. Its capital town is Kapsokwony.-Geography and demographics:The district is located on southeastern slopes of Mount Elgon...

Mount Elgon is an extinct shield volcano
Shield volcano
A shield volcano is a type of volcano usually built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They are named for their large size and low profile, resembling a warrior's shield. This is caused by the highly fluid lava they erupt, which travels farther than lava erupted from more explosive volcanoes...

 on the border of Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 and Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, north of Kisumu
Kisumu is a port city in western Kenya at , with a population of 355,024 . It is the third largest city in Kenya, the principal city of western Kenya, the immediate former capital of Nyanza Province and the headquarters of Kisumu County. It has a municipal charter but no city charter...

 and west of Kitale
Kitale is an agricultural town in western Kenya situated between Mount Elgon and the Cherengani Hills at an elevation of around . Its urban population was estimated at 220,000 in 2007....


Physical features

It is the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa, covering an area of around 3500 km².

Other features of note are:
  • The caldera
    A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption, such as the one at Yellowstone National Park in the US. They are sometimes confused with volcanic craters...

     — Elgon's is one of the largest intact calderas in the world
  • The warm springs by the Suam River
  • Endebess Bluff (2563m or 8408 ft)
  • Ngwarisha, Makingeny, Chepnyalil and Kitum caves. Kitum Cave
    Kitum Cave
    Kitum Cave is a non-solutional cave developed in pyroclastic rocks in Mount Elgon National Park, Kenya. The cave extends about into the side of the mountain. The walls are rich in salt, and animals such as elephants have gone deep into the cave for centuries in search of salt...

     is over 60 metres wide and penetrates 200 metres. It is frequented by wild elephant
    Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

    s who lick the salt exposed by gouging the walls with their tusks. It became notorious following the publication of Richard Preston's book The Hot Zone
    The Hot Zone
    The Hot Zone is a best-selling 1994 non-fiction bio-thriller by Richard Preston about the origins and incidents involving viral hemorrhagic fevers, particularly ebolaviruses and marburgviruses...

    in 1994 for its association with the Marburg virus
    Marburg virus
    Marburg virus disease is the name for the human disease caused by any of the two marburgviruses Marburg virus and Ravn virus...

     after two people who had visited the cave (one in 1980 and another in 1987) contracted the disease and died.

The mountain soils are red laterite
Laterites are soil types rich in iron and aluminium, formed in hot and wet tropical areas. Nearly all laterites are rusty-red because of iron oxides. They develop by intensive and long-lasting weathering of the underlying parent rock...

. The mountain is the catchment area for the several rivers such as the Suam River which becomes the Turkwel downstream and which drains into Lake Turkana, the Nzoia River
Nzoia River
The Nzoia River is a 160-mile long Kenyan river, rising from Mount Elgon. It flows south and then west, eventually flowing into Lake Victoria near the town of Port Victoria....

 and the Lwakhakha which flow to Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes. The lake was named for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, by John Hanning Speke, the first European to discover this lake....

. The town of Kitale
Kitale is an agricultural town in western Kenya situated between Mount Elgon and the Cherengani Hills at an elevation of around . Its urban population was estimated at 220,000 in 2007....

 is in the foothills of the mountain. The area around the mountain is protected by two Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is a national park 140 km North East of Lake Victoria. The park covers an area of 1279 km² and is bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1110 km² while the Kenyan part covers 169 km²...

s one on each side of the international border.

Some rare plants are found on the mountain, including Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis, and Romulea keniensis.

In 1896, C. W. Hobley
Charles William Hobley
Charles William Hobley, CMG — known as C. W. Hobley — was a pioneering British Colonial administrator in Kenya...

 became the first European to circumnavigate the mountain. Kmunke and Stigler made the first recorded ascent of Wagagai and Koitobos in 1911. F. Jackson, E. Gedge, and J. Martin made the first recorded ascent of Sudek in 1890. The main peak is an easy scramble and does not require any special mountaineering
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...



The mountain is named after the Elgeyo
The Elgeyo are an ethnic group that is part the larger Kalenjin ethnic group of nilotic origin. They live near Eldoret, Kenya in the highlands of the Keiyo District...

 tribe, who once lived in huge caves on the south side of the mountain.

It was known as "Ol Doinyo Ilgoon" (Breast Mountain) by the Maasai and as "Masaba" on the Ugandan side.

Mt. Elgon consists of five major peaks:
  • Wagagai (4,321m), being in Uganda.
  • Sudek (4,302m or 14,140;ft) in Kenya
  • Koitobos (4,222m or 13,851;ft), a flat topped basalt column (Kenya)
  • Mubiyi (4,211m or 13,816;ft)
  • Masaba (4,161m or 13,650;ft)

Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, eighty kilometers in diameter, rises 3070m above the surrounding plains, providing welcome relief in more than one sense of the word. Its mountainous terrain introduces variety to an otherwise monotonous regional landscape. Its cool heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below and its higher altitudes provide a refuge for flora and fauna.

Local ethnicities

Mount Elgon is home to three tribes, the Bagisu
The Gisu people, or Bagisu , alternately Gishu, Masaba, or Sokwia, are a tribe of the Masaba nation of eastern Uganda, closely related to the Bukusu people of Kenya...

, the Sabiny
Sebei is an ethnic group of Uganda and Sudan. They speak Sebei, a Nilotic language. Many members of this ethnic group live in Kapchorwa District of Uganda....

 and the Ogiek, better known in the region under the derogatory umbrella term Ndorobo
Dorobo is a derogatory umbrella term for several unrelated hunter-gatherer groups of Kenya and Tanzania....

. The Bagisu and Sabiny are subsistence farmers and conduct circumcision ceremonies every other year to initiate young men (and in the Sabiny's case, girls) into adulthood. Traditionally, the Bagisu, also known as the BaMasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba, and you may hear the mountain called by this name. Local people have long depended on forest produce and have made agreements with the park to continue to harvest resources such as bamboo poles and bamboo shoots (a local delicacy). The Ogiek used to be hunters and honey gatherers, but have become more sedentary in recent decades, and have partially been moved downward by the government.

See also

  • 2010 Uganda landslide
  • List of volcanoes in Kenya
  • Elgon languages
    Elgon languages
    The Elgon languages are languages of the Southern Nilotic Kalenjin family spoken in the Mount Elgon area in western Kenya and eastern Uganda. According to the Ethnologue, there are two main Elgon languages: Kupsabiny and Sabaot...

  • Mount Elgon insurgency
    Mount Elgon insurgency
    The Mount Elgon insurgency was a conflict that started in 2005 when the Sabaot Land Defence Force militia revolted in the Mount Elgon area, Western Kenya.-The insurgency:...

  • Breast shaped hills

External links

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