Cuban rivers are generally short, with meagre flow; of the nearly 600 rivers and streams, two-fifths discharge to the north, the remainder to the south. The Zapata Peninsula is the most extensive of Cuba’s many coastal wetlands.
The main island’s heaviest precipitation and largest rivers are in the southeast, where the Cauto, at 230 miles (370 km) the country’s longest river, lies between the Sierra Maestra and the smaller Sierra del Cristal. The Cauto and its tributaries, notably the Salado, drain the Sierra Maestra and lesser uplands in the provinces of Holguín and Las Tunas. Other rivers in this region include the Guantánamo, Sagua de Tánamo, Toa, and Mayarí. To the west the most important southward-flowing rivers are the Sevilla, Najasa, San Pedro, Jatibonico del Sur, Zaza, Agabama, Arimao, Hondo, and Cuyaguateje. Northward-flowing rivers include the Saramaguacán, Caonao, Sagua la Grande, and La Palma.
Cuban lakes are small and more properly classified as freshwater or saltwater lagoons. The latter include Leche (“Milk”) Lagoon, which has a surface area of 26 square miles (67 square km). It is technically a sound because several natural channels connect it to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea movements generate disturbances in the calcium carbonate deposits at the bottom of the lake to produce the milky appearance of its waters.
The complicated Cuban topography and geology have produced at least 13 distinct groups of soils, the majority of which are fertile and cultivated throughout the year. Highly fertile red limestone soil extends from west of Havana to near Cienfuegos on the southern coast and lies in extensive patches in western Camagüey province, providing the basis for Cuba’s main agricultural output.
Another area of fertile soil is north of Cienfuegos between the Sierra de Sancti Spíritus and the Caribbean coast. Camagüey province and the Guantánamo basin have some arable land, although of lower fertility. Areas of sandy soil in Pinar del Río, Villa Clara, and portions of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey provinces cannot hold moisture and are marginally fertile, as are the soils of the mangrove-dotted coastal swamps and cays. "Cuba" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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