Lake Geneva

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lake Geneva (Le Léman, Lac Léman)
Lake Geneva satellit.jpg
Satellite image of Lake Geneva
Geographical location SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland ( Romandie ) France ( Haute-Savoie )
Tributaries Rhone , Venoge , Dranse , Aubonne
Drain Rhone into the Mediterranean
Places on the shore Geneva , Nyon , Lausanne , Montreux , Vevey , Thonon-les-Bains
Coordinates 529.16 thousand  /  144713 coordinates: 46 ° 27 '  N , 6 ° 31'  O ; CH1903:  five hundred and twenty-nine thousand one hundred sixty  /  144713
Lake Geneva (Switzerland)
Lake Geneva
Altitude above sea level 372  m above sea level M.
surface 581.3 km², of which 345 km² (60%) to CH, 234 km² (40%) to Fdep1
length Sea axis 71.8 kmdep1
width 13.7 km
volume 89.9 km³
scope 199.884 km
Maximum depth 310 m
Middle deep 153 m


largest lake in Switzerland ,
second largest lake in Central Europe ,
deepest lake in France

Lake Geneva DE.png
Lake depths, tributaries, regional subdivisions
Template: Infobox Lake / Maintenance / EVIDENCE AREA Template: Infobox Lake / Maintenance / EVIDENCE LAKE WIDTH Template: Infobox Lake / Maintenance / EVIDENCE MED DEPTH

The Lake Geneva ( French le Lac Léman , Swiss French : Le Léman , international and Lac de Genève , alternative spelling in Germany and Austria Lake Geneva ) is the largest lake in both France and the Switzerland . It lies on the border between western Switzerland and the French region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes . The south-western tip of the lake belongs to the Swiss canton of Geneva , the north bank to the Swiss canton of Vaud and the south bank mostly to the French department of Haute-Savoie . In addition, the canton of Valais has a small share of the eastern south bank. The lake is divided into Haut Lac , Grand Lac and Petit Lac . Only the southernmost end within the canton of Geneva, about southwest of the Versoix - Hermance line , is officially called Lac de Genève .



Lake Geneva is the second largest lake in Central Europe after Lake Balaton in Hungary . It is 372  m above sea level. M. , is 580.03 km² (of which 345.29 km² [59.53%] are Swiss and 234.74 km² [40.47%] are French) and 310 m deep at the deepest point. It is also the deepest lake in France. Its average water content is around 89 km³, which makes it the most water-rich lake in Central Europe.

Inlet and outlet

Lake Geneva is mainly fed by the Rhône , which flows into the lake via a delta at Le Bouveret . The second most important tributary is the Dranse , followed by the Venoge and the Aubonne . The Rhône flows out of Lake Geneva near Geneva, with the water from all inlets taking an average of 10.4 years to flow. The water level of the lake is regulated in Geneva with the Barrage du Seujet . The annual average is about 270 m³ per second.

Main cities on the lake

Two major Swiss cities are located on the shores of Lake Geneva: Situated on the southwestern tip of the cantonal capital of Geneva , on the north bank of Lausanne , the capital of Canton Vaud / Vaud (VD). Other internationally known cities are Montreux and Vevey on the north-eastern lakeshore. The largest French city on Lac Léman is Thonon-les-Bains , the best-known is Évian-les-Bains .


Seven small islands are located in Lake Geneva (including the Île Rousseau just outside ), all within the Swiss part:

f1Georeferencing Map with all coordinates: OSM | WikiMap

No. island Area
comment local community Sea part Coordinates
1 Île de Chillon 5070 2 with Chillon Castle ... Skin lac ! 546.4141675506.927500546 ° 24 ′ 51 ″  N , 006 ° 55 ′ 39 ″  E
2 Île de Peilz 400 480 at Villeneuve ... Skin lac ! 546.3999735506.913843546 ° 24 ′ 00 ″  N , 006 ° 54 ′ 50 ″  E
3 Ile de Salagnon (Ile aux Mouettes) 1450 110 at Clarens ... Skin lac ! 546.4404705506.883015546 ° 26 '26 "  N , 006 ° 52' 59"  E
4th Île aux oiseaux 2100 0 Artificially raised at Préverenges in
... Grand Lac ! 546.5070005506.535000546 ° 30 ′ 25 ″  N , 006 ° 32 ′ 06 ″  E
5 Île de la Harpe 2368 70 at role ... Grand Lac ! 546.4555795506.339266546 ° 27 ′ 20 "  N , 006 ° 20 ′ 21"  E
6th Île de Choisi 120 70 at Bursinel ... Grand Lac ! 546.4387795506.318029546 ° 26 ′ 20 ″  N , 006 ° 19 ′ 05 ″  E
7th Île Rousseau 3390 60 in Geneva, outflow of the Rhone Geneva Rhone ! 546.2058335506.147500546 ° 12 ′ 21 ″  N , 006 ° 08 ′ 51 ″  E

The Île Rousseau is actually no longer in Lake Geneva, but a few meters below the Pont du Mont-Blanc bridge , which marks the south-western boundary of the lake at the outflow of the Rohne.

The Pierres du Niton ( Lage ) near Geneva are not islands, but rather erratic blocks protruding from the water. ! 546.2055695506.1543635


The three parts of Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Petit Lac from above with a view of Geneva

The lake is divided into three parts due to different origins (sedimentation, tectonic folding, glacial erosion):

  1. Haut Lac (Obersee), the eastern part from the mouth of the Rhone to a line Meillerie - Rivaz
  2. Grand Lac (Big Lake), the largest, deepest basin with the largest lake width
  3. Petit Lac (Small Lake), the southwestern, narrower and shallower part of a line Yvoire - Promenthoux near Prangins to the Rhone outflow in Geneva .

The Federal Office of Topography, swisstopo, designates that part of the Petit Lac as Lac de Genève, which lies within the cantonal boundaries of Geneva (excluding the cantonal exclave Céligny ), i.e. from Versoix - Hermance to the Rhone river in Geneva .

South bank

To the left of the mouth of the Rhone, there is a short Valais bank zone of Lac Léman from Le Bouveret to Saint-Gingolph. The border town comprises two political communities separated by a stream, Saint-Gingolph VS in the Swiss canton of Valais and the community of Saint-Gingolph (Haute-Savoie) in the French department of Haute-Savoie / Upper Savoy.

La Rive gauche du Lac de Genève / The left bank of Lake Geneva

A large section of the south bank belongs to France (Haute-Savoie department). The largest French city is Thonon-les-Bains . Evian-les-Bains is better known , as water is sold internationally under the name Evian.

The south bank of Geneva

At the southern tip, part of the southern bank belongs to the canton capital, Geneva, with its suburbs.

On August 28, 1910, Armand Dufaux set off from Noville / St. In the " Dufaux 4 " biplane designed by him and his brother Henri at 5:45 am . Gingolph and flew not far from the south bank to Geneva - he covered the 66-kilometer flight in 56 minutes and 5 seconds. Armand Dufaux had dared the world's longest flight over open water to date and won the prize money advertised by the automobile pioneer Perrot Duval for crossing Lake Geneva along its entire length.

North bank

View of the northern Lake Geneva by the Chillon Castle in

Lausanne , Nyon and Rolle in the canton of Vaud and Versoix in the canton of Geneva are located on the north-western bank, which is also known as La Côte .

Other internationally known cities on the northeastern bank are Montreux and Vevey . Here lies the Vaudois Riviera ( French Riviera vaudoise ), also known as Lavaux , with Chillon Castle, southeast of Montreux.

Nestlé is headquartered in Vevey, the European football association UEFA is in Nyon and Montreux is a popular tourist destination with well-known film festivals. The IOC, the International Olympic Committee, has its headquarters in Lausanne.


Lake Geneva influences the climate in its vicinity, whereby it softens the Swiss winter and “cools” the summer somewhat. When the water is warmer than the land in autumn, local fog can appear.

Water levels

The water levels vary by approx. 60 cm depending on the season, with the lowest point being reached from January to April. This is regulated in Geneva.


Origin of the name

Caesar and the ancient geographers already spoke of the lacus lemanus . The name lemanus comes from the Celtic lem and an (translated: large water, i.e. lake ). Hence the name lacus lemanus is a pleonasm , because lacus also means lake in Latin . From the 2nd century AD, the name lac de Lausanne was used more and more. This designation was mentioned in the Itinerarium Antonini (lacus lausonnius) and on the Tabula Peutingeriana (lacus Losanete) . In the course of the 17th century this name disappeared again.

Léman was used again as a name by the humanists and cartographers in the 16th century - namely by Sebastian Münster (1552) and Gerhard Mercator (around 1575) as well as by the authorities and authorities of the canton of Bern during the revolution. The regions of the canton of Léman and the former French department of Léman later emerged from this .

The residents of Geneva named the lake after their city early on. François Bonivard mentioned the lake as lac Lemanne in 1592 , but added qu'est nostre lac de Genesve (which is our Lake Geneva) as a specification . After the city of Geneva became more and more important, this toponym was also translated into other languages. In the German language the term is today Lake Geneva (as written in Switzerland) and Lake Geneva (as written in Germany, first mentioned in the 15th century), in English Lake Geneva, where the Italian names Lago Lemano and Lago di Ginevra are in use.



The lake was carved out by alpine glaciers from several ice ages. The deepest point is in front of Lausanne. The south-western narrower part, called the “Kleiner See”, is the breakthrough valley of the dammed water masses through the debris that was pushed forward and remained as terminal moraines .

Tauredunum event

In the year 563 a landslide occurred at the east end with subsequent slipping of the sediment masses in the Rhone delta, which triggered a tidal wave ( tsunami ) up to 13 meters high . Several villages were destroyed by the rockfall, the tsunami first flooded Lausanne and then Geneva, where the Rhone bridge was destroyed. Similar inland sunamis are known from Lake Lucerne from 1601 and 1687, and from Lake Lauerz from 1806.


Water quality

The Commission Internationale pour la Protection des eaux du Léman (CIPEL) is responsible for water quality and monitors Lake Geneva.

The water is of good quality, so that around 80 million cubic meters of lake water can be converted into drinking water every year . In the middle of the lake and at the eleven pumping stations around the lake, the water meets the required values ​​for metal , pesticide , nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).

The nitrate content is well below the limit value and has been stable for the past 15 years. The phosphorus content , on the other hand, is falling due to various renovations and has decreased by six percent since 2005. The current average concentration is 27.7 micrograms per liter. In 2005 it was 29.4 micrograms per liter. The aim of CIPEL is to reduce the phosphorus content to 20 micrograms per liter.

In Lake Geneva, an average of 129 grams of plastic waste per square kilometer was measured.

The CIPEL observes an increasing increase in algae , so-called phytoplankton , and this down to great depths. These filamentous algae hinder the fishermen in summer, as the nets are visible to the fish, and the plant continues to spread in winter.

Although there was no complete mixing of the lake water in 2006 and 2007, there is still enough oxygen in the deep water layers.

natural reserve

In the upper lake basin, the Les Grangettes nature reserve has been established to protect breeding and migratory birds .

Ammunition residues

In the 1950s and 1960s, private companies sank between 150 and 1,000 tons of unneeded ammunition in Lake Geneva. In 2019 it became known that some of the ammunition was lying open on the lake bed. Ammunition was found at one point at a depth of 50 meters, around 150 meters from a gas pipe and a drinking water tap.

Sights and buildings

The moated castle Schloss Chillon near Montreux at the eastern end of the lake is one of the landmarks . It is the most visited historical building in Switzerland and is located on a ledge on the lake.

The cityscape of Geneva is shaped by the Jet d'eau  - a fountain in the city's harbor. Its water fountain sprays up to 140 meters in height. Between Vevey and Lausanne lying vineyard terraces of the Lavaux , a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

The Lake Geneva Museum ( Musée du Léman ) is located in Nyon and presents the history and creation of the lake.

The wreck of the Hirondelle in front of La Tour-de-Peilz lies at around 40 to 60 meters below the surface of the water . The paddle steamer sank after it hit a rock formation on June 10, 1862. Today the wreck is a popular destination for wreck divers . You can dive into a spectacular 100 m high underwater rock face right in front of Chillon Castle. Less experienced divers like to visit the five small boat wrecks off Hermance .

The lake is rich in the remains of prehistoric pile dwellings. These were discovered around 1850 and are now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps .

Economical meaning

Given its size, the lake is used economically in many ways.

Lake shores are now very popular areas for housing developments with very high land prices.

Importance as a traffic route

Lake Geneva from below Caux seen from
Lake Geneva in the light. On the left: Saint-Gingolph

Lake Geneva crosses the major traffic axes between Italy and the North Sea and between southern France and Central Europe . Therefore, merchant shipping was actively used. Heavy goods such as wood, building blocks from the quarries in Meillerie , sand from the Rhone Delta , but also grain, wine, salt and cheese were particularly suitable for transport . The goods had to be reloaded in Villeneuve , Vevey , Morges and Geneva, but the sea ​​route was still considered quick and inexpensive. Because of the infiltration stretch of the Rhone, nothing could be shipped between Geneva and Seyssel , and the goods therefore had to be transported further on land.

The Canal d'Entreroches , which was built between 1638 and 1648 and connected the Zihl and the Venoge to Cossonay , is a project that has only been partially realized . The canal should have enabled a connection to Lake Neuchâtel and further over Lake Biel and the Aare to the Rhine . The last section, the canalization of the Venoge and the construction of the locks between Cossonay and the confluence of the Venoge into Lake Geneva, could not be realized due to the lack of funding. With the arrival of the railroad , water transport became less and less important.

Various boats have already been in use on Lake Geneva. Despite its simple construction, the Nauen was the predominant type of boat until the 18th century. It had a flat bottom, only a square sail and was difficult to maneuver due to the lack of a rudder . It was not until the 19th century that the large boat with the triangular Latin sail , which can be seen in many pictures, was used. At the same time the steamships were introduced. The various neighboring states deployed modest military fleets to defend and enforce their sovereign rights . From the year 1288 it is documented that the Counts of Savoy used four or five galleys from Genoese shipyards. In the 17th century, the Bernese used two ships that are still famous today, the Grand and Petit Ours. The city of Geneva had a galley with ten cannons.

The police , customs and the Swiss army have owned various speedboats since 1940 . The 34 sections of the Société internationale de sauvetage du Léman are responsible for rescuing the water on Lake Geneva . The rowing boats that the sections originally used to rescue shipwrecked people are now only used for sporting or representative purposes.

The Geneva on a postcard from 1928

At the beginning of the 19th century, the demand for tourism grew and therefore required additional passenger ships . For this purpose, on the initiative of the American Edward Church, the Guillaume Tell with a capacity for 200 people was introduced on June 18, 1823. She was the first steamship that was used on a Swiss lake. Due to the great success, more steamships were soon necessary and followed. The various shipping companies initially competed against each other, but then concluded various agreements with one another in 1840 and merged in 1873 to form the Compagnie générale de navigation sur le Lac Léman (CGN). Due to the flourishing business during the Belle Époque, the company owned a total of 19 units by 1914, including eleven saloon ships. The Second World War and various crises brought tourist shipping into great difficulties, although diesel-electric motors were introduced in the meantime , which massively reduced operating costs in 1934. Business was sluggish until the 1960s, before it has been on the upswing again since then. The fleet currently has eight paddle wheel ships, making it the largest European fleet of this type. There are also eight screw-propelled ships. Small ferries , which are called "Mouettes" (German seagulls ), quickly transport passengers in Geneva from one bank to the other.

Recreational sports

Today sailing itself is only practiced as a hobby and sport.

The route of the Bol d'Or

The Bol d'Or sailing regatta, which has been held since 1939, is known nationwide and runs from Geneva to Le Bouveret and back. Various swimming competitions are organized annually, such as the lake crossings from Lausanne to Evian (13 km), from Montreux to Clarens (1.8 km), in Geneva (1.8 km), each summer, and the Coupe de Noël , 125 m in Geneva in December. At 160 km, the Tour du Lac around the lake is one of the longest non-stop rowing regattas in the world.


For the first time, in the 14th century, regulations on fishing in the lake were drawn up to protect fish . Until 1880, fishing law was then regulated by nobles or the towns, who often left this to a professional. The nets and the catch were controlled from the 16th century to prevent overexploitation of the stock. After the revolution, an international agreement between Savoy and the Swiss cantons on fisheries management was signed for the first time in 1880 . At the insistence of professional fishermen from Vaud, this agreement was dissolved again. Thus, each country regulated the fishing for itself again. In 1980 a new agreement was agreed between Switzerland and France, which came into force in 1982 after the French parliament approved it. This stipulates that hobby fishermen can move freely and catch all over the lake, but professional fishermen have to stay at the national borders. Since 1986 the subject of fishing has been regulated by mutual agreement through five-year plans. A new set of regulations was drafted in 1998. This provides for a change to the agreement so that professional fishermen, regardless of their nationality, are allowed to fish in a common zone. The Coregonus species Féra and Gravenche, which are endemic to Lake Geneva, were among the most heavily caught fish species in the lake in the late 19th and early 20th centuries . Both species are now considered extinct, which is at least partially attributed to overfishing .


The casino brand in Montreux on December 4th 1971 inspired the group Deep Purple to produce their world hit Smoke on the Water . This tells the story of the fire when the casino burned down completely during a Frank Zappa concert . The title of the song refers to the smoke that spread over Lake Geneva and was watched by the musicians of Deep Purple from their hotel.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Lake Geneva  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Commons : Lake Geneva  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. % 3B95 Le Léman in Swisstopo / FOEN: Vektor25 water network
  2. a b c d e Seen (Federal Office for the Environment FOEN). Retrieved January 18, 2020 .
  3. a b Le Léman in the Swistopo pixel map, zoomable
  4. ^ Lac de Genève in the south of the Petit Lac . Swisstopo
  5. The largest lakes and highest mountains. (No longer available online.) Federal Statistical Office , archived from the original on March 22, 2016 ; Retrieved September 3, 2010 .
  6. a b Lake Geneva - between France and Switzerland. (No longer available online.) Switzerland Tourism , archived from the original on July 21, 2010 ; Retrieved September 3, 2010 .
  7. Geography - Lake Geneva and its catchment area in some data. ( Memento from July 23, 2012 in the web archive ) CIPELl.
  8. 270 - Geneva. In: National map of Switzerland 1:50 000 - Switzerland on 78 maps. Federal Office of Topography swisstopo, Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport, 2011, archived from the original on November 4, 2013 ; Retrieved November 12, 2013 .
  9. There has been a tsunami danger on Lake Geneva for centuries In: of October 30, 2012
  10. Giant Lake Geneva tsunami in AD 563, Katrina Kremer, Guy Simpson & Stéphanie Girardclos, in: nature geoscience ( doi: 10.1038 / ngeo1618 ), secondary literature: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , Spiegel Online , , Zeit Online , Sü , Focus Online , accessed October 31, 2012.
  11. Swiss Confederation: National Platform for Natural Hazards PLANAT
  12. Camilla Herrmann: Dirty as the Mediterranean Sea - Lake Geneva is full of plastic. In: . July 17, 2019, accessed July 30, 2019 .
  13. Current state of the lake. ( Memento from July 23, 2012 in the web archive ) ( CIPEL ).
  14. Antonio Fumagalli: Open ammunition in Lake Geneva: What to do with the explosive legacy? In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . March 2, 2020 ( [accessed March 8, 2020]).
  15. Swiss Federal Council: Answer to interpellation 19.4396, Dangerous ammunition in Lake Geneva. What is the federal government doing? February 12, 2020, accessed March 8, 2020 .
  16. ^ Chillon Castle - moated castle in Lake Geneva. (No longer available online.) Switzerland Tourism , archived from the original on July 26, 2010 ; Retrieved September 5, 2010 .
  17. Lake Geneva Museum. Switzerland Tourism , accessed on September 16, 2010 .
  18. Hirondelle (CH) ,, accessed on June 11, 2011.
  19. a b Diving sites in Western Switzerland , Marco Kohmann, accessed on June 11, 2011.
  20. a b c d e f g h Jean-François Bergier : Lake Geneva, 3 - Shipping. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . March 18, 2009 , accessed September 15, 2010 .
  26. a b c d History of fisheries management in Lake Geneva. ( Memento from March 14, 2013 in the web archive ) CIPEL
  27. ^ Jean-François Bergier : Lake Geneva, 2 - Fisheries. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . March 18, 2009 , accessed September 16, 2010 .