Lake Lucerne

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Lake Lucerne
View from Mount Pilatus over Lake Lucerne
Geographical location Central Switzerland
Tributaries Reuss , Sarner Aa , Engelberger Aa , Muota , Isitaler Bach
Drain Reuss
Places on the shore Lucerne , Küssnacht SZ , Horw , Brunnen SZ
Coordinates 673 175  /  208 048 coordinates: 47 ° 1 '  N , 8 ° 24'  O ; CH1903:  673,175  /  two hundred and eight thousand and forty-eight
Vierwaldstättersee (Switzerland)
Lake Lucerne
Altitude above sea level 433  m above sea level M.
surface 113.6 km²
volume 11.8 km³
scope 145.596 km
Maximum depth 214 m
BFS no. : 9179
Map of the Vierwaldstättersee.png

The Vierwaldstättersee ( French Lac des Quatre-Cantons; Italian Lago dei Quattro Cantoni, Lago di Lucerna; Rhaeto-Romanic Lai dals Quatter Chantuns; ) is a lake in central Switzerland surrounded by mountains of the Pre-Alps . It lies on the territory of the cantons of Uri , Schwyz , Unterwalden (i.e. Nidwalden and Obwalden ) and Lucerne . The largest places on the shore are Lucerne , Küssnacht , Horw and Brunnen . The lake is 114 km² in size and is at an altitude of 433  m above sea level. M. and is 214 m deep. Since it is a characteristic tongue basin lake with several branch basins, the shore length in relation to the lake area is relatively large at around 150 km.


The Vierwaldstättersee got its name from the four neighboring forest sites (today's cantons). The name Lucerne Lake was used until the 16th century .


The Vierwaldstättersee was formed in the ice ages, u. a. the last ice age , due to erosion of the Reuss glacier . The lake was formed as a glacier edge lake at the end of the Ice Age around 12,000 years ago. In the Lucerne Glacier Garden , a documentation shows the history of the Alps , the ice ages and the glaciers in the central Alps .



The main tributaries of Lake Lucerne are the Reuss with its confluence at Flüelen and Seedorf , the Engelberger Aa near Buochs , the Sarner Aa near Alpnachstad and the Muota near Brunnen . The river flows with a strong gradient from the Gotthard massif and carries large amounts of sediment with it, so that the Reuss delta over time to 10 km to the north to the Lake Uri has expanded into.

In Lake Uri in the area of ​​the Reuss delta between Flüelen and Seedorf , the lake bed was partially backfilled from 2001 to 2005 with the excavated material from the Flüelen bypass tunnel and the Gotthard base tunnel . Shallow water zones were created, which had disappeared due to the gravel mining, and some new islands: the Neptune Islands and the Lorelei archipelago . Some of the islands are bird sanctuaries . In the nature reserve, the Reuss Delta Tower allows fauna to be observed.

Smaller bodies of water that flow into Lake Lucerne are the Gruonbach , the Isitaler Bach , the Riemenstaldnerbach, the Cholbach von Emmetten , the Lielibach near Beckenried , the Teuffibach, the Melbach, the Kleine Schliere near Alpnachstad, ten streams on the eastern slope of the Pilatus (including Mülibach, Steinibach near Horw , Widenbach, Fridbach, Feldbach and Steinibach near Hergiswil ) and the Würzenbach in Lucerne.


View from Morschach to the north. On the lake the Uri
Buochser Bay
View from Weggis over the Weggiser basin towards Vitznau . In the foreground DS URI .
Bike / footpath on Lake Lucerne
The Vierwaldstättersee near Lucerne
Bürgenstock Kehrsiten
View of the lake from the Bürgenstock

The Vierwaldstättersee consists of several lake basins and bays:

  • The Urnersee stretches from the confluence of the Reuss near Seedorf 11 km in a northerly direction to Brunnen
  • The Gersauer See (also Gersau Basin or Gersauer Basin) leads 14 km from east to west from Brunnen to Ennetbürgen, where the Engelberger Aa flows into the lake. In the middle between Beckenried and Gersau, the lake reaches its deepest point with a depth of 214 m.
  • The Chrüztrichter (cross funnel) forms the actual center of the northern part of the lake in the west of the Weggis basin. Four main arms (funnels) branch off from it:
    • The Weggiser basin (eastern arm of the cross funnel) is located south of Weggis and runs from east to west. It leads between Hertenstein in the north and the Bürgenstock in the south to the center of the lake. It is also called the Vitznauer Basin .
    • The Stans funnel (southwest arm of the cross funnel). In the southwest of it lie
      • the Horwerbucht and
      • the Alpnachersee , which is separated from the rest of the lake between Acheregg and Stansstad by a narrow passage only 100 meters wide, over which a bridge leads, and lies at the southern foot of the Pilatus .
    • the Küssnachtersee (north-eastern arm from the Kreuztrichter) branches off between Hertenstein and Meggenhorn in a north-easterly direction to Küssnacht , located on the northern edge of the Rigi massif .
    • the relatively short Lucerne Lake (also known as Lucerne Bay) is at the same time the northwest arm of the cross funnel and the final part of the lake. It runs northwest to Lucerne .


In Lucerne, the Reuss leaves the lake, controlled by a regulating weir , and flows through the Mittelland to the Aare .


Due to the relatively warm water of the Reuss and the foehn, which constantly shifts the water, the Urnersee is warmer and lighter at the bottom than the water in the Gersau basin. Due to this temperature difference, huge masses of water flow from the Gersau Basin into the depths of Lake Uri every spring. Similar deep water currents also exist from the Alpnachersee into the Gersau basin.

Water quality and temperatures

The water stays in the lake basin for an average of three and a half years and is of drinking water quality. The Swiss Federal Institute for Limnology of Eawag monitors the water quality. In summer the lake reaches a temperature of 22 ° C. In 1929 and 1963 the Alpnachersee and the Lucerne Bay froze over. Glaciations of the entire Lake Lucerne are documented from the 17th and 19th centuries. In 1684 and 1685 the Gersau Basin could be crossed on the ice.

Climate and vegetation

The climate around Lake Lucerne, which is favored by the foehn and is protected by mountains, is relatively mild compared to other regions in German-speaking Switzerland; the vegetation is partly similar to that of the canton of Ticino . The mean daily high / low temperature in Lucerne is 2.6 ° C and −3.1 ° C (January) and 23.5 ° C and 13.3 ° C (July). In Altdorf south of the lake, the values ​​are 3.9 ° C and −2.7 ° C (January) and 23.0 ° C / 13.2 ° C in July (climate mean for the years 1961–1990). Hemp palms , figs , yuccas , cypresses , opuntias , sweet chestnuts and other southern plant species grow on the lake shores .

The sweet chestnuts were used economically as food until the 19th century. However, with the spread of the potato , the importance of the chestnut decreased. Even today, a chestnut market, the so-called Chestene-Chilbi, takes place regularly in Greppen . Chestnut products and regional specialties are offered at the market stalls.

Natural hazards

Flood in Lucerne in August 2005

After the earthquake of September 18, 1601 , tsunamis occurred in Lake Lucerne with tidal waves that were presumably up to 4 meters high. Another such event is said to have taken place in 1687. An inland tsunami event from the year 563 is also known from Lake Geneva and from 1806 from Lake Lauerz .

The consequences of general global warming in the Alps are also being discussed for Lake Lucerne and its surroundings. The 2005 flood with various mudslides and landslides could be understood as a warning symptom.

Since 1861, the water level of Lake Lucerne has been kept around two to three meters above the natural mean water level by the Reuss weir in Lucerne.



On the lake, the ships of the Shipping Company of the Lake Lucerne (SGV) operate to the numerous ship stations . Until the construction of the Axenstrasse between 1863 and 1865, the waterway was the only possible connection from the north to the canton of Uri , to the Gotthard Pass and thus also the only way from the cities in northwestern Europe to Milan and the Italian ports on the Mediterranean . This also applies to the pilgrimage routes to Rome in the Middle Ages. The large paddle steamers of the SGV City of Lucerne ( SGV's flagship ), Uri , Unterwalden , Gallia and Schiller still operate on this route today .

The Beckenried – Gersau car ferry operates between Beckenried and Gersau . Cargo ships operated by private transport companies also operate on the lake.


When the Schwalmis barge collided with the Schwalbe motorboat off Horw on October 12, 1944, twenty guests of a 33-person wedding party from the Entlebuch region died . The cause of the accident could not be fully clarified.

Road and rail

Since the construction of the Gotthardstrasse , the Gotthardbahn (opened in 1882), the Gotthardautobahn (1982) and the express railway lines from AlpTransit (NEAT) to the Gotthard Base Tunnel (2016), major international traffic routes have touched the area around Lake Lucerne. In Flüelen , before the railway was built, travelers from the mountain passes changed from mules or stagecoaches to ships. On the eastern bank, the Axenstrasse, with its many tunnels and galleries, leads from Flüelen via Sisikon to Brunnen . It is part of the A4 . Most of the railway line runs underground from Flüelen to Brunnen. On the way to Küssnacht , old, restored hotel buildings are a reminder of the early days of tourism in the 19th century.

Road bridges (Kantonsstrasse and A2 motorway ) and a railway bridge on the Lucerne-Stans-Engelberg-Bahn near the Lopper peninsula lead over an isthmus in the lake between Hergiswil and Stansstad .

The hiking trail named Weg der Schweiz , which was laid out in 1991 on old traffic routes, leads around the southernmost part of the lake, Lake Uri .

air traffic

Buochs airfield is located between Buochs and Ennetbürgen near Stans and was previously used almost exclusively by the Swiss Army and the Pilatus aircraft factory . Today the airfield is open to civil air traffic. The Alpnach military airfield is used by the Swiss Army as a helicopter base.

Hang gliders and paragliders use the thermals of the rock faces over the steep shores of the lake when the weather is good . The most popular flying areas for paragliders around Lake Lucerne are the Pilatus, the Rigi , the Emmetten area , the Stanserhorn and the entire Engelbergertal . When flying, the control zones at the Alpnach, Buochs ​​and Emmen airports must be observed.


The Neolithic lakeside settlements from the 5th to 4th millennium BC were among the earliest human traces on the lake. At Stansstad -Kehrsiten. Numerous place names indicate a Celtic, later Gallo-Roman settlement. In Alpnach a Roman villa found. Alemanni settled in the 7th century at the latest.

At the outflow of the Reuss, the city of Lucerne emerged in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the regional towns of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden around the lake. These gained sovereignty over the connecting waters up to the middle of the lake, apart from the area in the extension of the Bürgenberg up to Hertenstein . This came to Lucerne in 1378 together with its northern flank. Nevertheless, until 1967 - between Nidwalden and Lucerne - there were disputes over fishing rights and border disputes. Since it was extremely difficult to build roads around the lake, the water was also a main artery.

From the high Middle Ages until 1821, the church formed the dean's office in Lucerne and the Vierwaldstätter chapter in the diocese of Constance . Then the room was divided between the dioceses of Chur and Basel . Pilgrimage routes to Rome used to lead across the lake or along it . Even the west to Santiago de Compostela leading St. James leads from Einsiedeln to Brunnen. From here it continues west by boat to Lucerne or across Lake Alpnach to the south to the Brünig Pass .

In contrast to the open lake, where it was allowed to fish freely, the shoreline was part of the common march of the settlers. Only their fishermen were allowed to go out there. In addition, there were manorial rights such as the fish authorities of St. Leodegar in Lucerne. Such forms of organization emerged around 1465 as the Lucerne pipe journeyman or in 1607 the St. Niklausen Brotherhood of Stansstad. Here, too, fishing rights could lead to violent disputes, as in 1655 between Lucerne and Nidwalden. The statutes for the fish market in Lucerne can be found in the oldest council booklet (around 1318).

After the Helvetic , fishing became a sovereign right of the cantons in all places. In 1890 the cantons came together to form the Lake Lucerne Fisheries Concordat . At the end of the 20th century, 27 companies were still employing around 40 full-time workers.

The regional market with Lucerne as the center and the traffic over the Gotthard led to the establishment of a transport system. An imperial tariff was mentioned in Flüelen in 1313, and warehouses are attested in Lucerne at the beginning of the 14th century, as in other places.

In the 17th century there were five driving rights in Alpnach, 60 boatmen worked in Brunnen. In 1687 a shipping contract was concluded that lasted until the 19th century. Steam shipping began in 1837, and the Lake Lucerne Shipping Company was established in 1870 . It ousted the local shipping cooperatives. From 1859 a railway, mountain railway and road network was built in the catchment area of ​​the lake, which allowed tourism to grow rapidly and a corresponding infrastructure. From the end of the 19th century, sand and gravel extraction became an expanding branch of industry.

In 1859–1860, the construction of the Lucerne needle weir laid the foundation for regulating the water level. At the same time, gravel mining, the growth of the towns and uncontrolled building of houses, as well as water pollution and water sports polluted the lake. This is why the Hydrobiological Laboratory was established in 1916 (integrated into the ETH Zurich in 1960), which was active in the field of water protection and continues to advise the cantons to this day. In 1953 water protection was enshrined in the federal constitution, but it was not until the revised Water Protection Act of 1971 that the restoration of the lake was finally made possible by 1987. As early as 1980, Lucerne, Bürgenstock as well as Küssnacht , Horw and Weggis supplied themselves with drinking water from the lake. In 1973 the riverside cantons put a landscape protection plan into effect, the implementation of which is promoted by the Lake Lucerne Landscape Protection Association, founded in 1984 .

The cultural and historical peculiarities of the lake area are communalism , the independent reception of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque or the influence of the Counter Reformation , but also the small-scale nature of local customs and dialects.


Near Lucerne


On the way south, the English discovered the mountains of Central Switzerland. Several spa and bathing resorts such as Weggis or Gersau emerged . In 1871, the very first rack railway in Europe, the Vitznau-Rigi Railway, was opened . In 1889, the still steepest cogwheel railway in the world was built from Alpnachstad to the Pilatus . Mark Twain described an ascent to the Rigi , which led to the flourishing of Swiss tourism in the USA in the 19th century. One of the largest steamboat fleets in Europe operates on Lake Lucerne with five steamers .

In the area around the lake and on terraces at medium altitude (such as Morschach and Seelisberg ) there are numerous tourist resorts. The Rigi , the Pilatus , the Bürgenstock , the Stanserhorn , the Buochserhorn , the two Mythen , the Uri Rotstock and the Fronalpstock are attractive panoramic mountains close to Lake Lucerne . Most of them can be reached by mountain railways , some of which have their valley stations near the boat stations on the lake.

There are numerous places on the lake that are of importance in Swiss cultural and tourism history: Rütli , Tellsplatte , Tell Chapel , Schnitzturm von Stansstad, Neu-Habsburg , Schillerstein , Treib , Astrid Chapel (Küssnacht) and Meggenhorn Castle .

water sports

Various sports are possible in the individual lake areas due to the water and wind conditions. The lake is accessible from boat harbors, marinas, lakeside baths and lido (e.g. the Lido lido in Lucerne, built by Arnold Berger in 1929 ) and from other sections of the bank. In 1881 the See-Club Luzern was founded, which is now the largest rowing club in Switzerland, and in 1904 the Reuss Luzern rowing club . The Lucerne Yacht Club has existed since 1941 and has operated a boathouse and buoy field on Churchill-Quai in Lucerne since 1966 . The Brunnen water sports club, founded in 1958, held international motorboat races and water skiing championships on Lake Lucerne in the first few years of its existence. In 1965, the club chose the new name Water Sports Club Vierwaldstättersee. The Central Switzerland Motorboat Club was founded in 1980, and the Hergiswil water sports club in 1986. SwitzerlandMobility has described a canoe tour across Lake Lucerne between Brunnen and Gersau. The southern part of Lake Uri between the campsite at Gruonbachstrand in Flüelen and Isleten is a center of windsurfing because of the wind in the Reuss valley.


There are around ten places where you can dive in Lake Lucerne without a boat . The water is rather cool all year round and therefore mostly very clear. In Lake Uri at Sisikon , at the northern portal of the Schiefernegg tunnel, you can dive a jagged wall. The Lediwrack Bruno lies in front of the fountain at a depth of 15 meters. Other well-known diving sites are in front of Vitznau , Weggis , Gersau and Hergiswil .


Nauen Fritz, transport ship on Lake Lucerne
Dredger, Nauen and motor boat near Flüelen

In several communities on Lake Lucerne there have been quarries on the easily accessible mountain flanks in the bank area for centuries, some of which are still in use today. The rock reaches consumers or train stations inexpensively by sea. The conspicuous interventions in the natural landscape met with criticism from the landscape protection organizations early on. In 1930 a report pointed to the increase in large-scale plants: “Two quarries [are] in Lake Uri between Seedorf and Isleten, four between Beckenried and Treib, one in Matt under the Bürgenstock, one between Kehrsiten and Stansstad, five in Alpnachersee, one on Lopperberg between Stansstad and Hergiswil, one near Greppen, one between Vitznau and Gersau, two between Gersau and Brunnen ». At Kehrsiten am Bürgenstock, Holcim quarries hard silica limestone in a gravel works, which is also extracted in the Schwibogen and Rotzloch quarries, while four other Nidwalden quarries in the bank area are open. The Lake Lucerne Landscape Protection Association accompanies the development of individual quarry projects.

Since 1891 the company Arnold & Co. Sand- und Kieswerk AG near Flüelen has been mining gravel from the alluvial fan in front of the Reuss delta with floating dredgers , for which it pays concession fees to the canton of Uri. Today only the fourth and fifth dredgers from the 1950s and 1960s are still in use in a modified condition. The Arnold + Co. AG fleet comprises around fifteen Nauen . Between 2001 and 2005, the company in Uri with debris from the put NEAT -Stollen Amsteg and the bypass Flüelen on six islands.

Gravel is also mined in front of the river mouths at Beckenried and other places.

Submarine cables

Laying of submarine cables between Spissenegg and Stansstad in 1957

In mid-April 1957 a telephone cable was laid from Spissenegg to Stansstad im See. There were two reasons for the partial cabling of Lake Lucerne: The district cable system at that time was seriously endangered by the construction of the new Horw-Stans motorway section. The protection of the cables would have led to expensive security measures. Since the submarine cable connection was cheaper in this case and the need for additional lines was great, the telephone directorate in Bern approved the project.

100 years earlier, in 1854, the first sea telephone cable specially manufactured in the telegraph workshop in Bern was laid on this route. It served to connect the subsequent above-ground telegraph lines Lucerne-Brünig-Interlaken.

Ammunition loading

Between 1918 and 1967, Swiss ammunition factories disposed of their production waste in Lake Lucerne, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun . The total amount that was sunk up to a depth of 200 meters in Lake Lucerne is estimated at 3,300 tons, 2,800 tons in the Urnersee and 500 tons in the Gersau basin.

Name relationships

  • The Jacobi pond in the city ​​forest of Frankfurt am Main is popularly known for its shape because of Lake Lucerne.
  • An artificial lake in the Berlin Zoo is also called the Vierwaldstättersee for the same reason.

See also


Web links

Commons : Vierwaldstättersee  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Seen (Federal Office for the Environment FOEN). Retrieved January 19, 2020 .
  2. Map of the Reuss Delta (PDF) , accessed on August 11, 2016
  3. Alfred Helfenstein: The Namengut Pilate territory. Keller, Luzern 1982, ISBN 3-85766-004-X , p. 53.
  4. Supervisory Commission Lake Lucerne (AKV)
  5. Archived copy ( Memento of November 4, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ And dance ban 1601. ( Memento from January 16, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) State Archives Lucerne
  7. Tsunami in Lake Geneva - an underestimated Swiss natural hazard. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. October 28, 2012, accessed October 31, 2012 .
  9. ^ In: Neue Luzerner Zeitung , August 19, 2006
  10. Canton of Lucerne - Transport and Infrastructure: Reuss weir in Lucerne , accessed on August 3, 2018
  11. ^ Website of the car ferry Lake Lucerne
  12. Bride drowned in Lake Lucerne: Book takes up what happened 75 years ago in a tragic shipwreck. In: Lucerne newspaper. September 27, 2019, accessed October 13, 2019 .
  13. "My grandpa was still trying to save his bride" In: Blick online from October 12, 2019
  15. This and the following according to Art. Lake Lucerne. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  16. Water sports in Lucerne. ( Memento from August 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  17. ^ Website Lido Lucerne Beach
  18. Lucerne Yacht Club .
  19. Vierwaldstättersee water sports club .
  20. ↑ Canoe tour on Lake Lucerne .
  21. Windsurfing Urnersee ( Memento from August 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ).
  22. ↑ Diving sites Vierwaldstaettersee. ( Memento of August 15, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) In: Local Diving , accessed June 11, 2011
  23. Brunnen, Eichwald (wreck "Bruno"). In: , accessed on June 23, 2018
  24. Dive site directory - Veriwaldstättersee. In: , accessed on June 23, 2018
  25. The quarries on Lake Lucerne. In: Heimatschutz. Journal of the Swiss Association for Homeland Security. 1930, pp. 17-26.
  26. ^ Website of the Kehrsiten gravel works.
  27. Lakeshore Concept Canton Nidwalden 2001 ( Memento from September 18, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  28. ^ Website of the company Arnold & Co.
  29. Reuss Delta Islands
  30. Submarine cable laying Spissenegg - Stansstad (Vierwaldstättersee), 1955–1979 in the database of the PTT archive
  31. AKV Info Magazine No. 3 (PDF)