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Lake Constance

Lake Constance
satellite image
Location Germany, Switzerland, Austria
Primary inflows Rhine
Primary outflows Rhine
Catchment area 11,500 km2 (4,400 sq mi)
Basin countries Germany, Switzerland, Austria
Max. length 63 km (39 mi)
Max. width 14 km (8.7 mi)
Surface area 571 km2 (220 sq mi)
Average depth 90 m (300 ft)
Max. depth 251 m (823 ft)
Water volume 48 km3 (12 cu mi)
Residence time 4.3 years
Surface elevation 395 m (1,296 ft)
Frozen 1795, 1830, 1880 (partial), 1963
Islands Mainau, Reichenau, Lindau
Sections/sub-basins Obersee, Überlinger See; Untersee, Zeller See, Gnadensee
Settlements see list

Lake Constance (German: Bodensee) is a lake on the Rhine at the northern foot of the Alps, and consists of three bodies of water: the Obersee ("upper lake"), the Untersee ("lower lake"), and a connecting stretch of the Rhine, called the Seerhein.

The lake is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps. Specifically, its shorelines lie in the German federal states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, the Austrian federal state of Vorarlberg, and the Swiss cantons of Thurgau, St. Gallen and Schaffhausen. The Rhine flows into it from the south following the Austro-Swiss frontier.


  • Description 1
  • History 2
  • Name 3
  • International borders 4
  • Recent floods 5
  • Islands in the lake 6
  • Towns and cities at the lake 7
    • Austria 7.1
    • Germany 7.2
    • Switzerland 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Literature 10
  • External links 11


Freshwater Lake Constance is Central Europe's third largest, after Lake Balaton and Lake Geneva. It is 63 km (39 mi) long, and at its widest point, nearly 14 km (8.7 mi). It covers approximately 571 km2 (220 sq mi),[1] and is 395 m (1,296 ft) above sea level. The greatest depth is 252 metres (827 ft) in the middle of the eastern part (Obersee). Its volume is approximately 10×10^9 m3 (13×10^9 cu yd). The lake has four parts: the main section, called Obersee, 476 km2 (184 sq mi); the north section, Überlinger See, 61 km2 (24 sq mi); the west section, Untersee, 63 km2 (24 sq mi); and the northwest section, the Zeller See and Gnadensee. The regulated Rhine flows into the lake in the southeast, through the Obersee, the city of Konstanz and the Untersee, and flows out near Stein am Rhein. Lake Constance provides fresh water to many cities in south Germany. The culminating point of the lake's drainage basin is the Tödi at 3,614 metres above sea level.[2]

The lake itself is an important drinking water source for southwestern Germany, called Bodensee-Wasserversorgung ("Lake Constance Water Supply").[3] Car ferries link Romanshorn to Friedrichshafen, and Konstanz to Meersburg.


Lake Constance was formed by the Rhine Glacier during the ice age and is a zungenbecken lake. The Rhine, the Bregenzer Ache, and the Dornbirner Ache carry sediments from the Alps to the lake, thus gradually decreasing the depth and coastline extension of the lake in the southeast.

Lake Constance was first mentioned by the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela about 43 AD. He noted that the Rhine flows through two lakes, and gave them the Latin names Lacus Venetus (Obersee) and Lacus Acronius (Untersee). Pliny the Elder used the name Lacus Brigantinus, after the Roman city of Brigantium (today Bregenz). The lake is also colloquially known as the Swabian Sea[4] (das schwäbische Meer, also sometimes Suabian or Svebian Sea).

The lake was frozen in the years 1077 (?), 1326 (partial), 1378 (partial), 1435, 1465 (partial), 1477 (partial), 1491 (partial?), 1517 (partial), 1571 (partial), 1573, 1600 (partial), 1684, 1695, 1709 (partial), 1795, 1830, 1880 (partial), and 1963.

Approximately 1,000 tonnes (1,100 short tons) of fish were caught by 150 professional fishermen in 2001 which was below the previous ten year average of 1,200 tonnes (1,300 short tons) per year. The Lake Constance trout (Salmo trutta) was almost extinct in the 1980s due to pollution, but thanks to protective measures they have made a significant return. Lake Constance was the home of the now extinct species of trout Salvelinus profundus,[5] as well as of the Lake Constance whitefish (Coregonus gutturosus).[6]


Lake Constance, seen from a vineyard

After the Council of Constance, the Latin-speaking Catholic world gave the lake its current international name. It was derived from the city name Constantia (Latin name of Konstanz), that, in turn, was named after a Roman emperor (either Constantius Chlorus or his grandson Constantius II). The German name, Bodensee, derives on the other hand from the town name Bodman (today's Bodman-Ludwigshafen) that is situated at a nearby branch of the lake just some 8 km northwest of Konstanz.

International borders

Lake Constance is the only area in Europe where no borders exist, because there is no legally binding agreement as to where the borders lie between Switzerland, Germany and Austria.[7] However, Switzerland holds the view that the border runs through the middle of the lake, Austria is of the opinion that the contentious area belongs to all the states on its banks, and Germany holds an ambiguous opinion. Legal questions pertaining to ship transport and fishing are regulated in separate treaties.

Naturally, disputes arise. One concerns a

  • Nixdorf, B.; et al. (2004), "Bodensee" (PDF), Dokumentation von Zustand und Entwicklung der wichtigsten Seen Deutschlands (in German), Berlin: Umweltbundesamt, p. 4 
  • Bodensee-Hochwasser (German) waterlevels
  • Internationale Bodenseekonferenz
  • Regio Bodensee Statistics
  • Lake Constance: pictures
  • Photos of Lake Constance
  • Bibliography on Water Resources and International Law Peace Palace Library
  • (Ludwig-Uhland-Department of European Ethnology / Empirical Cultural Science) of the University of TübingenLudwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische KulturwissenschaftGrenzRaumSee: A project from the
  • Lake Constance/Bodensee Lessons learned managing the lake
  • Lake Constance Accommodation
  • Tourist Information Lake Constance
  • Karl Heinz Burmeister: Lake Constance in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.

External links

  • Rolf Zimmermann: A look at Lake Constance. Stadler Verlagsgesellschaft mbH. Konstanz 2004. ISBN 3-7977-0507-7. (Pictures and texts of the cities around Lake Constance).


  1. ^ Image #432, Flying Camera Satellite Images 1999, Lloyd Reeds Map Collection, McMaster University Library.
  2. ^ 1:25,000 topographic map (Map).  
  3. ^ "Bodensee-Wasserversorgung", German language WorldHeritage.
  4. ^ Gordon McLachlan. The Rough Guide to Germany. Rough Guides Ltd. London, 2004. ISBN 1-84353-293-X.
  5. ^ IUCN Red list
  6. ^ Red List - Volume 1: Vertebrates (2009) - General assessment for the vertebrate groups
  7. ^ Daniel-Erasmus Kahn (2004). Die deutschen Staatsgrenzen: rechtshistorische Grundlagen und offene Rechtsfragen ("The German national borders: legal-historical foundations and open legal questions"). Oxford University Press.  
  8. ^ David Mark and Barry Smith, et al., Bizarre Shapes: 100 Geographic Monsters.


See also

From the entry of the Rhine, on the southern or left shore:


From the entry of the Rhine, on the northern or right shore:



The Lower Lake (Untersee).
Twilight near Arbon.
Lake Constance from Lindau
Reichenau seen from the German shore.
View from Mount Pfänder of Bregenz and the lake (with Lindau in the background).
Bodensee Steamboat Hohentwiel.
Lake Constance seen from Spot satellite.

Towns and cities at the lake

Island Area (m²) Population Municipality Country Coordinates
1 Galgeninsel peninsula since 19th century - Lindau (Reutin district) Germany
2 Hoy 53 - Lindau (Reutin district) Germany
3 Lindau 680,000 3,000 Lindau (Island district) Germany
4 Wasserburg peninsula since 1720 27 Wasserburg (Island district) Germany
5 Mainau 447,584 185 Konstanz (Litzelstetten district) Germany
6 Dominikanerinsel 18,318 21 Konstanz (Altstadt district) Germany
7 Mittlerer Langbohl 31,254 - Konstanz (Industriegebiet district) Germany
8 Triboldingerbohl 135,570 - Konstanz (Industriegebiet district) Germany
9 Reichenau 4,300,000 3.200 Mittelzell|Oberzell) Germany
10 Liebesinsel 300 - Radolfzell (Mettnau district) Germany
11 Werd 15,854 9 Eschenz (Untereschenz district) Switzerland
12 Mittleres Werdli 4,000 - Stein am Rhein Switzerland
13 Unteres Werdli 6,000 - Stein am Rhein Switzerland
  Lake Constance Islands 5,637,079 6,400 6 municipalities    

These are all of the islands and former islands in Lake Constance, listed from east to west:

The three major islands are:

Islands in the lake

Flooding on the shore of Lake Constance, May 2013
  • A 100-year flood around June 1999 (Pfingsthochwasser 1999) raised the level about 2 metres above normal, flooding harbors and many shoreline buildings and hotels.
  • In late August 2005, heavy rain raised the level by more than 70 cm in a few days. The rains caused widespread flooding and washed out highways and railroads.

Recent floods


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