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Lake Constance
satellite image
Location Germany, Switzerland, Austria
Coordinates 47°39′N 9°19′E / 47.65°N 9.317°E / 47.65; 9.317Coordinates: 47°39′N 9°19′E / 47.65°N 9.317°E / 47.65; 9.317
Primary inflows Rhine
Primary outflows Rhine
Catchment area 11500 km²
Basin countries Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein
Max. length 63 km
Max. width 14 km
Surface area 536 km²
Average depth 90 m
Max. depth 254 m
Water volume 55 km³
Residence time 4.3 years
Surface elevation 395 m
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 and St. Gallen. The Rhine flows into it from the south following the Austro-Swiss frontier. It is approximately located at 47°39′N 9°19′E / 47.65°N 9.317°E / 47.65; 9.317.

Lake Constance was first mentioned by the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela about AD 43. 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[1] (das schwäbische Meer).

The freshwater lake sits at 395 m above sea level and is Central Europe's third largest, after Lake Balaton and Lake Geneva. It is 63 km long, and at its widest point, nearly 14 km. It covers approximately 571 km² (208 mi²) of total area.[2] The greatest depth is 252 m in the middle of the eastern part (Obersee). Its volume is approximately 55 km³. The lake has four parts: Obersee (main, 476 km²), Überlinger See (north, 61 km²), Untersee (west, 63 km²), and the Zeller See and Gnadensee (northwest). 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.

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

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 1000 tons of fish were caught by 150 professional fishermen in 2001 which was below the previous ten year average of 1200 tons per year. The Lake Constance trout (Salmo trutta) was almost extinct in the 1980s due to pollution, but thanks to protective measures has made a significant return.

The lake itself is an important drinking water source for southwestern Germany, called Bodenseewasserversorgung.[3]

Car ferries link Romanshorn, Switzerland to Friedrichshafen, and Konstanz to Meersburg.


International borders

There is no legally binding agreement as to where the boundaries lie between Switzerland, Germany and Austria where these three countries meet in Lake Constance. While Switzerland holds the view that the border runs through the middle of the lake, Austria is of the opinion that the lake stands in condominium of all the states on its banks. Germany holds no unambiguous opinion. Legal questions pertaining to ship transport and fishing are regulated in separate treaties.

Naturally, disputes arise. One concerns a houseboat which was moored in two states, another concerns the rights to fish in the Bay of Bregenz. In relation to the latter, an Austrian family was of the opinion that it alone had the right to fish in broad portions of the bay. However, this was accepted neither by the Austrian courts nor by the organs and courts of the other states.[4]

Recent floods

  • 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 rains raised the level by more than 70 cm in a few days. The rains caused widespread flooding and washed out highways and railroads.

Islands in the lake

The three major islands are:

This is a complete list of the islands in Lake Constance, listed from east to west:

Nr. Island Area (m²) Population Municipality Coordinates
1 Galgeninsel peninsula since 19th century - Lindau (Reutin district)

47°33′00″N 09°42′14″E / 47.55°N 9.70389°E / 47.55; 9.70389 (Galgeninsel)

2 Hoy 53 - Lindau (Reutin district)

47°32′57.35″N 09°41′48″E / 47.5492639°N 9.69667°E / 47.5492639; 9.69667 (Hoy)

3 Lindau 680,000 3,000 Lindau (Island district)

47°32′47″N 09°41′00″E / 47.54639°N 9.6833333°E / 47.54639; 9.6833333 (Lindau)

4 Wasserburg peninsula since 1720 27 Wasserburg (Island district)

47°34′02″N 09°37′46″E / 47.56722°N 9.62944°E / 47.56722; 9.62944 (Wasserburg)

5 Mainau 447,584 185 Konstanz (Litzelstetten district)

47°42′18″N 09°11′46″E / 47.705°N 9.19611°E / 47.705; 9.19611 (Mainau)

6 Dominikanerinsel 18,318 21 Konstanz (Altstadt district)

47°39′51″N 09°10′42″E / 47.66417°N 9.17833°E / 47.66417; 9.17833 (Dominikanerinsel)

7 Mittlerer Langbohl 31,254 - Konstanz (Industriegebiet district)

47°40′18″N 09°07′32″E / 47.67167°N 9.12556°E / 47.67167; 9.12556 (Mittlerer Langbohl)

8 Triboldingerbohl 135,570 - Konstanz (Industriegebiet district)

47°40′20″N 09°07′22″E / 47.67222°N 9.12278°E / 47.67222; 9.12278 (Triboldingerbohl)

9 Reichenau 4,300,000 3.200 Reichenau (Unterzell|Mittelzell|Oberzell) 47°41′40″N 09°03′48″E / 47.69444°N 9.06333°E / 47.69444; 9.06333 (Reichenau)
10 Liebesinsel 300 - Radolfzell (Mettnau district)

47°43′18″N 09°00′19″E / 47.72167°N 9.00528°E / 47.72167; 9.00528 (Liebesinsel)

11 Werd 15,854 9 Eschenz (Untereschenz district)

47°39′19″N 08°52′00″E / 47.65528°N 8.8666667°E / 47.65528; 8.8666667 (Werd)

12 Mittleres Werdli 4,000 - Stein am Rhein

47°39′24″N 08°51′57″E / 47.65667°N 8.86583°E / 47.65667; 8.86583 (Mittleres Werdli)

13 Unteres Werdli 6,000 - Stein am Rhein

47°39′25″N 08°51′50″E / 47.65694°N 8.86389°E / 47.65694; 8.86389 (Unteres Werdli)

  Lake Constance Islands 5,637,079 6,400 6 municipalities  

Towns and cities at the lake

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



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


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

See also


  1. ^ Gordon McLachlan. The Rough Guide to Germany. Rough Guides Ltd. London, 2004. ISBN 184353293X.
  2. ^ Image #432, Flying Camera Satellite Images 1999, Lloyd Reeds Map Collection, McMaster University Library.
  3. ^ "Bodensee-Wasserversorgung", German language Wikipedia.
  4. ^ David Mark and Barry Smith, et al., Bizarre Shapes: 100 Geographic Monsters.


  • 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).

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Lake Constance (Bodensee) is the third biggest lake in Central Europe and it is on the path of the Rhine River. The lake shore is shared between the German states Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the Austrian state Vorarlberg and Northeastern Switzerland.


All three nations have developed a specific culture around their part of the shore. There are eleven islands of which Mainau is the biggest.

Get around

By boat

Crossing the Bodensee - Driving your car onto a big boat to cross a wide body of water is very civilized excitement. It's a delightful quarter-hour ride with cars, trucks, motorcycles, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians. The upper-deck lounge sells coffee, sandwiches, snacks, and cold drinks. What more could you want? The fare depends on the size of your vehicle. A compact car like a Ford Focus or an Opel Astra costs nine euros, about $11 (in September 2005). Crossings are frequent and you shouldn't have to wait long as there is often a ferry loading when you drive onto the slip. Even at night times, ferries cross the lake hourly. If you travel by foot, be aware that buses might not be available all night, while ferries still are. There are usually taxi cabs waiting around the ferry docks though.

By train

All cities and many towns on the Bodensee are serviced by the three national railroads of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The best service (amount of time spent between stops) is by by far better in Germany and Austria than on the Swiss side. Lindau, Friedrichshafen, Konstanz and Bregenz all offer major connections further on into Germany, Austria and Switzerland.


The Bodensee and its shores are very beautiful in a quiet, cultivated way. The views are serene, not spectacular. If you want dramatic scenery, drive a couple of kilometers south into Switzerland or south-west to Upper Bavaria (Allgaeu) and Austria, (Vorarlberg) and visit the Alps. The area sits in a kind of bowl and tends to be very foggy in the winter months. Konstanz, the city on the German side of the German-Swiss border, is a beautiful city, noteworthy for its cathedral and ancient houses and shops. Its vibrant centre (in which live music almost always plays during the day) and harbour, dominated by the statue of Imperia (who holds the Kaiser in one hand and the Pope in the other) make Konstanz a fantastic city to visit. Konstanz has a palpable Mediterranean feel to it.


If you want to spend a pleasant afternoon swimming and sunbathing, however, go to a beach. Buy an ice-cream cone. Watch people change into their bathing suits right out in the open (this is Europe, not New Jersey). Doze on the grass. See how many sailboats you can count in one minute.

  • Lake Constance cycle route - opens up this entire region to the cyclist mainly along its own routes along the lakeshore.
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Simple English

The lake from space

Lake Constace or Lake of Constance (German: Bodensee) is a large Lake on the river Rhine. It is located on the border between Germany and Switzerland and Austria. It is the third largest lake in Central Europe after Lake Balaton and Lake Geneva. It is made of two smaller lakes (called Obersee and Untersee (Upper and lower lake) respectively). These are joined by a small part of river in Constance. The lake covers about 564 km2 (218 sq mi) of total area.

There are three big islands in the lake. The islands Lindau and Mainau are located in the Obesee. Reichenau is in the Untersee. The Obersee is about 63 km (39 mi) long, from Bregenz to Ludwigshafen. It is about 14 km (9 mi) wide at its widest point between Romanshorn and Friedrichshafen. The deepest point is 254 m (833 ft) deep, between Fischbach and Uttwil (just off Constance).

The lake forms the border between Austria, Germany and Switzerland. On much of its length, this border has not been defined. Switzerland thinks the border runs through the middle of the lake. Austria thinks the lake is a condominium of all the countries. A condominium is a space that is governed by all countries taking part in it. Germany has no clear view.

Other legal issues, like navigation and fishing are governed by separate treaties. About 62% of the lake's shoreline belongs to Germany, about 33% to Switzerland, and the remaining 11% to Austria.

In 1963, the whole lake froze. This has not happened since then.


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