Chalain Lake, Franche-Comte, France

Lake Locations:

France - Eastern France - Franche-Comte -

Also known as:  Lac de Chalain

Tucked into a fold between mountains, Lake Chalain is one of the largest natural lakes in the Franche-Comte region of France. Amazingly undeveloped for this popular tourism area, the nearly-600-acre lake is clear, deep and a wildlife treasure. The lake is surrounded by limestone cliffs of varying heights from which excellent views of the lake can be had. Now under protection to safeguard its environment and prehistoric artifacts, the lake has several well-appointed camping and caravan parks that holiday-makers have enjoyed for many years. Caravan lodgings may be rented at the larger ones. The caravan grounds often have swimming pools and a variety of game fields. As only one resort hotel has been developed, major crowds are not an issue. No motors are allowed on the lake, so rowing, sailing, windsurfing and canoeing can be enjoyed in tranquility. Equipment can be rented locally, and sailing lessons are available. Several excellent sandy beaches along the four-mile shoreline draw swimmers and sun bathers. On some areas of the beaches, nude swimming is allowed.

Many visitors to Lake Chalain plan for fishing as one of their holiday activities. The lake is home to pike, perch, dace, whitefish and other species. Fly fishermen often travel the short distance to the fast-moving Ain River to outwit the wily trout. Fishing guides in the area can help visitors find the ‘hot-spots’ for their favorite prey. As with most lakes in the Jura Mountain area, a variety of walking and cycling paths have been developed to enjoy outdoor exercise and enjoyment of nature. Several exceptional natural sites in the area are almost mandatory for a visit to the Lake Chalain area: the tiny village of Fontenu near the southeast shoreline has a look-out point overlooking the lake with a spectacular view. The ruins of 13th century Castle de Chalain are nearby as is a lovely 17th century chapel. Not far beyond Fontenu, Les Cascades du Herisson are awe-inspiring waterfalls as the Herisson River tumbles down from the surrounding Jura highlands. On the road leading to the waterfalls, an animal park – La Ferme des Aurochs – showcases bison, aurochs and Scottish ox.

Near Marigny close to the north shore, 15th century Chapel of St Renobert is a picturesque place to explore. Much of the area is a part of the Foret De La Haute Joux and filled with trails, old ruins and the remnants of bygone civilizations. Horseback riding may be enjoyed at the equestrian club at Doucier. Activities can be found to fill the occasional rainy day for any holiday-maker. Le Musee du Jouet located at Moirans en Montagne is a toy museum that will return adults to memories of their childhood, while children learn about the development and marketing that goes into making a popular toy. And the city of Lons-le-Saunier can be found less than 20 miles from Lake Chalain. Lons-le-Saunier holds several excellent museums, including an art museum and the Archaeological Museum. The mineral baths have been in operation for centuries and are still popular with tourists and residents alike.

Several golf courses in the area provide sport to the habitual golfer. In winter, the many trails are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and several downhill ski areas are less than an hour away. Both winter and summer, the paths and trails offer the nature lover the chance to observe deer and chamois along with smaller mammals. Other visitors will wish to paddle the splendid valley of the Ain by canoe or kayak from the village of Pont du Navoy, four miles away. Those attracted to the more extreme sports can practice mountain climbing and canyoning in the Bienne Valley.

Lake Chalain is an integral part of the Ain River drainage basin. Most of the water in the lake comes from run-off from the surrounding mountains via several small streams and from ground water percolating through the porous limestone of the Jura highlands. Water courses appear then disappear into the earth, only to reappear later downhill. Lake Chalain had at one time an intermittent outlet – now usually dry – to the Ain River. In 1904, a tunnel was dug to direct water to a penstock for a hydro-generation plant near the Ain to power a factory. The tunnel still carries the overflow, although the generation station is apparently no longer used. The diversion of water lowered the level of Lake Chalain several feet and uncovered the remains of a large ancient village on the lakeshore. Over a hundred houses and granaries on stilts spread along the shore for over a mile at some time around 4000 BC. The marl lake bottom preserved the remains of the village and an oak canoe that was dug out of the mud at that time. The canoe and other Bronze-Age artifacts are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Lons-le-Saunier. The site of the discoveries is an on-going archaeological excavation, some of which is available for viewing by guided tour. The site is considered one of France’s premier archeological resources.

Vacation rentals are possible in the Lake Chalain area; gites may be found in the surrounding countryside, and private holiday houses are available in the small villages near the lake. The caravan parks offer a variety of lodging from self-catering mobile caravans to guest villas. Real estate is available in the area, often with lake views. One could easily spend a tranquil summer or two simply exploring what the Lake Chalain area has to offer. So come and explore the past and secure your future spot near Lake Chalain.

Things to do at Chalain Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Chalain Lake

  • Carp
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Chalain Lake Photo Gallery

Chalain Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 573 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,595 feet

Average Depth: 55 feet

Maximum Depth: 105 feet

Drainage Area: 17 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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