Chalain Lake, Franche-Comte, France

Also known as:  Lac de Chalain

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Chalain Lake.

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Chalain Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: France - Eastern France - Franche-Comte -

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.

Custom Chalain Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

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

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Chalain Lake

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Chalain Lake photo gallery

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Chalain Lake statistics & helpful links


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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