Frisian Lakes, Friesland, Netherlands

Lake Locations:

Netherlands - Friesland -

Also known as:  Sneekermeer, Tjeukemeer, Heegermeer, Fluessen, Groote Brekken, Slotermeer

Sailors the world over have heard of the Frisian Lakes. The most famous of these is the Sneekermeer. This group of about 30 lakes are man-made, the result of peat harvesting in the lowlands of Friesland (now officially named Fryslan) in the northwestern corner of the Netherlands. Much of the land has been below sea level or near sea level since the last glacier disappeared. Originally a land of wooded swamps and bogs, early Frisians built their homes and villages on man-made mounds which quickly became islands during flooding.

When peat harvesting became profitable in the Middle Ages, huge areas of boggy peat were dug for sale, with the remaining land below the level of the ground water. Eventually much of central Fryslan was filled with shallow lakes, some of considerable size. These shallow lakes average less than six feet in depth and are about ten feet below sea level. Surrounding land is kept dry by pumping out excess water, and the lakes themselves are a necessary feature making Fryslan habitable.

The largest and most important Frisian lakes are the Groote Brekken, the Sneekermeer, the Tjeukemeer, the Heegermeer, the Fluessen and Slotermeer. All are popular locations for holidays and water sports, particularly the popular sport of sailing. The surrounding countryside is mostly agricultural, and the area around and between the lakes dotted with small villages, mostly inhabited by people speaking the Frisian language. The largest city in the vicinity is the City of Sneek, connected to the Sneekermeer by canal. The Sneekermeer is so important as a water recreational area that at least 13 marinas are located near Sneek alone. The city is home to about 130 water-sports businesses. The Sneekermeer is home to several waterparks, which are NOT water amusements parks but instead colonies of waterfront vacation rentals, often with a deck above the water and a dock for the vacationer’s boat.

Some areas are set aside for sports such as windsurfing, kite-surfing, and water-skiing. Sailing is usually the sport of choice, and local marinas rent all types of sailboats from the smallest to much larger boats with cabins and sleeping facilities. Kayaks and dinghies are popular methods of water transportation, and several areas offer great swimming. These boats can be rented for the entire season. The marinas also rent small motorized boats, motor launches seating up to eight people, and offer captained cruise tours. Ferries transport cars and people from shore to shore in several areas. Many of the lakes are connected via navigable canal, some with locks or drawbridges. The Sneekermeer is often the site of regattas and sailboat races. The biggest event is Sneekweek, where sailors from all over Europe arrive to take part in one of the most popular races on the Continent. The entire week is a series of exciting events and pastimes geared toward water-loving visitors. In winter, ice skating and ice boating draw winter sports fans, often to engage in competitions.

Not all adventures in the Frisian Lakes area are based on water, however. The flat, pastured landscape is great for bicycles, which can be rented in many places. Many parks and nature trails in the area offer opportunities to observe nature in a landscape often ablaze in meadow flowers. The rushes and pond weeds in the ditches and around the lakes offer excellent habitat for waterfowl and wading birds. Over 11,000 acres are set aside near the Sneekermeer as a Natura 2000 site. The mixed wetland and grassland reserve provides migration feeding grounds for the pink-footed goose, little bean goose, white-fronted goose and barnacle goose. During migrations, huge numbers of such waterfowl, marsh and meadow birds as garganey, the black-tailed godwit and yellow wagtail, ruff, bittern, marsh harrier, bluethroat and sedge warbler all stop to feed in the marshes, grasslands and ditches. The City of Sneek operates a museum of ships and sea-faring and a museum of model trains to fill the occasional rainy afternoon.

The many villages around the Frisian Lakes are of interest to photographers and those with an interest in history. Many are hundreds of years old, and many of the villagers speak a Frisian dialect based on ‘Old’ Dutch from before the 16th century, resembling Low German. Fryslan was for most of its history a separate, independent country and didn’t come under the rule of first Germany and later Spain until 1498. Used to their independence, the Frisian peoples never surrendered to a feudal system of land ownership and still proudly raise their particular breeds of Frisian cattle and Friesian black horses known the world over. Many old churches and municipal features are photo-worthy and the landscape picturesque and serene.

Old customs are proudly practiced in many of the villages, with activities such as ditch-vaulting competitions, a form of pole-vaulting across ditches, a handy skill in a land filled with watery canals. Other competitions include pillow-fights on a horizontal ship’s mast across water until one participant falls in, and ceremonial parades in which couples in traditional finery riding elaborately-decorated two-wheel carts pulled by beautiful black Friesian horses attempt to snare a ring dangling above the course at a brisk trot. A less staid version of grabbing the ring is performed mostly by young men who attempt to grasp a ring attached to a board holding a large tub of water while riding along a narrow track. If they miss the ring but dislodge the board, they are doused with the water. These and other charming and hilarious events are a real treat to the lucky visitor who arrives in time to watch. Many holiday visitors schedule their Frisian Lakes vacation to catch a few of their favorite events. The villages are geared toward tourists and assure a variety of both attractive goods and quaint cafes to feed the most voracious shopping appetite.

Visiting the Frisian Lakes and Sneekermeer couldn’t be easier. Besides the large numbers of holiday villas located in the waterparks, many private guest houses and apartments can be rented through travel agents, local municipalities and private owners. Campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts, inns and hotels all provide lodgings to meet every need. No need to bring your own boat; you can rent exactly what you want. Start planning your Frisian Lakes holiday.

Things to do at Frisian Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Kite Surfing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Frisian Lakes Photo Gallery

Frisian Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): -10 feet

Average Depth: 6 feet

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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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