Lake Bourget, Rhone-Alps, France

Lake Locations:

France - Southern France - Rhone-Alps -

Also known as:  Lac du Bourget

The jewel of the Rhone-Alps Region, Lake Bourget is France’s largest natural lake by volume and spans almost 11,000 acres. The attributes of Lake Bourget have been recognized since before recorded time; archaeological explorations have shown evidence of Bronze-Age settlement on the lake’s shores. So popular was the lake and its attendant thermal springs that a canal was dug to connect the lake with the Rhone River during the time of the Caesars; legend records nearly every important historical figure in European history traveled the 10-mile waterway to Lake Bourget. A favorite of Queen Victoria, the lake draws large numbers of visitors still today. Holiday-makers still come to visit the resorts and thermal spas but also to sail, swim, dive, water ski, wakeboard and engage in rowing, canoeing and kayaking. Lake Bourget is no longer reserved as the playground for only the elite; vacationers can reserve a gite close to the shore and gaze upon the same mountain scenery enjoyed by Napoleon.

Formed about 19,000 years ago by the melting of the last glacier, Lake Bourget is perfectly located for visitors from Chambery, only seven miles to the south. An excellent spot to enjoy a weekend or an entire summer, Lake Bourget supports a large population of boating enthusiasts. The harbor at Aix-les-Bains holds 1500 berths and is a sailor’s playground, with all water accommodations plus luxury lodgings and interesting sights in the town itself. Centuries after royalty took advantage of the healing hot baths to soothe their arthritis, modern visitors can still take the hot-bath treatments at local spas. Pensioners flock to the lake for state-funded treatment in the thermal baths. Holiday-makers can enjoy the casinos, take a sightseeing cruise on the lake, or simply stroll the boardwalk along the lakefront. The older parts of the town still offer the cobbled lanes and stepped alleys of centuries past, and grand buildings of the Belle Epoque give a hint of how the elite once vacationed. A sandy beach invites swimmers and sun bathers, while the more adventurous may choose to visit the Roman ruins with their attendant ancient baths. One can tour the hot spring cave where patients were once lowered down into the steaming pool. Nearby, a visit to the Aquarium-Lac du Bourget acquaints visitors with the many species of fish in the lake and natural features of the region.

Lake Bourget is a favorite among anglers with a large variety of fish found in the deep clear waters. More than 30 species of fish are found in the lake, with arctic char, whitefish, zander, perch and pike most often caught. There are some trout in the lake, but it is not considered a major trout fishery. A number of commercial fishermen still net fish for sale from the lake on a regular basis. Guides are available to help those unfamiliar with the waters reel in the biggest fish. Boats are available for rental in several places around the lake, as are canoes and kayaks. The holiday homes and resorts around Lake Bourget are also popular as winter destinations from which to travel by day to ski areas in the nearby mountains.

A number of bicycling trails in the area provide the best way to enjoy the wildlife that call Lake Bourget home. A full 70% of the land in the immediate area is protected to provide nesting areas for the many waterfowl, habitat for animals, and safe preservation of native plants. More than 120 kinds of birds call the Lake Bourget area home. A circular drive around the lake provides many spectacular views of the Alps and Jura Mountains with the lake in the foreground. Both cyclists and boaters can easily access the other towns along the lakefront; Le Bourget-du-Lac, Conjux and Portout. Several camp and caravan areas around the lake are popular with nature lovers who sometimes spend a week or more cycling the many trails around the lake and in the Bois De Glaize protected woods. Several vineyards near the lakefront offer the opportunity for travelers to sample local Savoie wines. One point of interest on the western shore is the Abbey of Hautecombe. First built in the 12th century, the abbey has been rebuilt many times, and for several centuries was the burial place of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy.

No visit to Lake Bourget is complete without a cruise down the three-mile Canal de Savieres to where it meets the North and South Rhone at Chanaz. Once an important transportation route to the Rhone for shipping, the canal now serves pleasure boaters. Improved several times over the years, the last construction effort standardized the width and depth for better passage. A self-operated lock was added west of Chanaz to adjust differing water levels, making water transportation available to and from the Rhone year round. The picturesque canal is a favorite day cruise from Lake Bourget – the scenery varies from small villages and the harbor at Chanaz to sections flowing slowly thru woods and pasture.

Holidays at Lake Bourget need not mean leaving civilization behind. The larger towns along the shore offer a variety of restaurants and nightlife to keep visitors occupied. Those with a yen for brighter city lights can easily travel to Chambery and enjoy the many museums and Italianate architecture of the former House of Savoy. Convenient train service makes traveling between Chambery and Lake Bourget a simple matter.

Gites and vacation rentals may be found in all price ranges at Lake Bourget, from the extravagant to the budget-minded. The long history of tourism has ensured that a variety of villas, holiday apartments, inns and cottages are available with prior reservation. Hotels in Aix-les-Bains range from luxurious spa resorts to business class. Available real estate is rare but sometimes possible to find. One visit to Lake Bourget will convince you that there is no location more lovely and convenient to the city. Have the best of both worlds – come to Lake Bourget!

Things to do at Lake Bourget

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Ruins
  • Playground
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Lake Bourget

  • Char
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Trout
  • Whitefish
  • Zander

Lake Bourget Photo Gallery

Lake Bourget Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 10,996 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 760 feet

Average Depth: 279 feet

Maximum Depth: 476 feet

Water Volume: 2,918,568 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 8 years

Drainage Area: 216 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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