Lake Geneva, France & Switzerland

Lake Locations:

France - Southern France - Rhone-Alps - Switzerland - Geneva - Valais - Vaud -

Also known as:  Lac Leman

Shaped like a crescent moon, Lake Geneva is cradled in the Alps Mountain Range with two-thirds of its 104 shoreline miles in Switzerland and the other third in France. Lake Geneva is known as Lac Leman in France. Flanked by the majestic Matterhorn, possibly the most famous peak in the Alps, the largest freshwater lake in Western Europe is postcard-picturesque. Because the crescent-shaped lake narrows at its western end, the western part of Lake Geneva is known as the “Petit Lac” (Small Lake), and the larger eastern side is “Grand Lac” (Large Lake). The City of Geneva is located at the southwestern tip of the lake. Its famous Geneva Harbor Fountain (Jet d’Eau) is the city’s emblem.

Lake Geneva lies along the shores of the Rhone River, fed by the Rhone Glacier, indicating its origins as a glacial lake. Julius Caesar and his Roman army claimed the area for a base by 58 B.C. and founded the modern cities of Geneva, Avenches, and Lausanne. Perhaps as a testament to its rich history, Lake Geneva’s name has changed many times: in Roman times, it was called Lacus Lemannus, later to be renamed Lacus Lausonius. In the Middle Ages, the lake changed to the French Lac de Lausanne, and finally to Lac de Geneve. Curiously, the French name changed to Lac Leman in the 18th century, though English has stuck with Lake Geneva, and some maps insist on calling it Lac d’Ouchy after one of its ports. Regardless of its name, Lake Geneva holds rich beauty and amazing vistas that one can enjoy in any language.

The Rhone River originates high in the Alps, flows through Lake Geneva and exits at the City of Geneva, flowing through France on its way to the Mediterranean. The Seujet Dam, completed in 1985, controls lake levels, prevents flooding, and generates hydroelectric power. Downriver about seven miles, the Verbois Dam, completed in 1943, is a major source of hydroelectric power for the city. A fish ladder is placed around both dams to allow fish to migrate upstream.

Due to Lake Geneva’s large size, extending over 144,000 acres, it’s necessary to pick a base camp from which to travel. Most popular is Montreux, Switzerland, a scenic resort on the eastern shore that juts out into the lake on a small, round peninsula, protected from northern and eastern winds. The town is spotted with old villas and palaces that have been converted to hotels, restaurants, and single family residences. It is the perfect starting point for your lake visit.

Lake Geneva offers many opportunities to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Land lubbers can indulge in horseback riding, mountain biking, mountain climbing (alpinism), golf, and hiking during warmer months. Hiking provides unique vantage points, with birds-eye views of the lake and quaint Alpine towns below. As you trek over the region’s Discovery Trails, you’ll meander by old villas, traverse steep ridges, pass though old vineyards, and find yourself in the midst of towering forests. The diversity of this area is soon recognized, and if you take your camera along, it will soon be full of amazing views and historic snapshots.

When you get back to Lake Geneva, plenty will be waiting. Consider hang-gliding, a horse-drawn carriage ride, or a hot-air balloon ride. Rent a powerboat and head out to explore this glacial lake. It’s impossible to see it all, so your best bet is to grab a map and focus on one area, investigating its shores and enjoying the amazing scenery around you. To slow down the pace, hop into one of the lake’s canoes, kayaks, or pedalos (pedal boats) and enjoy the lake a bit at a time. Grab your fishing line and throw it in the boat to enjoy some fishing, as well. Just make sure you have a Swiss fishing permit first.

In winter, Lake Geneva transforms into one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Nothing is as beautiful as mountains blanketed in snow, and the lake area simply comes alive with activity. Scratch your adrenaline itch and indulge in both alpine and nordic skiing – several area resorts offer runs. Snowboarders will love the halfpipes and snowboard parks that dot the mountainside, as well. For a bit of family fun, take a turn on a toboggan trail or take an afternoon to go snowshoeing. Like hiking, all mountain activities will provide you with some of the most stunning scenery your eyes have ever beheld.

Despite how it may seem, Lake Geneva does not start and end with its outdoor offerings. In fact, this region is home to some of the most delicious cuisine on the planet, calling upon its unique influences from several surrounding countries. Bite into the typical “papet vaudois”, a leek and potato stew usually accompanied by “saucisse aux choux”, a cabbage-stuffed sausage. Gobble down local-caught fish, visit a delicious Italian restaurant, and tickle your taste buds with a host of local flavors. Make sure to order a bottle of Swiss wine, as well, and your Lake Geneva meal will be one that is hard to forget.

Stunning scenery meets nature lovers’ paradise here in the Lake Geneva region. Catering to almost every taste and pleasure, the region is high on the fun factor, offering a bit of everything for you to try. Your only challenge will be whether you can fit everything into a stay that will seem far too short.

Things to do at Lake Geneva FRA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Biking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Tobogganing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Birding

Lake Geneva FRA Photo Gallery

Lake Geneva FRA Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Services Industriels de Geneve

Surface Area: 144,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 104 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,220 feet

Average Depth: 506 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,017 feet

Water Volume: 72,153,474 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 11.4

Drainage Area: 3,079 sq. miles

Trophic State: Meso-eutrophic

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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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