Lake Greifensee, Zurich, Switzerland

Lake Locations:

Switzerland - Zurich -

Also known as:  Lake Greifen, Greifensee

Only 7 miles southeast of Zurich, Lake Greifensee has become a favored destination for holidays away from the big city. Located in the Canton of Zurich, Lake Greifensee has escaped the fate of becoming a commuter suburb of Zurich because the shoreline is protected land. Access to the shore is limited to only a few public places, giving Lake Greifensee a nearly unbroken natural shoreline. A nature reserve along the shoreline protects over 400 species of plants and 120 species of migratory bird among the moors and reed beds. A number of lake-viewing and bathing spots are located along the profusion of walking trails throughout the reserve.

The lake’s protected status doesn’t mean that the waters can’t be used by holiday-makers. Several resort hotels, campgrounds and boat launch facilities make Lake Greifensee a popular spot to engage in all sorts of water sports. Sailing is a particular favorite with more than one sailing club headquartered at the lake. The sailing clubs offer sailing lessons and organize regular racing schedules for their members. Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, diving, rowing and wind-surfing are also popular on Lake Greifensee. Fishing permits are available by the day, but fishing areas and fish species are regulated. The would-be angler would be wise to consult local officials as to how to obtain the correct permit before arriving at the lake. Boats are available for rent along the roads near the shore.

The paved walkways around Lake Greifensee draw large numbers of in-line skaters who meet to tour the lake via roller skates. Others enjoy the many miles of walking and cycling trails in the nature reserve and those found in the hills between Lake Greifensee and Lake Zurich. Called the Pfannenstiel, or Panhandle, the area is pure Swiss countryside and perfect for mountain-biking. Roads and trails among green fields are interrupted by individual farmhouses and small villages where one can often stop for a bite to eat. Visitors come for a day, a weekend or an entire holiday to spend their leisure time enjoying the sun and the lovely landscape. Once they arrive at Lake Greifensee, holiday-makers may leave their cars behind and load their bicycles onto one of several cruise boats on the lake. The boats act as transportation between shore points and allow passengers to explore distant portions of the network of paths without the initial long trek. Several cruise schedules offer culinary cruises while some specialize in sightseeing. The oldest steamship in Switzerland, the ‘Grief’, dates from 1895; it was refurbished in the 1980s and is in service on the lake. These ships provide water transportation to landing points near towns near the shoreline.

The old city of Greifensee is the only settlement directly along the lakeshore. The old walled city features the imposing Greifensee Castle. Built in the 13th century, the castle was home to the Counts of Rapperswil, later belonging to the Counts of Toggenburg. At one time, the castle was home and offices to the Bailiff of Zurich. After changing hands several times, the castle was renovated in 1995 and became a cultural center for Greifensee. The attached 15th-century triangular church is a popular wedding location. Greifensee has every amenity the holiday visitor would want, with many small shops and eateries in an authentic medieval setting. Greifensee is the scene of the Greifensee-Lauf, a semi-marathon around the lake held every year. A number of hotels, gasthauses, and bed-and-breakfasts offer holiday lodgings near the shore. Nearby, the city of Uster offers larger arts venues and cultural activities. Travel between the two is easily accomplished by train. Other villages near the shore offer holiday lodgings, chalets, chateaus and campgrounds to suit every visitor’s needs.

Fed by the Aabach River, Lake Greifensee is drained by the Glatt River. A tributary to the Rhine, the Glatt River has been repeatedly diverted and channelized, beginning in the 1500s. The fertile Glatt Valley contributed to excess nutrient run-off and for many years, the Glatt was seriously polluted. Recent efforts have improved water conditions considerably; the Glatt is once again a scenic river teeming with wildlife. The lake itself was created when the last glacier receded from the area. Evidence of settlement around the north end of the lake shows human activity as early as 4000 BC. In 1975, a Neolithic stilt house village located near the northern shore was discovered by recreational divers. Scientific dives revealed the remains of a village with 24 huts, along with such relics as ceramics, lavishly decorated pots and bowls, weaving spindles made of clay, tools, needles and fishing hooks from bronze, charred wild apples, cereals and simple, large food tanks. Dating of the well-preserved timber revealed a date of 1051 B.C.

For the visitor to Zurich, the short train ride to Lake Greifensee is worth an afternoon’s visit. Regular business visitors to Zurich often join families on holiday to swim in the cool waters and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the nature reserve. Holiday rentals are numerous and varied. Real estate may be more difficult to find. A visit of any length will be enjoyed mightily. Come and experience Lake Greifensee. You’ll want to return often.

Things to do at Lake Greifensee

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Wind Surfing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing

Lake Greifensee Photo Gallery

Lake Greifensee Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 2,112 acres

Shoreline Length: 10 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,427 feet

Average Depth: 59 feet

Maximum Depth: 105 feet

Water Volume: 119,986 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 408 days

Drainage Area: 62 sq. miles

Trophic State: 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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