Lake Mjosa, Norway

Lake Locations:

Norway -

Lake Mjosa is Norway’s largest lake, covering 89,500 acres. Located about 35 miles north of Oslo, the fjord lake is long and narrow, a drowned valley dug by the action of glaciers. Lake Mjosa plunges to depths of 1,637 feet, the fourth-deepest lake in Norway. Water flows into the lake from the north via River Gudbrandsdalslagen. The usual source is glaciers farther to the north. Because of the location and the extreme depth of the water, the lake is not ordinarily a swimming or water sports lake as the waters remain relatively cold even in summer. However, water temperature does not stop Lake Mjosa from being a major source of recreation in the area.

The area surrounding Lake Mjosa has been agricultural land for many centuries. Farther north, the land becomes more mountainous and offers all types of winter sports activities such as alpine skiing. For many years, the 60-mile-long lake was a major transportation route by ship, carrying the crops and industrial products produced by inhabitants in the area. Several active lighthouses still exist along the shoreline. Eventually, a railroad was built along the eastern bank, reducing water transportation considerably. Today, a modern highway skirts the eastern shore, bringing visitors from Oslo and other parts of the region. Lake Mjosa still sees plenty of boat traffic, but now it is nearly all recreational. The only larger ship plying the surface is a refurbished paddlewheel steamer, the oldest such ship in existence in Europe. Originally built in 1856, the D/S Skibladner today transports passengers from city to city along the length of the lake. The picturesque steamer provides one of the best restaurants available in the area and is an important tourist destination, offering scenic cruises on Lake Mjosa.

Lake Mjosa has an excellent fishery. With 20 species of fish inhabiting the lake, fishing is a huge sport. Trout are the most sought-after fish for anglers. With over 40 incoming small streams, the trout spawning in each stream have developed their own particular sub-species, with some growing to nearly 45 pounds. Trolling is a favored method of catching these big trout, and trolling contests occur here regularly. The best known of these is the Norwegian Trolling Championship, scheduled each June and leaving from the Gjovic harbor on the western shoreline. Other species often caught include grayling, pike, perch and burbot. Fishing licenses may be purchased at tourist offices, sporting goods shops, gas stations and many hotels and motels in the area. Ice fishing is popular along the margins, but the center of the lake often remains ice-free in winter. Fishing regulations are stringent, and visiting anglers should become acquainted with them before starting out to fish.

At the north end of the main lake, the water splits into two branches. Helgoya is a large island located off the point between the two arms that is a favorite of recreational boaters who often dock their boats at the local marina. Most of the lakeshore is not heavily developed. Three larger cities hold much of the local population and main tourism attractions. Lillehammer is located up the western arm of the lake and is a noted skiing and winter sports center. The 1994 Winter Olympics were held here, and infrastructure built for the prestigious events has been converted to tourism uses. The Olympic bobsled run and the Lysgardsbakkene ski jump are major centers for winter recreation. No visitor will want to miss the Maihaugen Folk Museum. There are numerous lodging choices at Lillehammer, plenty of restaurants, golf courses and places to rent bicycles for cycling the many paths in the area.

Hamar is located farther south on the eastern shore of Lake Mjosa. One of its landmark features is the Hamar Olympic Hall. Usually called ‘The Viking Ship’, the structure looks like an overturned Viking ship’s hull and holds the world’s largest ice skating rink. Hamar has plenty of other attractions to recommend a visit, including the Hedmark Cultural History Museum. This open-air museum holds over 65 historic buildings and the ruins of medieval Hamar Cathedral, now protected under a large glassed protective cover. The Norwegian Railway Museum is also located at Hamar. Campgrounds and caravan parks are located near Lake Mjosa throughout the area.

Across the lake on the less-populated side, the small city of Gjovik serves as the town center of a mainly agricultural region. The many picturesque farms raise grains, vegetables, potatoes and dairy cattle. The steamer Skibladner is located in the harbor here. Remnant of the 1994 Olympic Games, a giant ‘cave stadium’ built under a nearby hill hosts conventions exhibitions and sports events. Cycling is a favored way to view the countryside; bike rentals, boat rentals, campgrounds and farm-stays are common. The tourism office in Gjovik has maps of favorite cycling routes, landmarks to see and places to stay in the area. While in town, a visit to the Gjovik Glassworks is rewarding, and the area’s largest shopping complex is nearby. The small town of Storgata holds the Gjovik Chocolate Factory-a must-stop destination for anyone with a sweet tooth. Areas further away from Lake Mjosa have on-your-honor, unstaffed cabin stays which require reservations and depend on the guest’s honesty to pay the required small fee.

The origins of the Mjosa name are a bit unclear. It appears the name comes from the Norse word mjors which means the ‘bright’ or ‘shiny’ one. There has been talk of a lake monster under the waves in the past, but the legend appears to be fading. Certainly there are no pictures of this monster, but it makes for a great campfire story. Inflowing River Gudbrandsdalslagen carries much sediment during the spring thaw, leading to some concerns that additional nutrients will threaten Lake Mjosa as a drinking water supply. The outlet river at the south end, the Vorma, has been dammed for hydroelectric power. Dams have been constructed along the outlet in 1858, 1911, 1947, and 1965, causing the level of Lake Mjosa to rise nearly 12 feet. The lake has flooded to nearly 23 feet on several occasions, causing flooding in Hamar. Lake Mjosa is being monitored carefully to ensure a continued clean water supply and productive fishery.

No visit to Norway would be complete without spending at least a day at Lake Mjosa. Come to see what all the excitement is about!

Things to do at Lake Mjosa

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Museum
  • Ruins
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Mjosa

  • Burbot
  • Grayling
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Trout

Lake Mjosa Photo Gallery

Lake Mjosa Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 89,452 acres

Shoreline Length: 160 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 397 feet

Average Depth: 509 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,637 feet

Water Volume: 45,399,939 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 6 years

Drainage Area: 6,270 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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