Lake Wolfgang, Salzburg, Austria

Lake Locations:

Austria - Salzburg -

Also known as:  Wolfgangsee Lake

One of the best loved and most popular of vacation lakes in Austria’s Lake District is Lake Wolfgang. Called Wolfgangsee by the locals, the 3200-acre lake was created by glaciers thousands of years ago and has played a major part in the history of the Salzburg area ever since. The lake wasn’t named for that other famous Austrian, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but it is a fact that his mother was born here and his sister lived here for a time. The composer was born in Salzburg, only 25 miles away. Instead, the lake was named after Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg who tradition says built the first church along its shore in the tenth century. As part of the famed Salzkammergut Mountains resort region, tourism has reigned supreme in the former farming area for over a hundred years. Facilities for outdoor recreation and quaint lodgings are abundant, and festival and traditional events are a regular occurrence.

Lake Wolfgang lies in a northwest-to-southeast direction. It is separated into two basins by a peninsula of land called ‘the Narrows’ with shorelines that are only about 600 feet apart at the narrowest point before widening into a sizeable lake. Due to the surrounding mountains, a steady breeze blows at Lake Wolfgang most of the time, making it an excellent location for sailing and surfboarding. Three major villages, St. Wolfgang, Saint Gilgen and Strobl, are regular tourism hotspots and welcome good-sized crowds during major festivals and holidays. Smaller villages such as Abersee are home to many vacation villas, guest lodgings and such facilities as the local yacht club. Distances around the large lake are shortened by use of lake ferries that make regular stops at most villages. The same ferry boats make special trips during festivals and lakeside events, allowing most major festivals to encompass all of the larger villages in the celebration.

Boating is one of the most popular activities on Lake Wolfgang itself. Numerous small sailboats ply the water, taking advantage of the excellent winds. The yacht club sponsors regular regattas. Although no public marinas are internationally advertised, there are several smaller places for seasonal residents and visitors to store their boats. Several locations rent row boats, motor boats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats. Some locations teach water skiing and wake-boarding. Others specialize in fishing equipment and angling supplies. Many beaches, both public and proprietary, allow eager lakelubbers to enjoy a swim in the pristine waters. Despite its location just north of the Alps, the unique conditions at Lake Wolfgang allow the water to reach a temperature nearing 79 degrees during the summer, making for excellent swimming. Sandy beaches encourage sun bathing and beach volleyball. Fishermen enjoy angling for speckled trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake char, pike, lake trout, whitefish and aalrutten-a species of eel. The perlfisch also lives in the lake and is strictly protected year-round. A license is required for fishing and may be obtained at many of the resort hotels along the shore.

Festivals and holiday celebrations along Lake Wolfgang are varied. Many are general harvest festivals, with events such as the vintage tractor show and the traditional celebration when the villagers’ cattle, wearing folk hats and decorations, are brought down from their summer mountain pastures to the lower elevation meadows for the winter. Almkirtag, or alpine country fair, is held with traditional customs, handicrafts and delicacies. The Advent celebrations encompass the entire lakeshore with Christmas trees, lanterns, lights and traditional fireplaces in the villages.

In recent years, the organizing authorities have made it clear that everyone is welcome at Lake Wolfgang’s Advent except Santa Claus. In Austrian tradition, Santa Claus does not give gifts to children; the ‘Christkind’ (Christ-child) does. To prevent the dilution of Austrian tradition, Santa Claus has been banished! A related event is the Festival of Nikolaus, in which actors depict the Bishop Nikolaus, benefactor of the poor, and his ancient nemesis, the Krampus. Dressed in furs with a devilish mask, the Krampus actors make a great deal of noise to frighten the children until Nikolaus shows up with gingerbreads, nuts and treats. Most villages also perform a ‘devil’ run, with Nikolaus chasing the Krampus devils.

Many traditions around Lake Wolfgang involve running or cycling events. Among the traditional events is Glocklerlaufe. This celebration involves the young men of the town, elaborately costumed, performing a sort of running drama. Some of the more popular modern running events include the Wolfgang Challenge Triathlon race and the Schafberg Run, an extreme race consisting of racing the nearby cog railway train to the summit of Schafberg Mountain. Although that race is only 5.8 kilometers long, it covers 26% grades and a rise in elevation of 4,068 feet. For the past several years runners have beaten the train to the summit, although not by much. A similar mountain bike race is held each year, racing from the small village of Alberssee up the mountain. Lake Wolfgang thus attracts many young athletes to its shores each year.

Those with a desire for a slower pace of exercise can take advantage of the many miles of walking, hiking and horseback riding paths around Lake Wolfgang and into the nearby mountains. Cycling is also popular; bicycles can be rented in all villages. New electric bikes and regular charging stations make this sport accessible to those without the physical stamina for regular cycling. Other visitors will spend Monday evenings listening to folk music in a local cafe or visiting the annual arts and crafts market in Saint Gilgen. Visitors with children often enjoy the lake cruises available on sizable cruise boats. A cable car takes visitors to the top of an nearby mountain to enjoy the view.

Winter is a sports-filled adventure at Lake Wolfgang. Several ski resorts and ski schools are located nearby. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are joined by cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating during the colder months. Bus service is provided to local ski venues. Many of the resort hotels and private guest apartments are available year-round for lodging. In summer, several campgrounds near the lake offer the perfect spot to pitch a tent or park a caravan. The lake’s close proximity to the City of Salzburg makes it an attractive holiday destination year round.

Salzburg is exciting, cosmopolitan and historic. The Salzburg Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, filled with lovely architecture and spectacular buildings such as the Salzburg Cathedral. Overlooking the city, Hohensalzburg Fortress is the largest preserved fortress in this part of Europe. Mozart’s birthplace and exhibits add depth to the story of the famed composer. Music lovers will enjoy the Sound of Music exhibits featuring the story of the von Trapp family’s forced emigration to America and their ultimate triumph. Stage productions of Sound of Music are often performed locally. And the annual Salzburg Festival celebrates the arts as only historic Salzburg can do. Salzburg can be reached by train from anywhere in Europe, and regular bus service serves Lake Wolfgang.

Lake Wolfgang is a worthy destination for any European traveler and one that should not be missed. Whether it is fishing, swimming, boating or cycling, one will never run out of things to do and see at Lake Wolfgang. Put this fantastic lake on your list today.

Things to do at Lake Wolfgang

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding

Fish species found at Lake Wolfgang

  • Brown Trout
  • Char
  • Eel
  • Lake Trout
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Lake Wolfgang Photo Gallery

Lake Wolfgang Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 3,200 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,765 feet

Maximum Depth: 374 feet

Water Volume: 540,802 acre-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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