Masurian Lakes District, Warmia-Masuria, Poland

Lake Locations:

Poland - Northern Poland - Warmia-Masuria -

The Masurian Lake District of Poland is the most sought-after vacation destination in central Europe for lake lovers. Containing over 2000 lakes, most of which are connected by canals and waterways, the district is a favorite of boaters and nature enthusiasts the world over. Located in northeastern Poland near the Lithuanian border, the district occupies an area of roughly 20,000 square miles stretching east 180 miles from the lower Vistula River. The lakes themselves are the result of melting ice blocks left when the last glacier receded. Glacial moraine dammed other low-lying areas creating even more lakes. In medieval times, the area was heavily forested. Some stands of this forest remain, preserved, to protect natural populations of wildlife and provide nature observation opportunities for the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year. Lakes not connected by natural rivers were connected by artificial canals in the era of water transportation to enhance ease of travel, creating a scenic and natural landscape well-supplied with historical landmarks and ruins.

Lake Sniardwy, the largest lake in the District, forms the heart of the Masurian Landscape Protective Area. Created to protect the postglacial terrain, forest and swamps filled with unique vegetation, as well as many lakes and pools, the Protective Area is open to visitors who enjoy the wide variety of plants, animals and birds living here. There are also waterfowl protection acres set aside within the Protective Area, such as Lake Luknajno biosphere reserve with its colony of mute swans. The area around Lake Sniardwy is a popular study site for ecological, botanical and zoological research.

Lake Sniardwy offers sites for sailing and yachting with the city of Mikolajki the busiest waterfront in Masuria. Along its nearly mile-long quay, hundreds of colorful yachts, motor boats, and pleasure boats tie up. Called the “Pearl of Masuria”, Mikolajki is a great place to find boats that take tourists for cruises on the nearby lakes. This famed sailing village is one of the major tourist destinations of the Masurian Lakes District. Visitors are attracted to its cluster of lively tavernas and summer events such as the Shanties Festival as well as prestigious regattas (notably the Journalists’ Sailing Championships of Poland). Mikolajki is a popular tourism center with a beautiful historic church and bridges. Summer residents from all over Europe call Mikolajki home base from which to sail the inter-connected waterways of the District. Lake Sniardwy (27,182 acres) and Lake Mamry (25,883 acres) are considered part of the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes. The Route of the Great Masurian Lakes at 55 miles is a favorite boating tour. The Augustow and Elblag canals are also very popular both with larger craft and canoes and kayaks.

Another popular tourist destination is Mragowo a few miles to the northwest of Mikolajki. Here, the popular resort hosts the annual summer “Piknik Country” International Festival of Country Music. Gizycko is another lakeside tourism center, as are the two smaller cities of Wegorzewo and Ruciane-Nida at the northern and southern ends of the Masurian Lake District. Gizycko is located on the shore of Lake Niegocin, and has a historical fortress, and passenger boats to the towns of Wegorzewo, Mikolajki and Ruciane-Nida. The largest town in Masuria, Elk has 56,156 inhabitants along the Elckie Lake.

The large Masurian Landscape Park, encompassing much of the land to the west of Lake Sniardwy, includes 11 nature reserves such as the Luknajno Lake UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Bialowieza Forest with a breeding station for European Bison. In addition to the many rivers good for fishing and forest areas that offer many trails for hiking and biking, excellent spots for swimming and camping can be found in designated areas. Waterway maps can be obtained locally and from park offices.

Cruising the many waterways is an excellent way to see the many ancient fortresses and ruins of the Masurian Lake District. Much of the region was part of Germany until World War II. Hitler’s main headquarters, called the Wolf’s Lair, was near the Masurian village of Gierloz. The site of a failed murder attempt, the complex of bunkers was partially destroyed during the war. Today the ruins of this huge complex of heavy bunkers are open for visitors. Pisz is located at the junction of Lake Ros and the Pisa River. The Pisa connects the waterways to Poland’s largest river, the Vistula, via the Narew River. The entire area was heavily influenced by the Teutonic Knights, who built many impervious fortresses within the Masurian Lake District. Historic sights near Lake Ros include the ruins of the Teutonic Knights’ Johannisburg castle and the Church of St. John.

The entire Masurian Lakes District is also a popular holiday destination among the Polish people. Every summer, thousands of visitors descend on the area to hike, fish, hunt and enjoy nature. Nightlife is plentiful in the larger towns, many of which also regularly sponsor festivals and special events with an eye toward tourism. Many of the larger towns also have area museums where one can learn local history and enjoy the arts and artifacts protected from the ages by local Poles. Most restaurants serve primarily hearty Polish cuisine, often featuring locally-grown produce, meats and dairy products from nearby fields and pastures. A few restaurants in the larger tourist towns offer specialty foods of other nationalities. Many towns offer local theatre and performances. A Lakes District visit is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture in a way that is impossible in more developed tourism regions.

Seeing the entire Masurian Lake District would take several summers of dedicated travel. Fortunately, the Masurian region can be reached by train, bus, or car from anywhere in Poland or from Lithuania. Nearby international airports are located in Vilnius, Gdansk, and Warsaw. The main transport hub in the region is the town of Elk. There are trains to Masuria from Warsaw, Gdansk and Vilnius, and buses to there can be found in many Polish cities. A boat service connects some central towns in the region.Visitors wishing to bring their own pleasure craft will find Mikolajki and Mragowo easily accessible by road.

First-time visitors will find that accommodations are plentiful and that staff in the larger tourist locations speak at least some English. Camping facilities, small local cottages and youth hostels provide lodgings throughout the Masurian Lake District. Vacation rentals in guest houses, hotels and inns are not difficult to find, although June and July vacationers quickly fill them unless one makes reservations. A special treat is an overnight stay in one of the castles-turned-hotels. And real estate can sometimes be found among the neat small farms and wooded shorelines in the area. But, you cant fully appreciate the Masurian Lakes District until you’ve made your first visit. That first visit will quickly lead to a second, then a third. What are you waiting for? Schedule your visit now – you wont regret it!

(The statistics below refer to Lake Sniardwy only; statistics are not available for the entire District.)

Things to do at Masurian Lakes District

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Masurian Lakes District Photo Gallery

Masurian Lakes District Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 27,182 acres

Shoreline Length: 57 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 375 feet

Average Depth: 19 feet

Maximum Depth: 77 feet

Water Volume: 527,693 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 1.4 yrs

Drainage Area: 44 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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