Vechtplassen, North Holland, Netherlands

Lake Locations:

Netherlands - North Holland -

Also known as:  Vecht Lakes, Loosdrechtse Plassen, Maarsseveense Plassen, Vinkeveense Plassen

The Vechtplassen or Vecht Lakes of North Holland are one of the most famous water playgrounds in the Netherlands. Man-made water bodies created by the harvesting of peat in the 17th century, the shallow lake systems stretch along both sides of the Utrechtse Vecht River. Fed by a tributary of the Rhine River, the Utrechtse Vecht meanders from the City of Utrecht to the IJsselmeer near Amsterdam.

Some references say the name Vechtplassen only applies to those lakes east of the River Vecht. Others name three lake systems: the Loosdrechtse Plassen and the Maarsseveense Plassen east of the river, and the Vinkeveense Plassen to the west. All three lake systems are considered part of the Vechtstreek, or Vecht Region, and all are popular recreational lakes with a variety of watersports. Marinas provide service and shelter to the many boaters who sail these waters. So vital a part of the Netherlands’ boating culture are the Vechtplassen that one can even find world-renowned custom boat builders and restorers located at local marinas on the Loosdrechtse Plassen.

The many lakes and canals form a maze of navigable waterways that require a good map to navigate. Fortunately, such maps are available for sale in several local businesses and internationally. The Vecht River itself is a major pleasure boating route; European boaters can travel through the Netherlands from Germany to Amsterdam. Canals, some with locks, connect the lakes to the river in several areas. A third waterway, the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, handles most of the considerable barge and commercial traffic that used to navigate the Vecht River, leaving the Vecht a peaceful, scenic waterway to delight pleasure boaters. The Vechtplassen is the preferred place to harbor, swim, water ski, wakeboard, canoe, kayak and pontoon. So popular a stopping place is the lake system that there is even a four-star hotel provided with dock space for weary travelers. The marinas rent pontoons, motor launches and kayaks, repair boats, and offer food and fuel. The most-used lake system is the Loosdrechtse Plassen north of Utrechtse, where many lakes are separated by narrow tree-lined strips of land holding picturesque country homes.

Marshes and wetlands around the man-made lakes create an important and unique environment that was named a Wetland of International Importance in 2000 by The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The margins, ditches and boggy areas around the lakes offer perfect habitat for a variety of waterfowl. This unique landscape has long been recognized, and the first area under protection was dedicated early in the 20th century. Now, over 11,000 acres are protected under both private and public control, and the area is part of the European Natura 2000 master plan. The unused canals and ditches created by peat harvesting provide ideal habitat for geese, and a purple heron breeding ground offers limited access from viewing blinds. Efforts are underway to restore the optimum chemical composition of the unused canals; changes in ground water levels and infiltration from the Vecht River have altered the chemistry of the water over time, changing the vegetation that grows there. This is a long-term project, requiring much trial and error, but scientists see some hopeful changes.

The entire area around the Vechtplassen is ideal for a scenic and serene North Holland holiday. The area along the Vecht River was the home to many rich Dutch families during the Dutch ‘Golden Age’. Castles and impressive manor houses dot the countryside, complete with well-groomed decorative gardens. The area is known for growing fruit, and bike paths abound. The marinas often rent bicycles so that yachtsmen can take a cycling day or two to tour the scenic countryside. One of the country’s most famous Medieval castles is the Rijksmuseum Muiderslot in Muiden. Located on the estuary of the Vecht, the castle was built around 1280 and is open to visitors. Another well-known castle is the Zuylen Castle, which was built around 1520 on the remains of an older castle. The 19th century English style garden is delightful. Many parks in the area sport nature trails and scenic views. Every body of water seems dotted with sailboats. Other entertainments in the area include hot-air balloon tours, amusement parks, Go-kart tracks and petting zoos. And, of course, there are golf courses, movie houses and plenty of restaurants, quaint cafes and shopping.

Scenic and historic, the old towns and cities along the Vecht include Loenen, Oud-Zuilen, Nederhorst den Berg, Maarssen, Breukelen, Weesp, Nieuwersluis, Vreeland, and Nigtevecht; all are worth a walking tour and a history lesson from the Dutch Golden Age. Visiting the Vechtplassen is the perfect way to learn about the marvels of Dutch ingenuity when one discovers that all of the fen lakes average about four feet below sea level. A visit to the mouth of the Vecht where it enters the IJsselmeer amazes visitors when they realize that the river itself is lower than the huge freshwater lake it joins; a lock separates the two most of the time except during the rainy season. Even more amazing is the fact that the IJsselmeer used to be an arm of the North Sea called the Zuiderzee that was dammed in the last century and much of the land reclaimed for agriculture. The lake soon became freshwater, and the dam has ended the catastrophic floods that doomed so many in centuries past.

Even non-boaters can enjoy the Vechtplassen area. Campgrounds, cozy inns, guest houses, apartments and hotel lodgings of every type can be found in the area. Because the lakes are only a short distance from Amsterdam, the lakes are an easy day trip or the perfect romantic weekend getaway. Serious boaters likely have the Vechtplassen on their list of ‘must-visit’ locations. But non-boaters can realize just as much enjoyment even when traveling light. Everything visitors need can be found here, so start planning your visit to the Vechtplassen.

Things to do at Vechtplassen

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Playground
  • Amusement Park
  • Shopping

Vechtplassen Photo Gallery

  • Knooppunt 60 van het fietsroutenetwerk van de Provincie Utrecht naast vaart de Geer, verbinding tussen de Nieuwkoopse en Loosdrechtse Plassen. Node 60 of the Utrecht cycling route grid, along de Geer waterway between the Nieuwkoop and Loosdrecht Lakes. Google Streetview.

Vechtplassen Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): -4 feet

Average Depth: 6 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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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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".

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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.

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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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