Lake Geneva

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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva
LocationSwitzerland, France
Coordinates 46°26′N6°33′E / 46.433°N 6.550°E / 46.433; 6.550 Coordinates: 46°26′N6°33′E / 46.433°N 6.550°E / 46.433; 6.550
Lake type Glacial lake
Native name
Primary inflows Rhône, Dranse
Primary outflows Rhône
Catchment area 7,975 square kilometres (3,079 sq mi)
Basin  countriesSwitzerland, France
Max. length73 km (45 mi)
Max. width14 km (8.7 mi)
Surface area 580.03 km2 (224 sq mi)
Average depth154.4 metres (507 feet)
Max. depth310 metres (1,020 feet)
Water volume 89 km3 (72 million  acre⋅ft; 21  cu mi)
Residence time 11.4 years
Shore length1156 kilometres (97 mi)
Surface elevation372 m (1,220 ft)
Islands Île de Peilz, Château de Chillon, Île de Salagnon, Île de la Harpe, Île Rousseau, Île de Choisi
Settlements Geneva (CH), Lausanne (CH), Évian (F), Montreux (CH), Thonon (F), Vevey (CH) (see list )
Lake Geneva
Official nameLes Grangettes
Designated11 September 1990
Reference no.504 [1]
Official nameRives du Lac Léman
Designated8 April 1991
Reference no.519 [2]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Geneva (French : le Léman [lə lemɑ̃] or lac Léman [lak lemɑ̃] , German : Genfersee [ˈɡɛnfərˌzeː] ) [3] [4] is a deep lake on the north side of the Alps, shared between Switzerland and France. It is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe and the largest on the course of the Rhône. Sixty per cent (345.31 km2 or 133.32 sq mi) of the lake belongs to Switzerland (the cantons of Vaud, Geneva and Valais) and forty per cent (234.71 km2 or 90.62 sq mi) to France (the department of Haute-Savoie).



While the exact origins of the name are unknown, the name Lacus Lemanus was in use during the time of Julius Caesar. [5] Lemannus comes from Ancient Greek Liménos Límnē (Λιμένος Λίμνη) meaning "port's lake". It became Lacus Lausonius, although this name was also used for a town or district on the lake, Lacus Losanetes, and then the Lac de Lausanne in the Middle Ages. Following the rise of Geneva it became Lac de Genève [6] (translated into English as Lake Geneva), but Le Léman was the common name on all local maps [7] [8] and is the customary name in the French language. In contemporary English, the name Lake Geneva has become predominant.


Lake Geneva is divided into three parts because of its different types of formation (sedimentation, tectonic folding, glacial erosion): [3]

  1. Haut Lac ('Upper Lake'), the eastern part from the Rhône estuary to the line of MeillerieRivaz
  2. Grand Lac ('Large Lake'), the largest and deepest basin with the lake's largest width
  3. Petit Lac ('Small Lake'), the most south-west, narrower and less deep part from YvoirePromenthoux next Prangins to the exit in Geneva

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Topography, Swisstopo, Lac de Genève designates that part of the Petit Lac, which lies within the cantonal borders of Geneva (excluding the cantonal exclave Céligny), so about from VersoixHermance to the Rhône outflow in Geneva. [9]

View of Lake Geneva about between Vevey in front, Lausanne in the back behind Mont Pelerin (CH) on the right and Evian-les-Bains (F) on the left, shot from a place between Caux and Glion above Montreux Lac Leman entre Glion et Caux.JPG
View of Lake Geneva about between Vevey in front, Lausanne in the back behind Mont Pèlerin (CH) on the right and Évian-les-Bains (F) on the left, shot from a place between Caux and Glion above Montreux

The Chablais Alps border is its southern shore, the western Bernese Alps lie over its eastern side. The high summits of Grand Combin and Mont Blanc are visible from some places. Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le lac Léman (CGN) operates boats on the lake.

The lake lies on the course of the Rhône. The river has its source at the Rhône Glacier near the Grimsel Pass to the east of the lake and flows down through the canton of Valais, entering the lake between Villeneuve and Le Bouveret, before flowing slowly towards its egress at Geneva. Other tributaries are La Dranse, L'Aubonne, La Morges, La Venoge, La Vuachère, and La Veveyse.

View of the lake and the Chablais Alps from Caux View over Lake Geneva 1.jpg
View of the lake and the Chablais Alps from Caux

Lake Geneva is the largest body of water in Switzerland, and greatly exceeds in size all others that are connected with the main valleys of the Alps. It is in the shape of a crescent, with the horns pointing south, the northern shore being 95 km (59 mi), the southern shore 72 km (45 mi) in length. The crescent form was more regular in a recent geological period, when the lake extended to Bex, about 18 km (11 mi) south of Villeneuve. The detritus of the Rhône has filled up this portion of the bed of the lake, and it appears that within the historical period the waters extended about 2 km (1.2 mi) beyond the present eastern margin of the lake. The greatest depth of the lake, in the broad portion between Évian-les-Bains and Lausanne, where it is just 13 km (8.1 mi) in width, has been measured as 310 m (1,020 ft), putting the bottom of the lake at 62 m (203 ft) above sea level. The lake's surface is the lowest point of the cantons of Valais and Vaud. [10] The culminating point of the lake's drainage basin is Monte Rosa at 4,634 metres above sea level. [11]

CGN paddle steamer in 1926 near Vevey with the Dents du Midi in background CGN-Helvetie-1926.jpg
CGN paddle steamer in 1926 near Vevey with the Dents du Midi in background

The beauty of the shores of the lake and of the sites of many of the places near its banks has long been celebrated. However, it is only from the eastern end of the lake, between Vevey and Villeneuve, that the scenery assumes an Alpine character. On the south side the mountains of Savoy and Valais are for the most part rugged and sombre, while those of the northern shore fall in gentle vine-covered slopes, thickly set with villages and castles. [10]

The snowy peaks of the Mont Blanc are shut out from the western end of the lake by the Voirons mountain, and from its eastern end by the bolder summits of the Grammont, Cornettes de Bise and Dent d'Oche, but are seen from Geneva, and between Nyon and Morges. From Vevey to Bex, where the lake originally extended, the shores are enclosed by comparatively high and bold mountains, and the vista terminates in the grand portal of the defile of St. Maurice, cleft to a depth of nearly 2,700 m (8,900 ft) between the opposite peaks of the Dents du Midi and the Dent de Morcles. [10]

The shore between Nyon and Lausanne is called La Côte because it is flatter. Between Lausanne and Vevey it is called Lavaux and is famous for its hilly vineyards. [12] [13]

The average surface elevation of 372 m (1,220 ft) above sea level is controlled by the Seujet Dam  [ fr ] in Geneva. [14]


Due to climate change, the average temperature of deep water (more than 300 metres or 980 feet deep) increased from 4.4 °C (39.9 °F) in 1963 to 5.5 °C (41.9 °F) in 2016 (an increase of 1.1 °C or 2.0 °F in 53 years), while the average temperature of surface water (five metres or 16 feet deep) increased from 10.9 °C (51.6 °F) in 1970 to 12.9 °C (55.2 °F) in 2016 (up 2 °C or 3.6 °F in 46 years). [15]

Climate data for Genève–Cointrin (Reference period 1981–2010), Records (1901–2015)
Record high °C (°F)17.3
Average high °C (°F)4.5
Daily mean °C (°F)1.5
Average low °C (°F)−1.3
Record low °C (°F)−19.9
Average precipitation mm (inches)76
Average snowfall cm (inches)10.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average snowy days (≥ 1.0 cm)
Average relative humidity (%)81766967696664677379818173
Mean monthly sunshine hours 598815417719723526323718511766491,828
Percent possible sunshine 23334546455358585338262044
Source 1: MeteoSwiss [16]
Source 2: KNMI [17]
Climate data for Pully (Lausanne) (1981–2010), Extremes (1981-2010)
Record high °C (°F)14.9
Average high °C (°F)4.4
Daily mean °C (°F)1.2
Average low °C (°F)0.3
Record low °C (°F)−16.7
Average precipitation mm (inches)77
Average snowfall cm (inches)10.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)10.18.810.29.812.
Average snowy days (≥ 1.0 cm)
Average relative humidity (%)78736866676665687378787872
Mean monthly sunshine hours 729715917920122925223418312879581,872
Percent possible sunshine 29374647485459585242322646
Source 1: MeteoSwiss [18]
Source 2: StatistiqueVaud [19]


Lake Geneva (and particularly the lakeside parts of the city of Geneva) can be affected by the cold Bise, a northeasterly wind. This can lead to severe icing in winter. [20] The strength of the Bise wind can be determined by the difference in air pressure between Geneva and Güttingen in canton of Thurgau. The Bise arises when the air pressure in Güttingen is higher than in Geneva. [21]


Private home backing up to Lake Geneva in Vaud Canton, 1968.png
Bath house of a private home on the lake, in canton of Vaud, 1968
People bathing in Lake Geneva, Vaud Canton, with Jura Mountains in background, 1968.png
Swimming in the lake
Lake Geneva with Vineyards in Lavaux.jpg
Lavaux vineyards on Lake Geneva
Ile de Peilz Ile de Peilz.jpg
Île de Peilz

In 563, according to the writings of Gregory of Tours and Marius Aventicensis, a tsunami wave swept along the lake, destroying the fort of Tauredunum and other settlements, and causing numerous deaths in Geneva. Simulations indicate that the Tauredunum event was most likely caused by a massive landslide near the Rhône delta, which caused a wave eight metres (26 ft) high to reach within 70 minutes. [22] [23] [24] In 888 the town was part of the new Kingdom of Burgundy, and, with it, was absorbed into the Holy Roman Empire in 1033.

In the late 1960s, pollution made it dangerous to swim at some beaches of the lake; indeed, visibility under water was near zero. [25] [26] By the 1980s, intense environmental pollution (eutrophication) had almost wiped out all the fish. Endemic whitefish species Coregonus fera was last recorded in the lake in 1920 and now extinct. Although the name fera is still used for the only coregonid present in the lake, this is not the original species but the introduced C.palaea. Today, pollution levels have been dramatically cut back, and it is again considered safe to swim in the lake. [27] [28] Major leisure activities practiced include sailing, wind surfing, boating (including water skiing and wake-boarding), rowing, scuba diving and bathing.

A total of four submarines have plied the depths of Lake Geneva. [29] In 1964, Jacques Piccard launched a tourist-oriented submarine, the Auguste Piccard (named for his explorer father), for the Swiss National Exhibition, meant to honor the Expo 64 theme of accomplishments by Swiss engineers and industry. [30] After operating through to 1965 in Lake Geneva, Piccard used the vessel for scientific exploration in other parts of the world. [30] Piccard later built the F.-A. Forel , launched in Lake Geneva in 1978 and used primarily for scientific research until it was retired in 2005. [30] In 2011, in a collaborative operation led by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, two Mir submersibles were used for ten weeks to conduct extensive scientific research in Lake Geneva. [29]

On a scientific footnote, in 1827, Lake Geneva was the site for the first measurement of the speed of sound in (fresh) water. [31] French mathematician Jacques Charles François Sturm and Swiss physicist Daniel Collodon used two moored boats, separated by a measured distance, as the transmit and receive platforms for the sounds of exploding gunpowder. The loud airborne sound coupled into the lake, establishing a loud underwater sound that could be measured at a distance. The flash of the exploding gunpowder provided the visual starting cue for the timepiece, and the underwater explosion sound striking a bell provided the finish cue.

The lake is rich in wildlife, especially birds: both the common buzzard and the red kite breed here in considerable numbers.

Sport events

Yacht racing is a popular sport, and high-performance catamarans have been developed specifically for the lake. [32] The design of the Alinghi 5 , the defender of the 2010 America's Cup, was influenced by those racing catamarans. [32] The best-known event, the Bol d'Or (not to be confused with other events having the same name) runs from Geneva to the end of the lake and back. [33]

The Tour du Lac rowing event also takes place on Lake Geneva. Competitors row once around the entire lake, making this 160-kilometre (99 mi) event the longest non-stop rowing regatta in the world.

Several competitions for swimmers are organised yearly like the crossing of the lake from Lausanne to Evian (13km), [34] from Chillon Castle to Geneva (70km), [35] from Montreux to Clarens (1.8 km), [36] in Geneva (1.8 km), [37] all in summer, and the Coupe de Noël , 125m in Geneva in December. [38]

Towns and villages

List of towns and villages on Lake Geneva
Starting from the entry of Rhône River on the east end, with the southern shore to the left.
Southern shoreNorthern shore
Haut Lac

Canton of Valais (VS):


Canton of Vaud (VD):

Grand Lac



Petit Lac

( * Lac de Genève, [9]
see also Geography)


Canton of Geneva (GE):



Topographic map

Lake Geneva on the Swiss National Map (1:50'000)
260 St-Cergue.jpg
261 Lausanne.jpg
262 Rochers de Naye.jpg
270 Geneve.jpg
271 Chablais.jpg
272 St-Maurice.jpg

Notable residents

Edmund Ludlow, famous as one who had signed the death warrant of English King Charles I, was granted on 16 April 1662 protection in and continued to live at Vevey until his death in 1692. [39] Mary and Percy Shelley and Lord Byron holidayed by the lake and wrote ghost stories, one of which became the basis for the novel Frankenstein . [40] The Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi) was stabbed to death on the quayside in Geneva in September 1898. Vladimir Lenin rented a little "chalet" at the French bank, near Geneva. [41] Actor Charlie Chaplin spent his final years and died in Vevey (there is a memorial statue of him along the promenade; his home at Corsier-sur-Vevey is now a museum of his life and career). Actors Noël Coward, James Mason, Sir Peter Ustinov, Richard Burton and Audrey Hepburn all lived in villages on the shores of or in view of the lake. David Bowie moved to a chalet to the north of Lake Geneva in 1976, which inspired him to take up painting and informed the first stages of the "Berlin Trilogy". Pop singer Phil Collins lives in a home overlooking the lake. [42] Rock band Queen owned and operated Mountain Recording Studios (which is still in use today) in Montreux, and a statue of lead singer Freddie Mercury, who also owned a second home in Montreux, stands on the northern shore of the lake. Writer Vladimir Nabokov also took residence in Montreux, where he died in 1977. Ex-Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher lives with his family in a home overlooking the lake.

See also

Related Research Articles

Rhône Major river in Switzerland and France

The Rhône is a major river in France and Switzerland, rising in the Alps and flowing west and south through Lake Geneva and southeastern France before discharging into the Mediterranean Sea. At Arles, near its mouth, the river divides into the Great Rhône and the Little Rhône. The resulting delta forms the Camargue region.

Index of Switzerland-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to Switzerland.

Valais Canton of Switzerland

Valais, or Wallis, more formally the Canton of Valais, is one of the 26 cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. It is composed of thirteen districts and its capital and largest city is Sion. The flag of the canton is made of thirteen stars representing the districts, on a white-red background.

Vaud Canton of Switzerland

Vaud, more formally the canton of Vaud, is one of the 26 cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. It is composed of ten districts and its capital city is Lausanne. Its flag bears the motto "Liberté et patrie" on a white-green background.

Canton of Geneva Canton of Switzerland

The Canton of Geneva, officially the Republic and Canton of Geneva, is one of the 26 cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. It is composed of forty-five municipalities and the seat of the government and parliament is in the City of Geneva.

Thonon-les-Bains Subprefecture of Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Thonon-les-Bains, often simply referred to as Thonon, is a subprefecture of the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in Eastern France. In 2018, the commune had a population of 35,241. Thonon-les-Bains is part of a transborder agglomeration known as Grand Genève. It is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Chillon Castle Castle in Veytaux, Switzerland

Chillon Castle is an island castle located on Lake Geneva, south of Veytaux in the canton of Vaud. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhône. Chillon is amongst the most visited medieval castles in Switzerland and Europe. Successively occupied by the House of Savoy then by the Bernese from 1536 until 1798, it now belongs to the State of Vaud and is classified as a Swiss Cultural Property of National Significance. The Fort de Chillon, its modern counterpart, is hidden in the steep side of the mountain.

Romandy French-speaking part of Switzerland

Romandy is the French-speaking part of western Switzerland. In 2018, about 2.1 million people, or 25.1% of the Swiss population, lived in Romandy. The majority of the romand population lives in the western part of the country, especially the Arc Lémanique region along Lake Geneva, connecting Geneva, Vaud and the Lower Valais.

Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le lac Léman Swiss ferry company

The Compagnie générale de navigation sur le Lac Léman or Lake Geneva General Navigation Company is a public Swiss company operating ships on Lake Geneva connecting towns in both France and Switzerland including Geneva, Vevey, Montreux, Évian-les-Bains, and Lausanne.

Paddle steamer <i>Genève</i> Steam ship

MS Genève is the oldest paddle ship of Lake Geneva. Originally a steamship, she became diesel powered in the 1930s.

Maurice Chappaz Swiss poet

Maurice Chappaz was a French-language Swiss poet and writer. He published more than 40 books and won several literary awards, including his country's most notable award, the Grand Prix Schiller, in 1997.

Pierres du Niton

The Pierres du Niton are two glacial erratics in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, in Geneva harbor. On the left bank of the lake near Quai Gustave-Ador, they are remnants from the last ice age, left by the Rhone glacier. Because of their role in Swiss cartography, the rocks have been declared a "Geotope", a national site of geological heritage.

Léman Express Rail network in Greater Geneva including the French departments of Haute-Savoie and Ain

The Léman Express is a commuter rail network for the transborder agglomeration of Grand Genève in west Switzerland and the French Alps. Six lines serve Swiss and French towns along 230 km of railway.

Lake Geneva region Region in Switzerland

The Lake Geneva region or Lemanic Region is the common name of the region of Switzerland encompassing the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais. It is one of the NUTS-2 regions of Switzerland.

Geneva Airport railway station Train station in Switzerland

Geneva Airport railway station is a train station located underground next to the terminal building of Geneva International Airport, in Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland. It is located at the end of the standard gauge Lausanne–Geneva line of Swiss Federal Railways.

France–Switzerland border International border

The France–Switzerland border is 572 km (355 mi) long. Its current path is mostly the product of the Congress of Vienna of 1815, with the accession of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Valais to the Swiss Confederation, but it has since been modified in detail, the last time being in 2002. Although most of the border, marked with border stones, is unguarded, several checkpoints remain staffed, most notably on busy roads.

Simplon Railway Railway connecting Switzerland and Italy

The Simplon Railway is a line that links Lausanne in Switzerland and Domodossola in Italy, via Brig. The 20 km (12 mi)-long Simplon Tunnel is a major part of it. The line between Lausanne and Vallorbe is sometimes considered to form part of the line, making it 233 km (145 mi) long.

Tour du Lac

The Tour du Lac regatta is a rowing regatta on lake Geneva in Switzerland. Since 1972 the regatta has been organized at the end of September every year by the yacht club Société Nautique de Genève. The tour, which starts in Geneva and runs around lake Geneva. With a distance of 160 km (99 mi), it is the longest non-stop rowing regatta in the world.

Grand Genève Local Grouping of Transnational Cooperation

Grand Genève is a Local Grouping of Transnational Cooperation, a public entity under Swiss law, in charge of organizing cooperation within the cross-border metropolitan area of Geneva. The Grand Genève GLCT extends over Switzerland and France.

Glérolles Castle Castle in Saint-Saphorin, Switzerland

Glérolles Castle is situated in the municipality of Saint-Saphorin, canton of Vaud, Switzerland, on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. Its earliest elements date from a fortress built around 1150. The modern building serves as the headquarters for a vineyard of the same name, and as a venue which can be hired to host social events. It is a Swiss Cultural Property of Regional Significance.


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