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Lake Constance (German: Bodensee) is a lake on the Rhinemarker at the northern foot of the Alps, and consists of three bodies of water: the Obersee ("upper lake"), the Untersee ("lower lake"), and a connecting stretch of the Rhine, called the Seerhein.

The lake is situated in Germanymarker, Switzerlandmarker and Austriamarker near the Alps. Specifically, its shorelines lie in the German states of Bavariamarker and Baden-W√ľrttembergmarker, the Austrian state of Vorarlbergmarker, and the Swiss cantons of Thurgaumarker and St. Gallenmarker. The Rhinemarker flows into it from the south. It is approximately located at .

Lake Constance was first mentioned by the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela about AD 43. He noted that the Rhine flows through two lakes, and gave them the Latin names Lacus Venetus (Obersee) and Lacus Acronius (Untersee). Pliny the Elder used the name Lacus Brigantinus, after the Roman city of Brigantium (today Bregenzmarker). The lake is also colloquially known as the Swabian Sea (das Schwäbische Meer).

The freshwater lake sits at 395 m above sea level and is Central Europe's third largest, after Lake Balatonmarker and Lake Genevamarker. It is 63 km long, and at its widest point, nearly 14 km. It covers approximately 571 km² (208 mi²) of total area. The greatest depth is 252 m in the middle of the eastern part (Obersee). Its volume is approximately 55 km³. The lake has four parts: Obersee (main, 476 km²), Überlinger See (north, 61 km²), Untersee (west, 63 km²), and the Zeller See and Gnadensee (northwest). The regulated Rhinemarker flows into the lake in the southeast, through the Obersee, the city of Konstanzmarker and the Untersee and flows out near Stein am Rheinmarker. Lake Constance provides fresh water to many cities in south Germanymarker.

Lake Constance was formed by the Rhine Glacier during the ice age. The Rhine, the Bregenzer Achemarker, and the Dornbirner Achemarker carry sediments from the Alps to the lake, thus gradually decreasing the depth of the lake in the southeast.

The lake was frozen in the years 1077 (?), 1326 (partial), 1378 (partial), 1435, 1465 (partial), 1477 (partial), 1491 (partial?), 1517 (partial), 1571 (partial), 1573, 1600 (partial), 1684, 1695, 1709 (partial), 1795, 1830, 1880 (partial), and 1963.

Approximately 1000 tons of fish were caught by 150 professional fishermen in 2001 which was below the previous ten year average of 1200 tons per year. The Lake Constance trout (Salmo trutta) was almost extinct in the 1980s due to pollution, but thanks to protective measures has made a significant return.

The lake itself is an important drinking water source for south-west Germany called Bodenseewasserversorgung.

Car ferries link Romanshornmarker, Switzerland to Friedrichshafenmarker, and Konstanzmarker to Meersburgmarker.

International borders

There is no legally binding agreement as to where the boundaries lie between Switzerland, Germany and Austria where these three countries meet in Lake Constance. While Switzerland holds the view that the border runs through the middle of the lake, Austria is of the opinion that the lake stands in condominium of all the states on its banks. Germany holds no unambiguous opinion. Legal questions pertaining to ship transport and fishing are regulated in separate treaties.

Naturally, disputes arise. One concerns a houseboat which was moored in two states, another concerns the rights to fish in the Bay of Bregenz. In relation to the latter, an Austrian family was of the opinion that it alone had the right to fish in broad portions of the bay. However, this was accepted neither by the Austrian courts nor by the organs and courts of the other states.

Recent floods

  • A 100-year flood around June 1999 (Pfingsthochwasser 1999) raised the level about 2 metres above normal, flooding harbors and many shoreline buildings and hotels.
  • In late August 2005, heavy rains raised the level by more than 70 cm in a few days. The rains caused widespread flooding and washed out highways and railroads.

Islands in the lake

The three major islands are:

This is a complete list of the islands in Lake Constance, listed from east to west:

Nr. Island Area (m²) Population Municipality Coordinates
1 Galgeninsel peninsula since 19th century - Lindaumarker (Reutin district)

2 Hoy 53 - Lindaumarker (Reutin district)

3 Lindau 680,000 3,000 Lindaumarker (Island district)

4 Wasserburg peninsula since 1720 27 Wasserburgmarker (Island district)

5 Mainaumarker 447,584 185 Konstanzmarker (Litzelstetten district)

6 Dominikanerinsel 18,318 21 Konstanzmarker (Altstadt district)

7 Mittlerer Langbohl 31,254 - Konstanzmarker (Industriegebiet district)

8 Triboldingerbohl 135,570 - Konstanzmarker (Industriegebiet district)

9 Reichenaumarker 4,300,000 3.200 Reichenau (Unterzell|Mittelzell|Oberzell)
10 Liebesinsel 300 - Radolfzellmarker (Mettnau district)

11 Werd 15,854 9 Eschenzmarker (Untereschenz district)

12 Mittleres Werdli 4,000 - Stein am Rheinmarker

13 Unteres Werdli 6,000 - Stein am Rheinmarker

  Lake Constance Islands 5,637,079 6,400 6 municipalities  

Towns and cities at the lake

Lake Constance seen from Spot satellite.
Bodensee Steamboat Hohentwiel.
View from mount Pfänder of Bregenz and the lake (with Lindau in the background).
Twilight near Arbon.
The Lower Lake (Untersee).



From the entry of the Rhine, on the northern or right shore:


From the entry of the Rhine, on the southern or left shore:

See also


  1. Gordon McLachlan. The Rough Guide to Germany. Rough Guides Ltd. London, 2004. ISBN 184353293X.
  2. Image #432, Flying Camera Satellite Images 1999, Lloyd Reeds Map Collection, McMaster University Library.
  3. "Bodensee-Wasserversorgung", German language Wikipedia.
  4. David Mark and Barry Smith, et al., Bizarre Shapes: 100 Geographic Monsters.


  • Rolf Zimmermann: A look at Lake Constance. Stadler Verlagsgesellschaft mbH. Konstanz 2004. ISBN 3-7977-0507-7. (Pictures and texts of the cities around Lake Constance).

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