Bodensee, Vorarlberg:
The Austrian Part of Lake Constance

The Bodensee or Lake Constance is a lake in the very west of Austria, reaching from the province of Vorarlberg north-westwards. The Bodensee / Lake Constance is shared between Austria, Germany and Switzerland. In fact, the Austrian share is the smallest: Of the 273 kilometres of shoreline, only 28 kilometres are Austrian; 173 kilometres are German and 72 are Swiss. The legal division of the Bodensee is unclear; international lawyers consider the lake to be the only region in Europe where no borders have ever been defined.

The lake is divided into three sections, called Obersee, Untersee and Seerhein. The river Rhine passes the Bodensee and is said to "take a bath" in it. In fact, the Rhine water looks a lot cleaner down-stream the Bodensee/Lake Constance. Taken all three sections together, the lake is the third-largest lake in Central Europe (after the Geneva Lake and Lake Balaton), in terms of volume even the second-largest. The deepest parts of Lake Constance are 250 metres deep - however, most of the lake is much more shallow.

Ecology, Weather & Climate of Lake Constance

The Rhine carries a lot of mud, stones and other inorganic material into the lake. This will ultimately lead to the disappearance of the lake, starting at the by of Bregenz. Experts estimate a time-frame of 10,000 to 20,000 years until this will happen - provided that nobody will remove the matter from the lake, as it is currently done. This is not all the "land" the Bodensee/Lake Constance can hope for: There are eleven islands of varying size on the lake. The bigger and more significant ones are Mainau and Lindau, as well as Reichenau. The latter one is home to the Monastery of Reichenau, which is famous for its three Medieval churches and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The island of Mainau is private property, the owners have transformed the island into a blooming garden and a tourist attractions that draws primarily an elderly crowd to Mainau.

The climate of the Bodensee is generally mild, but not overly pleasant: Summer can get very muggy, hot winds are bad for people with migraine, winters come with plenty of fog. Sudden changes in the weather conditions with strong winds are common, which those should keep in mind that plan to do water sports (especially sailing and windsurfing) at the Bodensee/Lake Constance. According to meteorologists, the theoretic maximum wave one could expect on the lake is 4.5 metres high. Warnings of storms are coordinated between the three countries that own the Bodensee/Lake Constance.

The water level of the Bodensee shows strong fluctuations over the course of a year. Normally, the level would be the highest in spring after the snow has melted. However, in very rainy springs or summers, the water level can rise even further and lead to floods. Timber that is carried from the mountains into the lake then usually constrains the boats and ships that navigate on Lake Constance. During cold winters, the water level is much lower; the difference can make up several metres even in normal years. It is very unusual that all of the Bodensee freezes thoroughly; this happened for the last time so far in 1963. Since 875 A. D., Lake Constance has frozen only 32 times. However, bays and sections often freeze to an extent that permits skating and other winter sports.

Go to: "Bodensee - Part I - Part II - Part III"

Back to "Vorarlberg Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Website of the Bodesee Region

Wikipedia on the Bodensee / Lake Constance

Official Website of Vorarlberg