Lake Braies: The Pearl of the Dolomites
Lake Braies is a small alpine lake in the Braies Valley, part of the Parco Naturale Fares-Sennes-Braies, located at the foot of the imposing rock wall of Croda del Becco. It is often referred to as the “pearl of the Dolomites”.
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Geography, Flora and Fauna
The lake lies in the homonymous Val di Braies, a side valley of Val Pustertal, 97 kilometers of Bolzano. It is one of the deepest lakes in the Bolzano autonomous territory, with a maximum depth of 36 meters. Thee lake was formed when the Rio Braies was dammed because of a landslide which occurred near Sasso del Signore. It is surrounded by the peaks of the Dolomites on three sides. Its largest tributary is the Braies River, which is also its only outflow.
The Natural Park of which the lake is part of is home to some of the most visually impressive karst phenomena in Europe, complete with ridged fields, sinkholes, wells and dolines. The park, which was founded in 1980, has many jagged peaks along with slopes. The lake is mostly surrounded by mountain meadows and pastures, dotted between spruce forests which are home to foxes, badgers and pine martens.
The lake was first mentioned under the name Hunz an den Se in 1296, was called Praxersee by 1330, which later transitioned into See in Prags, according to a source from 1400. In 1620 the lake is referred to as Pragsersee and in 1885 it was called Pragser Wildsee, which is probably a reference to the wild mountaineering conditions in the area. It has been called Lake Braies since the 1940s.
Legend of Lake Braies
Local legends state that the lakeshores were once inhabited by some ugly savages which were guarding the gold that could be found in the mountains. A few animal breeders appeared in the area, with which the savages shared some objects produced from the mountain gold. After the mountains they were protecting. In order to prevent these breeders from stealing, they had some springs gushing forth from the rock, which eventually formed Lake Braies.
The large hotel located on the shore of Lake Braies was an important scene in one of the last episodes of World War II. It served as the stage of the transport of concentration camp inmates in Tyrol. Strong historic characters, such as the then French prime minister, who were held captive in these prisons, were released here in 1945.
Tourism and Recreation
The easiest way to reach Lake Braies is by car. Beautiful routes run along the lakeshores, so tourists can admire the emerald-turquoise body of water from every angle. Its western bank is flat and wide, whilst the eastern part is generally steep and narrow. These trails are in very good conditions and can be pursued by any traveller. One must respect the fact that the lake’s surroundings are not only part of a natural reserve, but they are also under UNESCO and Natura 2000 protection.
Boating and paddling are popular activities on Lake Braies during the summer, whilst hiking is preferred in the surrounding Dolomites. During winter cross-country skiing and snow-shoe hiking are usually the most favored activities. Tourists must be extremely careful and mustn’t forget that avalanches occur very often in these mountains. The lake is the departure point of the Alta Via No.1.