Lake Vattern: The Second Largest Lake in Sweden

Lake Vattern is the second largest lake in Sweden after Lake Vanern, and it is the fifth largest lake in Europe. The lake is only 1/3rd of Lake Vanern’s surface and it is famous for its dangerous currents.

Lake Vättern Stats

Lake NameLake Vättern
Surface area1888.040
Maximum depth128.0
Average depth39.2
Lake typeNatural freshwater lake
Catchment area6369.10
OutflowsMotala strom
Shore length644.78
Mixing typeDimictic
SettlementsVadstena, Jonkoping, Hjo, Askersund, Ammeberg, Karlsborg
Residence time25414.9
Frozen77 days
Trophic stateOligotrophic
Average discharge33.700

Lake Vättern Accommodation

Geology and Biology

The lake’s structural form is a graben in the Precambrian basement, and its eastern region is marked in part by limestones dating back to the early Paleozoic. The glacial excavation has further deepened the lake basin.

Lake Vattern is closely bound to the Baltic Sea, of which it was often a part of throughout time. The lake belonged to a connecting waterway system which ran through the central part of the country to the Skagerrak several times in recent geological past. The graben in which it lies was formed by crustal movements during recent millions of years. At the time the lake’s surroundings were mainly made up of multiple glaciations, which left behind glacial striations and drumlins when they eventually receded.

The lake we see today became an independent body of water left by a receding Scandinavian glacier around 10,000 years BP during the last glacial period. It became a smaller bay of the Baltic Sea at first, and most of its relict species, such as the Arctic char date back to that time.

Vattern was a bay of the Yoldia Sea, and then it became connected to Ancylus Lake, discharging from the northern end of its extent. Sometime around 8000 BP an accident on the uneven Scandinavian isostatic land rise occurred, which repositioned Vattern above Ancylus, and the two became distinct. The annual post-glacial rebound is around 3.5 mm in Nemotala and 2.6 mm in Sjonkoping, meaning that the lake tilts 1 mm to the south each year.

Lake Vattern contains both phytoplankton and zooplankton, such as Copepoda and Cladocera. The Benthos species include the Crustacea, Oligochaeta, Bivalvia and the Diptera. The lake’s most famous inhabitant is the Vattern char, called Salvelinus Alpinus.

Geography and Hydrology

Lake Vattern is located in south-central Sweden, to the southeast of Lake Vanern, pointing towards the tip of Scandinavia. It has a long, finger-shape, and its deepest known point (128 meters) is located just south of the island of Visingso. Its average depth is around 41 meters. The lake is bounded by the provinces of Vastergotland, Narke, Ostergotland and Smaland. Tiveden National Park, lying between Vattern and Vanern lakes, is a giant swathe of ancient forest, containing immense rock formations which were influenced by the ice age.

The lake is bordered by cliffs to the east and the west. The northern part is scenic, but not very mountainous. The region was developed after 1832 after the inauguration of the Gota Canal, which uses the lake and continues to Stockholm at Motala, on the northeastern shore.

Located in Gotaland, the lake is drained by Motala Strom, which starts at Motala and flows through a controlled canal into the Baltic Sea. Vadstena, Jonkoping, Hjo, Askersund, Ammeberg and Karlsborg are just some of the towns located in the shores of Lake Vattern.

62% of the lake’s drainage basin is covered with spruce, pine and deciduous forest, whilst 26.7% is dedicated to agriculture. A number of industries provide employment in Vattern’s drainage basin, in mining, manufacturing, forestry and paper industries. Agriculturalists raise cattle, sheep, swine and poultry.

Water Usage

Lake Vattern is known for its excellent quality of transparent water, serving as drinking water for many municipalities and towns around it. The lake’s water is so clean, it needs very little treatment and one can actually drink from it directly. Some even suggest that the lake might be the largest body of portable water in the World. The surrounding municipalities process 100% of their sewage.

Etymology and Cultural References

One of the etymologies for the lake’s name is from the Swedish word “vatten”, meaning water. However, this origin has been declared unclear and is in dispute. The arhaic term “vatter”, meaning forest or lake spirits was also suggested as the origin of the lake’s name.

In popular culture, Thomas Nashe mentions Lake Vether in his “Terrors of the Night”, published in 1594. In his writing he wrongly locates the lake in Iceland. Samuel Johnson also mentions Lake Vattern in is essay for The Idler No.96, on Hacho of Lapland. Ingmar Bergman shor a scene on a restaurant overlooking Lake Vattern in his classic movie entitled Wild Strawberries.

Fishing and Recreation

Fishing is one of the most popular activities practiced on Lake Vattern, which is free as long as you don’t use any nets. The lake holds the Swedish record for pike and salmon fishing. Fishing is permitted year round, although the peak season generally occurs between April-May, and September-October for pike, char, zander, salmon and salmon trout. Since the lake is not as busy as its larger brother, Lake Vanern, the fish are more likely to bite here.

Tourism is most important on the eastern shore in the Vadstena area, which is home to numerous churches: St. Bridget’s Convent (1383), Kloster Kyrkan (Convent Church, 1395-1424), also known as the Blue Church because of its bluish-gray limestone, and the 16th century castle of King Gustav I Vasa. On the western shore the town of Hjo was developed as a spa in the late 18th century and is still a popular lakeside resort today. The castle of Lacko Slott, once owned by one of Sweden’s most important historical figures, General Magnus Gabriel de la Bardie, is also a popular tourist attraction.

One can find a number of hotels and pensions which offer a wide range of accommodations in the many towns and municipalities around Lake Vattern. One can even camp at the family-friendly campsite in the National Park, which has a total of 65 grass pitches and 10 separate paved areas for motorhomes. The lake area is famous for its annual recreational cycling race called Vatternrundan, held yearly since 1966. It usually has around 20,000 participants which aim to finish the 300 km race around the lake.

Lake Vättern Map