Lake Geneva (French: le lac Léman or le Léman [lə (lak) lemɑ̃], sometimes le lac de Genève [lə lak də ʒ(ə)nɛːv], German: Genfersee [ˈɡɛnfərˌzeː]) is a 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. 59.53% (345.31 km2 [133.32 sq mi]) of it comes under the jurisdiction of Switzerland (cantons of Vaud, Geneva, and Valais), and 40.47% (234.71 km2 [90.62 sq mi]) under France (department of Haute-Savoie).
Lake Geneva has been explored by four submarines: the Auguste Piccard and the F.-A. Forel, both built by Jacques Piccard, and the two Mir submersibles.
The first recorded name of the lake is Lacus Lemannus, dated from Roman times; Lemannus comes from Ancient greek Limanos, Liménos Limne 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 (translated into English as Lake Geneva). In the 18th century, Lac Léman was revived in French and is the customary name in that language.
Lake Geneva is divided into three parts because of its different forms of formation (sedimentation, tectonic folding, glacial erosion):
Haut Lac (Upper Lake), the eastern part from the Rhône estuary to the line of Meillerie–Rivaz
Grand Lac (Large Lake), the largest and deepest basin with the lake’s largest width
Petit Lac (Small Lake), the most south-west, narrower and less deep part from Yvoire–Promenthoux 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 Versoix–Hermance to the Rhône outflow in Geneva.
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.
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. The culminating point of the lake’s drainage basin is Monte Rosa at 4,634 metres above sea level.
Edited by Ariasun editorial board
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