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Lake Walen spans almost 6,000 acres between the cantons (states) of Glarus and St. Gallen in the mountainous terrain of northeastern Switzerland. Lake Walen is also known as Walensee (see=lake) and Lake Walenstadt. With majestic beauty, year round recreational opportunities, and the lure to visit the setting of the classic children's book, "Heidi", tourists create lifetime memories with their time spent here.
In the mid 18th century, the outflow of Lake Walen was where two rivers, the Linth and the Maag, connected. Spring snow melts caused flooding at the juncture of the two rivers, raising water levels on Lake Walen and creating swampland along the shoreline. Seasonal swampy conditions impeded agriculture and led to water-borne diseases among residents. Conrad Escher from Zurich masterminded the solution to this problem by creating a channel that made the Linth River flow into Lake Walen. A second channel, named the Linth Channel, was constructed at the outflow to connect Lake Walen and Lake Zurich, thereby eliminating the Maag River. This channel improved area living conditions by lowering the water level in Lake Walenstadt by 16 feet, drying up the swamps and decreasing water-borne diseases. In addition, the land between the lakes, known as the Linth plain, created a fertile area of approximately 5,000 acres needed for farming and food production. Today, Lake Walen's primary inflows are the Linth River, Seez River, and Murgbach River, with the primary outflow being the Linth River.
All around the shores of Lake Walenstadt, opportunities for fun await your visit. Vendors have pedal boats, flipper tread boats, row boats, and motor boats for rent to add to your enjoyment on the water. A certified diving school will provide lessons on the art of diving to allow you to explore the underwater world of the lake. Volleyball fields have been constructed on the sandy shores for off-water fun. With consistent and stable breezes blowing across the lake, the conditions are always great for sailing and windsurfing. If you prefer to just lie back on the sandy beach and relax, the action on the water will keep you entertained, watching as others splash through the water as they water ski or jet ski. Guide services are available for those who want to wet a line and try their hand at fishing for pike, perch and lake trout.
Lake Walen is at the center of many beautiful and historical Swiss towns and villages that offer their own distractions and entertainment. Steep cliffs, some up to 3,200 feet, surround the lake which makes travel sometimes difficult by car. The mountainous terrain offers challenging and popular hiking and mountain biking trails. Many travel packages are created for the outdoor enthusiasts who want to see the country at their own pace, either by foot, bike, boat or a combination. Small villages along these routes provide overnight accommodations and great cuisine for visitors as they explore the country.
The small village of Quinten can only be reached by foot or boat on Lake Walen, but the trip is worth the effort. The steep mountain wall protects it from bad weather and provides an almost Mediterranean type climate. Grapes, kiwi, figs and other fruits flourish here and are used to make the local wines that are the village's only industry besides tourism.
On the northern shore of Lake Walenstadt, the Seerenbach Falls tumble over a cliff 2,300 feet into the Rin Spring which is the source of the Rin River. The falls can be accessed from the village of Betlis, only by foot, but the scenery is spectacular and worth the walk. While in the village, take time to explore the ruins of Strahlegg Castle that dates back to the first century B.C. which is thought to be used by the Romans as a watch tower.
The area from the western part of Lake Walen to the town of Bad Ragaz is known as Heidiland in honor of the setting of Johanna Spyri's classic children's novel, "Heidi", first published in 1880. A village renamed Heididorf has created a Heidi Trail that starts at a museum showing how Heidi would have lived over a hundred years ago. The trail then winds up through pastures to a chalet that symbolizes her young friend, Peter the Goatherd's, hut. The trail continues winding up higher to the location of where Heidi's Alm-Uncle lived. The trail eventually winds back down through picturesque scenery and lush meadows to the starting point in Heididorf.
Near Heidiland is the world renowned home to natural healing thermal baths that have attracted visitors since the middle of the 13th century, Bad Ragaz. Today the area is a resort that offers many medicinal and wellness packages that include time soaking in the magical warm water. Visitors to the spa also have access to golf courses, biking and hiking trails that offer exercise as well as beautiful glimpses of the Swiss Alps and crystal clear mountain lakes like Lake Walen.
During the cold season, all of this turns to a winter paradise that attracts skiers from around the world. The area offers multiple ski areas, for downhill skiing, carvers, snowboarders, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking into addition to sledding and tobogganing. Trains and chair lifts from small villages operate during the season to transport visitors to the top of the slopes for access to all the fun.
No matter where you travel around Lake Walen, vacation rentals are plentiful. Self-catering holiday homes, apartments, villas, chalets, and cottages are available for your accommodations. Spa and resort rentals offer a wide range of packages for many budgets. During the winter, one village even offers igloos for an overnight stay. Historical grand hotels to farm stays offer tourists overnight choices in many locations. Along the many trails, campgrounds, hostels, and small inns are accessible to meet your needs.
For many years there has been a debate whether Heidi was based on a real character, but there is no debate over the beauty of the area around Lake Walen. With so much to do and see, it does not matter which season you choose to visit. As you make your plans, be sure you pack your camera, comfortable walking shoes, and an appetite for adventure; you do not want to miss anything!
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