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Sprawling across the heart of Bavaria in a land more comfortable measuring time in millennia than years, Altmuhl Lake (Altmuhlsee in German) is a recently added treasure. The lake adds 1,112 acres of water for outdoor enjoyment and wildlife to a region already rich in recreation opportunities. Nestled in the Altmuhl Valley surrounded by green meadows and charming, quintessentially German villages, Altmuhlsee is an inspiring Bavaria destination.
Altmuhl Lake is one of several artificial or dammed lakes that make up the Franconian Lake District. It was the first lake created in the lake district which includes Brombachsee, Small Brombachsee, Rothsee, Dennenlohersee, Hahnenkammsee and Igelsbachsee. Altmuhlsee is an artificial reservoir formed in 1986 for water storage and flood control. Most of the lake's inflow is from the Altmuhl River. The water is stored until needed, then flows into the Brombachsee, the largest and most recently created of the reservoirs in the Franconian Lake District.
Water levels on Altmuhl Lake fluctuate between 1.5 and 2.5 feet over the course of the year with a summer time area of 1,112 acres. It is a shallow lake with a maximum depth of only eight feet, so the lake freezes every winter. The shallow depths and the quality of the water that flows into the lake have contributed to Altmuhlsee's eutrophication (excessive nutrients), so water quality is an ongoing concern. The lake, however, supports abundant populations of bream, roach, carp, white bream and pike with fishing rights going to the regional sports fishing association. The association sells fishing rights to individuals.
The northwestern side of Altmuhl Lake is full of small islands which have been dedicated as a Nature Reserve. The Vogelinsel or Bird Island includes 300 acres and protects over 200 species of birds. Access to the reserve on foot or by boat is strictly prohibited with the exception of a mile long circular wooden walk for bird watching. Sailing and windsurfing are allowed on the rest of the lake, and there are places to rent pedal and electric boats. Canoes are a great way to enjoy the Altmuhlsee and an even better way to explore the Altmuhl River. The river makes up the lake's primary outflow, and it is possible to canoe from the outlet at Gunzenhausen along the length of the river to its junction at the Danube River.
Along the way the Altmuhl River flows through the Altmuhltal Nature Park. Hiking and biking trails cross the park which is a mixture of green meadows with grazing sheep, small villages and an abundance of breweries. Medieval castles, Roman watchtowers and evidence of the area's history dot the valley. The valley is also known for its fossils, and over 800 different kinds of fossils have already been discovered. Most significant perhaps is the archaeopteryx, nine of which have been found in the Altmuhltal. The small reptile-like birds may help make the connection between dinosaurs and birds.
There are holiday homes, cottages and hotels scattered throughout the Altmuhltal including some lakefront vacation rentals on Altmuhlsee. The lake is 31 miles south of Nuremberg, and al of the city's museum and cultural opportunities are an easy day trip from Altmuhl Lake. With the amenities of Nuremberg, the rich history of the region, and over a thousand acres of water to enjoy, Altmuhlsee is a Bavarian treasure whose value will grow year after year.
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