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One of the most popular waterways in the Netherlands is the Kagerplassen or Kaag Lakes. This series of ten lakes is connected by canals which make the entire system accessible to pleasure boaters. The waterway consists of five larger lakes and five large islands, only one of which is inhabited. The system also connects via canal to several other lakes and small waterway systems, all of which are a focus of recreation on the border of North and South Holland. Here, water lovers sail, swim, fish, waterski, wakeboard, kayak and camp. In winter, ice skating and ice sailing are popular sports. In all seasons, visitors and locals on holiday enjoy the walking paths, shops, historic buildings and windmills. The area around Kagerplassen is the heart of Dutch windmill country. The windmills play a vital role in the formation of the lakes and keeping water levels stable. The scenic shorelines feature grazing animals, flower fields and numerous Dutch boats, and were the favored subject matter for the artists Rembrandt and Jan Steen.
Three towns lie directly along the shore of the Kagerplassen: Warmond, Blatenkaag and De Kaag. The village of De Kaag on the island of Kagereiland serves as a focal point for visitors; the historic town contains many old buildings and homes having a long history that is published to facilitate walking tours. Shops, cafes and restaurants nestle between hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and inns. The village of De Kaag, like the entire shoreline of the Kagerplassen, is like a trip back in time, a living museum of historic Dutch culture. Two others islands, de Lakerpolder and de Kogjespolder, are managed by the Dutch Forestry Commission. Boterhuiseiland (Butterhouse Island) is a camp headquarters for sea scouts and is remembered fondly by many a Dutch adult from their happy childhood on the water. The marshes on the islands and around the shore offer excellent breeding grounds for meadow birds, greylags and ducks. In the winter all kinds of water birds forage here, making the walking paths a favorite among nature lovers.
A ferry runs regularly to take visitors to and from Kagereiland Island from Blatenkaag. Tour boats leave regularly to cruise the entire waterway, a trip of about two hours. Visitors can disembark at towns along the waterway and catch a later boat back if they wish to explore. Several marinas rent everything from row boats to kayaks to motor boats. A number of sailing schools and ski schools dot the shoreline, imparting the skills needed to safely enjoy one's chosen water sport. Such motorized sports as waterskiing and wakeboarding are allowed in marked areas, and a permit is necessary. Most of these areas are on the Norremeer and the Dieperpoel lakes in the vicinity of the town of Warmond. This leaves plenty of quiet area for sailing and paddlesports.
The entire area is popular with cyclists, and bicycling routes are laid out complete with published maps and bicycle rental concessions. One of the most popular is the Windmill Route. Beginning in the City of Leiden, a few miles south of the Kagerplassen, this 24-mile route makes a wide circle around the Kagerplassen and several other small lake systems, passing over a dozen picturesque and historic windmills along the way. Most of the windmills are open to tourists whenever the sails are turning, and several contain small museums relating the mill's history. Although many of the windmills are used to maintain water levels in the polders, others were built to mill grain, run sawmill equipment and even process wool for garments. Also of interest in Leiden is the municipal museum of Leiden, the Museum De Lakenhal. Some of the galleries in the museum tell of the history of Leiden and its woolen industry; others contain exhibits of contemporary art.
The Kaag Lakes are considered natural lakes. However, the Dutch countryside has been hydraulically engineered over hundreds of years to reclaim land for pasture, farming and villages. Peat excavation has also lowered ground levels to the high water table. This area is in the midst of peat meadows which sink as they dry out, necessitating careful management of water levels in the 'polders' or dyke-enclosed lands. Some polders are land reclaimed from lake bottoms and areas prone to flooding. All require regular water adjustment to keep them useable and viable for production, often via windmill. The lakes and canals are below sea level and are an integral part of the hydraulics of water management in South Holland.
The Kagerplassen is connected to a larger network of lakes and waterways called the Holland Lakes-or Hollandse Plassen. All are connected to the Haarlemmermeer Ring Waterway, the Does River and other small waterways, making much of northern South Holland available to boating. The Kagerplassen is less than 25 miles from the well-known town of Delft and The Hague. Amsterdam is only half an hour away. The coastline of the North Sea is less than 10 miles from Kagerplassen, making this the perfect spot to spend an enjoyable, water-filled holiday only a short distance from major attractions.
Because of the popularity of the Kagerplassen area for vacations, many guest houses and tourist apartments exist, along with campgrounds and more luxurious hotels and lodgings. Plan to spend a week or two here, using Kagerplassen as home-base for visits to the Delft factories, shopping in Amsterdam, enjoying the North Sea coastline and indulging your thirst for beauty and history in the museums of The Hague. It's a holiday with something for every member of the family.
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