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Lucerne, Lake Of

LUCERNE, LAKE OF, the name .usually given by foreigners to the principal lake of Central Switzerland. In French it is called the Lac des Quatre Cantons, and in German the Vierwaldstdltersee, this term being often wrongly translated " Lake of the Four Forest Cantons," whereas it means the " Lake of the Four Valleys " voiles which form the four Cantons of Lucerne, Unterwalden, Uri and Schwyz. It takes its name from the town of Lucerne, which is situated at its west end, just where the Reuss issues from the lake, after having entered it at Fliielen at the east end and so practically formed it; the Muota enters the lake at Brunnen (northern shore) and the two mountain streams called the Engelberg and the Sarnen Aa at Buochs and Alpnachstad respectively (S.). The lake is generally supposed to be, on the whole, the most beautiful in Switzerland. This is partly due to the steep limestone mountains between which it lies, the best known being the Rigi (5006 ft.) to the N., and Pilatus (6995 ft.) to the S.W., and to the great promontories that thrust themselves into its waters, such as those of Horw (S.), of Biirgenstock (S.), of Meggenhorn (N.) and of Seelisberg (S.), and partly xvn. 4 to the irregularity of its shape. It is, in fact, composed of four main basins (with two side basins), which represent four different valleys, orographically distinct, and connected only by narrow and tortuous channels. There is, first, the most easterly basin, the Bay of Uri, extending from Fliielen on the south to Brunnen on the north. At Brunnen the great delta of the Muota forces the lake to the west, so that it forms the Bay of Gersau or the Gulf of Buochs, extending from the promontory of Seelisberg (E.) to that of the Biirgenstock (W.). Another narrow strait between the two " Noses " (Nasen) leads westwards to the Basin of Weggis, enclosed between the Rigi (N.) and the Biirgenstock promontory (S.). This last named bay forms the eastern arm of what is called the Cross of Lucerne, the western arm of which is formed by the Bay of Lucerne, while the northern arm is the Bay of Kiissnacht and the southern that of Hergiswil, prolonged S.W. by the Bay of Alpnach, with which it is joined by a very narrow channel, spanned by the Acher iron bridge. The Bay of Uri offers the sternest scenery, but is the most interesting, by reason of its connexion with early Swiss history at Brunnen the Everlasting League of 1315 was really made, while the legendary place of meeting of the founders of Swiss freedom was the meadow of the Riitli on the west (purchased by the Confederation in 1859), and the site of Tell's leap is marked by the Chapel of Tell (E.). Nearly opposite Brunnen, close to the west shore, an isolated rock (the Schillerstein or Mythensteiri) now bears an inscription in honour of Friedrich Schiller, the author of the famous play of William Tell (1804). In the Bay of Gersau the most interesting spot is the village of Gersau (N.), which formed an independent republic from 1390 to 1798, but in 1818 was finally united to the canton of Schwyz. In the next basin to the west is Weggis (N.), also for long in the middle ages a small independent state; to the S.E. of Weggis, on the north shore of the lake, is Vitznau, whence a rack railway (1871) leads up to the top of the Rigi (41 m.), while S.W. of Weggis, on the south shore of the lake, is Kehrsiten, whence an electric railway leads up to the great hotels on the Biirgenstock promontory (2854 ft.). The town of Lucerne is connected with Fliielen by the main line of the St Gotthard railway (32 m.), though only portions of this line (from Lucerne to Kiissnacht, 105 m., and from Brunnen to Fliielen, 7 m.) run along the shore; Brunnen is also connected with Fliielen by the splendid carriage road known as the Axenstrasse (7! m.)and is the starting-point of an electric line (1905) up to Morschach (S.E.) and the great hotels of Axenstein and Axenfels near it. On the promontory between Lucerne and Kiissnacht stands the castle of New Habsburg (modern), while from Kussnacht a carriage road leads through the remains of the " Hollow Way " (Hohle Gasse), the scene of the legendary murder of Gessler by William Tell. The west shore of the southern arm, or the basin of Hergiswil and the Bay of Alpnach, is traversed from Horw to Alpnachstad by the Brttnig railway (5^ m.), which continues towards Sarnen (Obwalden) and the Bernese Oberland, S.W. from Alpnachstad, whence a rack railway leads N.W. up Pilatus (2! m.). Opposite Hergiswil, but on the east shore of the Basin of Hergiswil, is Stanstad, the port of Stans (Nidwalden), which is connected by an electric line with Engelberg (14 m.). The first steamer was placed on the lake in 1835. Lucerne is the only town of importance, but several spots serve as ports for neighbouring towns or large villages (Brunnen for Schwyz, Fliielen for Altdorf, Stanstad for Stans, Alpnachstad for Sarnen). Most of the villages on the shores are frequented in summer by visitors (Gersau also in winter), especially Hertenstein, Weggis, Gersau, Brunnen, Beckenried and Hergiswil, while great hotels, commanding magnificent views, have been built on heights above it, such as the Biirgenstock, Seelisberg, and near Morschach, above Brunnen, besides those on the Rigi, Pilatus and the Stanserhorn. The area of the lake is about 44? sq. m., its length about 24 m., its greatest width only 2 m. and its greatest depth 702 ft., while the surface of the water is 1434 ft. above sea-level. Of the total area about 155 sq. m. are in the Canton of Lucerne, 13 sq. m. in that of Nidwalden, 7^ sq. m. in that of Uri, 7! sq. m. in that of Schwyz, and about i sq. m. in that of Obwalden. (W. A. B. C.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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