Lake Gruyere is the second largest reservoir in Switzerland. It stretches for 13.5 km from just south of the small university town of Fribourg nearly to the town of Broc, home of the country’s famous Nestlé chocolate factory. An artificial lake, it was created with the construction of the nearby Rossens Dam in 1948 along the Sarine, the same river that snakes past L’Abbaye d’Hauterive and through the heart of Old Town Fribourg. Water lovers will love a day of kayaking on Lake Gruyere.
Typical of a reservoir, the water remains rather warm through the summer. Unlike many reservoirs, it also is surprisingly clear with nice pebbly beach access instead of the typical marshy mudflats common with many artificial lakes.
Scroll down to see our map showing where to park and more useful info about kayaking Lake Gruyere.
Driving to the lake’s tiny village of Pont-la-Ville on a warm, sunny fall day, we laid out our gear:
two brand spankin’ new Oru kayaks
Trav’s ratty old PFD, partially chewed by an ambitious mouse after Trav stashed Hot Tamales in the front pocket overnight on a camping trip in Montana
my ultra-comfy BetSEA PFD, specially fitted for the ladies (if ya know what I mean)
two new insanely lightweight carbon fiber/fiberglass Hybrid Epic paddles weighing in at only 800 grams each
two waterproof cameras
one exuberant little rat terrier
The day after buying our Oru kayaks, we did a dry run in our back yard to see if we could even remember how to put our new kayaks together.
I made several mistakes, like assembling my entire boat and then realizing I’d forgotten to put the seat in, which left me feeling rather dubious about launching it. Remembering Beat’s encouragement when we bought the boats – be patient, you get better at it with practice, the boats become easier to assemble over time as they become less stiff – I set a timer before our maiden voyage and was relieved to see we’d successfully put them together in just over 15 minutes. I did, of course, again put the seat in wrong, this time backwards 😜. Still, we’d shaved half the time off our first attempt.
The ultimate goal is assembly in 5 minutes, which may actually be doable.
But would we float?
With Touille as my figurehead, we pushed off from shore and glided out into the lake, staying close to shore at first. I didn’t doubt the construction of the Oru, but I certainly doubted the reliability of how I’d assembled it.
We paddled to the Isle of Ogoz, a tiny island in the lake that used to be freely accessible on foot before the Rossens Dam flooded the region. Now the island can be reached only by foot along a narrow raised peninsula when the water level is low or by boat when it’s high.
Only about 130 meters long at its widest point and barely rising above the level of the lake, the island still shelters ancient castle ruins – twin towers and adjoining walls that were built sometime before 1179.
Hiking down to the southern edge of the island, we crossed under a charming burlap Just Married banner festively strung over the path to the Chapel of St. Theodul. It would be difficult to find a more charming place in Switzerland to tie the knot.
Always a fan of adventuring on shore but never really a fan of kayaking, Touille rejoiced in being free of her floating prison while we explored the island. She happily canvassed every square inch of trail with her nose in search of the “perfect stick.” Of course, she finds the aforementioned “perfect stick” every time we’re outside, then promptly leaves it in search of an even better perfect stick. I suppose that’s a dog’s perpetual cross to bear.
After a picnic dinner at the castle, we poked around the grounds and were surprised to find we could climb the more intact, taller of the two towers.
Metal grating, walkways, and handrails, all new, led to a spiral staircase up through the center of the stone tower.
The top of the tower offers nice views of the lake stretching to the north and south, of the pretty green fields above Pont-la-Ville, and of the sweeping expanse of the A-12 motorway, one of Switzerland’s main freeways.
Not yet in the fall frame of mind, I wasn’t prepared for the sun to set so quickly and for the chill to seep in almost immediately.
Inflating our four solar Oru lights to illuminate our path, we stashed them in our boats and gently pushed off from shore.
Pointing our kayaks toward the town of Pont-la-Ville twinkling across the lake, we paddled in a pool of light, our Oru kayaks glowing like fireflies blazing the night.
One couldn’t ask for a more perfect Oru maiden voyage.