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Vänern (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈvɛːnəɳ]) is the largest lake in Sweden and the third largest lake in Europe after Ladoga and Onega in Russia. It is located in the provinces of Västergötland, Dalsland, and Värmland in the southwest of the country.



Geologically, the lake was formed after the last ice age about 10,000 years ago; when the ice melted, the entire width of Sweden was covered in water, creating a strait between Kattegat and the Gulf of Bothnia. Due to the ensuing isostatic rebound, lakes such as Vänern and Vättern became pursed off. As a result, there are still species remaining from the ice age not normally encountered in fresh water lakes, such as the amphipod Monoporeia affinis. A Viking ship was found on the lake's bottom on May 6, 2009.

A story told by the thirteenth-century Icelandic mythographer Snorri Sturluson in his Prose Edda about the origin of Lake Mälaren was probably originally about Lake Vänern: the Swedish king Gylfi promised a woman, Gefjun, as much land as four oxen could plough in a day and a night, but she used oxen from the land of the giants, and moreover uprooted the land and dragged it into the sea, where it became the island of Zealand. Snorra Edda says that 'the inlets in the lake correspond to the headlands in Zealand'[2]; since this is much more true of Lake Vänern, the myth was probably originally about Vänern, not Mälaren.[3]


Lake Vänern covers an area of 5,655 km². It is located at 44 m above sea level and is on average 27 m deep. The maximum depth of the lake is 106 m.[4]

Geographically, it is situated on the border between the Swedish regions of Götaland and Svealand, divided into several Swedish provinces: The western body of water is known as the Dalbosjö, with its main part belonging to Dalsland; the eastern body is known as Värmlandsjön, its northern parts belonging to Värmland and the southern to Västergötland.

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