Green Lake, Austria was one of the most magical places to dive in the world. Unfortunately, this amazing natural wonder has been closed permanently to swimmers, divers, and even boaters.
In this article, we will take a look at Green Lake Austria, why it was such a great place for diving, and the concerns that led to the lake’s closure.
About Green Lake Austria
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Green Lake is located in the Austrian town of Tragoess, Styria. The name of the lake in German is actually Grüner See, which translates directly to Green Lake. It has also been called the “diamond gem” in the crown of Austria.
The depth of the lake, at its deepest in the spring, is 40 feet or 12 meters. The water temperature ranges from 39 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 to 7 degrees Celsius.
Green Lake is still a wonderful place to hike, but sadly, you can no longer swim or dive there, at least for now. We will explain more about this later.
Green Lake Austria: A Magical Lake
What makes Green Lake so special?
Well, as many people say, it is both a park and a lake!
Green Lake is actually a body of water that grows or shrinks depending on what time of year it is. The depth of the lake in the fall and winter months is just 3 to 6 feet deep (or 1 to 2 meters). Then, as the mountains surrounding the lake melt in the spring, the lake fills up and deluges the park that otherwise surrounds it.
It is during this time, especially in May and June, that Green Lake becomes the divers’ paradise it used to be.
During the time the lake is flooded, you cannot access the park on foot. Areas that could normally be reached by hiking and walking would be underwater, and can only be explored by SCUBA divers. The lake at its maximum size during this time is 400 by 200 meters.
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This would lead to some amazing videos that you can still find on YouTube of SCUBA divers floating by underwater park benches and bridges.
There is not much in the way of marine life in the flooded lake because typically the lake is much smaller. However, you could run into a few trout here and there, as well as some crustaceans.
Because Green Lake’s water is typically so crystal clear, you would be able to have an amazing view under water.
And, because the lake, even at its greatest depths, is relatively shallow compared to the ocean, it was a safe spot for newbie SCUBA divers to practice their underwater skills.
The only downside was how cold the water typically is, even in the spring and summer. We are talking melted snow here, so with super cold water, you would have to wear a wetsuit in Green Lake.
Why Green Lake Austria Was Closed To Divers
Unfortunately, Green Lake is no longer a place where SCUBA divers can go to explore a mystical underwater world.
The lake was closed to swimmers, SCUBA divers, and all watersports by the Tragöß-Grüner See tourism office on January 1, 2016. This includes boats, as well as dogs going in the water. The reason was that sediments stirred up by SCUBA divers and other watersports were ruining the green color of the lake.
Another reason was that “urine” was also clouding up the water, as well as algae.
Many SCUBA divers were upset at this unilateral decision. Many divers felt that the lake could have been protected without completely banning diving activities. One way to do this would be to issue permits for any diving activities and water sports in Green Lake.
Even online commenters were skeptical of “urine” being a reason that the lake may have been adversely affected by swimmers and divers. One skeptical commenter wrote on the Daily Mail website:
“What absolute BS… it would take millions of gallons of urine to have any kind of adverse effect. And you can’t tell me animals don’t pee in there as well.”
However, let us be completely fair. We all know that getting a wetsuit on and off is not the easiest thing in the world. And surfers and SCUBA divers regularly go to the bathroom (to pee, not poop!) in their wetsuits.
Sure, peeing doesn’t really make a huge difference in the big ocean with all its salt water, but it is possible that it could have a greater effect on a pristine lake.
At any rate, angry comments won’t reopen the lake to SCUBA divers most certainly. And, as of this writing, no plans are underway to reopen Green Lake to swimmers and SCUBA divers, even with permits.
If you go to the official Green Lake website, which is in German, you can see that they have a graphic that bans swimmers and anyone in a mask or snorkel. Danke! (Thank you!)
What Divers Can Learn From The Green Lake Austria Closure
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Generally speaking, serious water-loving people are respectful of the environment and do what they can to take care of our precious lakes and oceans.
No experienced free diver or SCUBA diver wants to deal with trash or toxic pollution when in the water.
So, is it really the serious divers who caused problems that prompted the closing of the Green Lake in Austria? Or was it casual tourists and lookie-loos that didn’t really know what they were doing? Were they careless and caused more problems than they needed to?
This can be extremely frustrating, especially when tacky tourists who are negligent end up ruining a place for everyone else.
It is not far-fetched to presume that other popular water destinations could be closed down permanently to all divers, even ones who are well trained and cautious with the environment.
What You Can Do To Keep Diving Locations Open
With this danger of water closures in mind, SCUBA divers and avid water-loving folks need to be conscious of any footprints (or flipper prints) they leave behind at popular destinations. Make sure you treat the land and the seas with respect. Here are some tips:
1. Pick Up Your Trash (And Others’ Trash As Well)
If you are going to a natural location for a dive, make sure you pick up your trash before you leave. While you’re at it, be a good planetary citizen and pick up other people’s trash as well.
In some areas, you may be able to join a volunteer group, like Heal the Bay in Los Angeles, that regularly holds group beach clean-ups.
2. Follow The Rules
The rules are there for a reason. Follow them, even if they seem stupid. If the rules truly don’t make sense and are too restrictive, then try to get them changed gracefully and through legal means.
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This also means that you should not sneak in and try to dive at night when no-one is around to stop you. Besides, night diving can be very dangerous, even in a clear lake like Green Lake in Austria.
3. Join Beach Access Rights Organizations
The Surfrider Foundation may be an organization that is primarily for surfers, but can be joined by anyone who loves the water. While they are an environmental organization, they are also advocates for beach accessibility. Many beaches are not accessible to the public because they have been taken for private purposes or are being too heavily restricted.
Beach access is a big issue at Surfrider. Surfrider is one of the few groups that actively advocates for public access to publicly owned land that people should be entitled to use. Now, while shallow waters might not be a high priority to deep sea divers, the issues do overlap.
4. Treat Pristine Mountain Lakes With Extra Care
As we mentioned above, peeing in wetsuits is common practice in the ocean by surfers and divers. And if you do it there, you are not likely to cause any problems. However, it is possible that this practice could be a lot more harmful in a clear lake…which is obviously a lot smaller than a big, deep ocean.
Therefore, try to pee before you go diving in a lake. Sure, you are human and may really need to go once you are out there, but don’t just “pee freely” because it could end up removing your access to the lake.
The Future Of Green Lake Austria
Green Lake Austria is no longer a great dive destination due to recent rules banning swimming and diving in the pristine waters. While the ban was supposedly permanent, who knows. Perhaps some possible day in the future, this amazing feat of nature will be open again to divers.
In the meantime, make sure you are respectful of the environment when you do go in the water.