Lech (river)

The Lech (Latin: Licus, Licca) is a river in Austria and Germany. It is a right tributary of the Danube 255 kilometres (158 mi) in length with a drainage basin of 3,919 square kilometres (1,513 sq mi).[1] Its source is located in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, where the river rises from lake Formarinsee in the Alps at an altitude of 1,870 metres (6,120 ft). It flows in a north-north-easterly direction and crosses the German border, forming the Lechfall, a 12-metre-high (39 ft) waterfall; afterwards the river enters a narrow gorge (the Lechschlucht). Leaving the Alps, it enters the plains of the Allgäu at Füssen at an elevation of 790 metres (2,580 ft) in the German state of Bavaria, where it used to be the location of the boundary with Swabia. The river runs through the city of Füssen and through the Forggensee, a man-made lake which is drained in winter. Here, it forms rapids and a waterfall.

Drainage basin of the Lech
CountryGermany, Austria
Physical characteristics
  locationNorthern Limestone Alps
  elevation1,865 metres (6,119 ft)
48°44′6″N 10°56′11″E
Length255.3 km (158.6 mi) [1]
Basin size3,919 km2 (1,513 sq mi) [1]
  average115 m3/s (4,100 cu ft/s)
Basin features
ProgressionDanubeBlack Sea

The river flows further northwards through a region called the Lechrain, and passes the cities of Schongau, Landsberg, Augsburg (where it receives the Wertach) and Rain before entering the Danube just below Donauwörth at an elevation of 410 metres (1,330 ft). It is not navigable, owing to its torrential character and the gravel beds which choke its channel. There are extensive views of the Lech valley from Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen.


Inscriptions from 8/7 B. C. prove that the river name is first mentioned in the Celtic tribe name Licates. The river itself is called Likios or Likias in the 2nd century. Around the year 570 the name Licca is found in records. In the 8th century, names such as Lecha and Lech appeared. The term Licus is still used in 1059.

The name stands in analogy to the Welsh word llech ("stone slab") and the Breton word lec'h ("gravestone"). In this context, the meaning of the word "Lech" is explained as "the stony".[2]


On more than one occasion, historic events have been decided on the banks of this river.

Hydroelectric power plants

Currently, there are 33 hydroelectric power plants on the Lech. The power plants are listed beginning at the headwaters:[3]

Dam Name Installed capacity (MW) Year of completion Image
1 Lechstaustufe Horn5.01952
2 Forggensee45.51954
3 Premer Lechsee19.21972
4 Lechstaustufe Lechbruck5.01903/1958
5 Lechstaustufe 3 – Urspring10.21971
6 Lechstaustufe 4 – Dessau10.21971
7 Dornautalsperre16.61960
8 Lechstaustufe 7 – Finsterau7.71950
9 Lechstaustufe 8 – Sperber7.31947
10 Lechstaustufe 8a – Kinsau9.21992
11 Lechstaustufe 9 – Apfeldorf7.21944
12 Lechstaustufe 10 – Epfach8.31948
13 Lechstaustufe 11 – Lechblick8.11943
14 Lechstaustufe 12 – Lechmühlen7.91943
15 Lechstaustufe 13 – Dornstetten8.21943
16 Lechstaustufe 14 – Pitzling7.91944
17 Lechstaustufe 15 – Landsberg8.01944
18 Lechstaustufe 18 – Kaufering16.71975
19 Lechstaustufe 19 – Schwabstadl12.01981
20 Lechstaustufe 20 – Scheuring12.21980
21 Lechstaustufe 21 – Prittriching12.11983
22 Lechstaustufe 22 – Unterbergen12.41982
23 Lechstaustufe 23 – Mandichosee12.01978
24 Hochablass3.12013
25 Eisenbahnerwehr3.22006
26 Wolfzahnauwehr2.02010
27 Kraftwerk Gersthofen9.91901
28 Kraftwerk Langweid7.01908
29 Kraftwerk Meitingen11.61922
30 Staustufe Ellgau10.01952
31 Staustufe Oberpeiching12.31954
32 Staustufe Rain11.21955
33 Staustufe Feldheim8.51960

See also


  • Eberhard Pfeuffer: Der Lech. Wissner-Verlag, Augsburg 2010, ISBN 3-89639-768-0.
  • R. Zettl: Lechauf-lechab. Wißner-Verlag 2002, ISBN 3-89639-316-2.
  • Dr. Peter Nowotny: Erlebnis Lech. Verlag – J. Eberl KG, Immenstadt 2001.
  • Dr. Bernhard Raster: Nutzung und anthropogene Veränderung des Lechs in historischer Zeit. Diss. Würzburg 1979.
  • Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Hrsg.): Altbayerische Flusslandschaften an Donau, Lech, Isar und Inn. = Ausstellungskatalog, Anton H. Konrad, Verlag Weißenhorn 1998.
  • Werner Gamerith: Lechtal. Tyrolia Verlag, Innsbruck-Wien 2002.
  • Peter Nasemann: Lebensraum Füssener Lech. Holdenrieds Druck- und Verlags GmbH, o. J.
  • Norbert Müller: Augsburger Ökologische Schriften, Heft 2: Der Lech. Stadt Augsburg 1991, ISSN 0941-2123
  1. Complete table of the Bavarian Waterbody Register by the Bavarian State Office for the Environment (xls, 10.3 MB)
  2. "Wolf-Armin Frhr. v. Reitzenstein: Lexikon bayerischer Ortsnamen. Herkunft und Bedeutung. C.H.Beck, Munich 2006
  3. "Fichtner: Die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit von großen Laufwasserkraftwerken im liberalisierten Strommarkt – Endbericht (Langfassung). Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Arbeit, 2003
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