Lake Võrtsjärv region
Estonia’s largest inland lake
Võrtsjärv is Estonia’s second largest lake. Although Lake Peipus is larger, it is shared between Estonia and Russia. The name of the lake (Võrtsjärv) is possibly derived from the reeds, which, known commonly as ‘võrrits’, grow plentifully along its shores.
Although Lake Võrtsjärv makes up 13% of the total surface area of all Estonia’s lakes, it is very shallow. Its average depth is 2.8 m and at its deepest it is 6 m.
Eighteen rivers flow into Lake Võrtsjärv, Väike Emajõgi River being the main one. Taking liberties, it could be said that Lake Võrtsjärv is simply a huge widening of the Emajõgi River, whose riverbed carves a deeper canal in the otherwise shallow lake. As the river leaves the lake it is called Suur Emajõgi River. Because it is connected to Lake Peipus and the larger Russian rivers, it is well stocked with fish – over 30 species have been recorded. The main eating fish are eel, bream, zander, perch and pike. Võrtsjärv Limnology Centre has been operating at Vehendi for over half a century.
Emajõgi river, which rises to cover a large area in spring, is also an important route for migrating birds. Very large numbers of bean geese and greater white fronted geese stop beside Lake Võrtsjärv. The lake is also a very important stop-over point for smew. Many bitterns, almost a tenth of all Estonia’s birds, nest among the reeds along the shore of Lake Võrtsjärv. One can often see white-tailed eagles and ospreys flying above the water. Võrtsjärv Nature Reserve, which extends to the adjacent flood-meadows, constructed wetlands and polders, was created for the preservation of the lake’s ecosystem and belongs to the Natura 2000 network.
If you visit Lake Võrtsjärv you should also try sailing a local traditional sailing boat called a ‘kale’.