Favorite thing: The slopes around the lake are covered with deciduous forest. The vegetation here is not yet high alpine (this will change at higher altitudes) but rich with the flowers of the forest and lush meadows. In late May there were lots and lots of colourful flowers in bloom along the lakeshore trail. We saw a lot of wild columbines (photo 1) ; the wild species has this strange brownish-violet colour. The rampions (Phyteuma orbiculare), also named Devil’s Claw (Teufelskralle in German), with their bizarre ink-blue blossoms were another remarkable flower.
Beautiful as it is, a closer look at the lake and its banks reveals that it is not entirely natural. The rivers and streams that run into it are controlled and canalized, on the western shore there is an artificial waterfall, and there is no river exiting it. The outflow is all hidden, there is but a walled dry canal that serves as overflow if there is too much water. The lake has natural origins but has been turned into a reservoir that serves for the production of electricity.
I am providing a home-made and slightly summarized translation of the text on the information board in photo 1 here. The original can be found besides the trail at the Southern end of the lake.
The lake of Molveno, about 800 metres of altitude, is located in the valley cut that separates the mountain group of the Brenta in the West from the Paganello-Gazza ridge in the East. About 4.5 kms long and 1.5 kms wide, it is one of the biggest lakes in Trentino, and also the deepest after the Garda, its waters in fact reach a depth of more than 120 metres.
The current appearance of the lake is much different from the original one. The original lake of enchanting beauty has been transformed into a hydroelectric reservoir in the 1950s, when a series of underground works were executed at the entry and exit of the water.
The most striking effect of the use for hydroelectric power production are the periodic changes of the water level which, especially in winter, can give the banks of the basin a desert-like and moon-like look.
It must have been this effect that sandysmith describes in her page - we were luckier; the lake was almost full after a winter with lots of snow.
The origin of the lake of Molveno is connected to the blockage of the valley by a gigantic landslide that came down the slopes of the Brenta massif in ancient times.
In the 1950s, when the lake was dried, on its ground there were found more than 200 fossile trunks of beech trees and coniferes whose life had suddenly ended 3,000 years ago when the valley was flooded after the great landslide.
The „jewel“ of the lake’s fauna is the Alpine Salmon (Salvellinus alpinus), a fish that in Italy exists only in a few mountain lakes in the Alps. It is a relic of the ice age, i. e. a species from Northern Europe that reached our latitudes with the expansion of the glaciers to the South in the last ice age, ended about 15,000 years ago.
The Brenta massif is geologically part of the Dolomites although it is located West of the Adige valley, thus outside the region that is generally considered the “Dolomiti” area. The rocks consist of whiteish limestone, some layers even have a pink colour. This kind of rock is prone to weathering and forms very steep, rugged peaks.
The Brenta massif is part of Brenta-Adamello, a national park with an amazing amount of wildlife. Even specieses like brown bears and lynx which are extinct in most of Europe live there in the wild. Under normal circumstances you will not see anything of these animals, though – except the plush versions that populate every souvenir shop.
Fondest memory: From Molveno, the best views of the Brenta group can be caught from the Eastern shore of the lake. There is a viewing terrace by the road at the end of the village near the Grand Hotel. Or walk the Giro del Lago trail. The view is finest in the morning when there is little wind and the sunlit peaks are reflected in the calm water of the lake.