The „Experience-Stations“ (e.g. eagle flight panorama, 3D cinema, marmot&friends) will bring the visitors into the thick of the biggest nature reserve of the alps. New is the worldwide unique nationalpark 360° panorama cinema!
The idea and its Realisation
1872 saw the establishment of the first National Park in the world, the Yellowstone National Park in the USA. From that time onwards, the idea became prevalent all over the world that outstanding natural landscapes of national significance should be protected by governments and made accessible to the people for “joy and edification”. To this day, more than 3,000 national parks have been set up. Amongst them are such famous protected areas as the Serengeti, the Galapagos Islands and Mt. Everest. The Hohe Tauern National Park was established in 1981 and was the first National Park in Austria. During the following decades, with three different Provinces (Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol) contributing to it and with an area of 1,800 km2, the National Park became the largest protected area in Central Europe. The Hohe Tauern National Park is almost exclusively located on private property, and because of the size of the protected area this makes it unique throughout the world. The National Park has always developed against a background of co-operation based on partnership. In 2001 this approach opened the way for the National Park to gain “international recognition” under the criteria of the IUCN, the World Conservation Union.
Development and Formation
A wild virgin landscape alongside one cultivated by mountain farmers. These are the two faces of the Hohe Tauern National Park. The protected area stretches across both of them: the broad alpine virgin landscape with its glaciers, rock faces and green swards and the alpine pastures that have been carefully and laboriously cultivated for hundreds of years. After the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago, the Hohe Tauern took on the appearance of a barren desert of rock and debris. Only cautiously did animals and plants colonise this new environment. These were above all species coming from the cold Steppes of Central Asia, from the Arctic and from the Siberian tundra. At first they colonised valley bottoms. But, as the temperatures rose again, they followed the retreating glaciers up into the mountainous areas. Here, at the heart of the National Park, they nowadays inhabit remarkable biotic communities at the very limit of existence. The valleys became once more the home of woodland. Spruces came from the Balkans, the larches and Swiss stone pines from the Asian Taiga. In this way the stratified vegetation, so typical of the Alps, gradually came into being. Rising from the valleys up into the mountains is equivalent to a 4,000 kilometre journey to the Arctic.
A third of all plant species native to Austria and about 10,000 animal species find a home in the Hohe Tauern National Park. For eight months of the year there is winter with the very lowest of temperatures; there is hardly any spring or autumn. Organisms that live in high mountains have to be specialists in coping with stress. Many of them have developed special adaptations in their bodily make-up, physiology, and behaviour. Therefore they can only survive here. It is not possible for them to switch to other habitats. However, during the summer months the Hohe Tauern positively radiates with an unbelievable vitality. Innumerable flowers sprout brightly coloured blooms whose intense scents attract insects for pollination. The mountain pastures are transformed into gorgeous oceans of flowers. The snow grouse gather at their mating places; on stone slabs, marmots bask in the sunshine; the ravens demonstrate their impressive aerobatic skills. The flora and fauna put on a display of great splendour and vitality. It is almost as if nature could sense how brief the “good time” would be. This is why walking in the Hohe Tauern in summer represents such an extraordinary experience. There are golden eagles, ibexes, bearded vultures, edelweiss, arnica, a multitude of orchids, ancient Swiss stone pines, gnarled larches, and many more besides these –they are all so well suited to this magnificent landscape.
Despite the severe conditions of life, the Hohe Tauern is home to a multitude of biotope types that can be found nowhere else in Austria. Some of them are amongst the richest in populations of species of any in the whole of the Alpine area – such as, the colourful alpine hay meadows. The National Park’s miracles of nature can be enjoyed particularly by mountain enthusiasts, on the hundreds of kilometres of footpaths – from the tranquil valleys up to the high alpine trekking routes. An absolutely exceptional experience of nature awaits those who entrust themselves to the National Park’s ‘programmes for visitors’. We have a specially trained team of National Park helpers and their services will be at your disposal.
Glaciers – Changing Landscapes
Glaciers come into being when summer temperatures are too low to melt the snow from the previous winter. In this way, year on year, layers of snow come to lie one on top of another. After being first transformed into firn, with the increasing pressure, these become solid ice. Because of this, glacial ice is not a rigid body, but as a slow-moving mass flows downwards to the valley with the force of gravity. This leads to straining forces when it flows over areas where there are rounded hilltops. These forces are released, as crevasses in the ice are ripped open. Despite the fact that the Alpine glaciers have been retreating over the last decades, the Hohe Tauern can today still boast some absolute treasures amongst its impressive ice mountains, such as, the Pasterze Glacier. With a length of 9 km and an area of almost19 km2, it is the largest single glacier in Austria. Another treasure is the Grossvenediger massif, armoured with the ice of the largest coherent glacial area in the Eastern Alps. In the areas where the glaciers have retreated, a quickly changing landscape is revealed. At first debris moraines piled up by the glacial ice still dominate, but soon the fauna pioneers start to re-colonise such an obviously inhospitable habitat.
Land from the Farmers’ Hands
For 5,000 years human beings have been living in the valleys of the Hohe Tauern. Originally the search for ores drew them here. Over the course of many centuries high above the timber line an open landscape with alpine pastures emerged. These were carefully cultivated by busy farmers’ hands and served for the grazing of their domestic livestock. A special feature of the Hohe Tauern National Park is the fact that not only genuine natural landscapes are part of the protected area but also cultured landscapes shaped by farmers. The long-standing symbiosis between wild nature and cultivated landscape resulted in an extraordinary diversity of animal and plant species, but, as well as this, a wealth of secular and religious gems from farming life. The outer zone of the National Park is an El Dorado for enjoyable walks set in a landscape that has always been good to man, despite demanding his strenuous labours. Man has always depended upon it in order to survive. The completely isolated alpine meadows covered with a thick carpet of flowers that have to be scythed by hand, the strong and healthy domestic animals, the delicious alpine pasture products, the alpine huts and chapels, and air clear as glass: all of these things conjure up an old-world dream of a landscape that invites one to linger.