Danube-Auen National Park

Location: Danube River, Lower Austria Map

Area: 93 km²



Description of Danube- Auen National Park

The Donau-Auen National Park is a 9,600-hectare national park stretching from Vienna to the mouth of the Morava in Lower Austria on the state border with Slovakia. It is one of the largest largely intact floodplain landscapes in Central Europe along the Danube. The area is 38 kilometers long, barely four kilometers at its widest point and includes areas in the municipalities of Vienna (Lobau), Groß-Enzersdorf, Orth an der Donau, Eckartsau, Engelhartstetten, Hainburg, Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Petronell- Carnuntum, Regelsbrunn, Haslau-Maria Ellend, Fischamend and Schwechat. After parts of today's national park became Ramsar area as Untere Lobau and across borders with Slovakia as Donau-March-Thaya-Auen in 1983, the national park has been a protected area according to IUCN category II since 1996. Long-distance hiking trail 07 and the Danube cycle path lead through the national park.


Creation of the national park

Until the 19th century, the Danube was an unregulated river. From then on, people began to drastically change the natural balance of this river landscape through extensive regulations. Many tributaries were dammed and since then the Danube has only flowed through them during high water levels. Further massive interventions followed due to decades of forestry use in large parts of the alluvial forests. In the 1950s, the expansion of an almost complete chain of run-of-river power plants in the Austrian part of the Danube (Österreichische Donaukraftwerke) began.

In 1984, the planned construction of the Hainburg run-of-river power plant threatened the destruction of the last free-flowing section of the Danube with its alluvial forests alongside the Wachau. Calls from nature and environmental protection groups sparked nationwide protests. When the operators of the power plant project did not give in and started clearing, the Hainburger Au was occupied by thousands of people from all age and professional groups ("Hainburg Movement"). After several unsuccessful attempts to clear the area by police units in December 1984, the federal government ordered a pause for thought, and in early January 1985 the Supreme Court banned further clearing. In March 1985, 353,906 people called for the ban on large power plants such as Hainburg and the establishment of a national park in the Hainburg area in the form of the so-called Konrad-Lorenz referendum. On July 1, 1986, the administrative court overturned the water rights decision.

Extensive scientific investigations were carried out and surprising discoveries were made. Far more fish species were found in the Danube than were known at the time the power plant was planned.

The most important result of these studies was that the Donauauen in and east of Vienna are worthy of a national park. It was also stated that a power station is incompatible with a national park. On October 27, 1996, a state treaty was signed between the Republic of Austria and the provinces of Vienna and Lower Austria. The Donau-Auen National Park was thus officially opened.

In October 2016, the area was expanded to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the national park. The protected area was enlarged by a total of 277 hectares in Lower Austria and Vienna. The city of Vienna contributes 17 hectares to Fischamend, which border on the Mannswörth district. The remaining 260 hectares in the Petroneller Au were included for private reasons of the Abensperg and Traun family. A cooperation agreement was agreed for a further 140 hectares for forest use.

1996 to January 2019 Carl Manzano
Since February 2019 Edith Klauser


Flora and fauna

In the protected area there are more than 700 species of higher plants, more than 30 species of mammals and 100 species of breeding birds, 8 species of reptiles and 13 species of amphibians and about 50 species of fish. The characteristic inhabitants of the floodplain landscape of the national park include Danube crested newts, European pond turtles, dogfish, white-tailed eagles, kingfishers and beavers. With the rich fauna of terrestrial and aquatic insects and other invertebrates, the total number of animal species in the Donau-Auen National Park is estimated at at least 5000.


The current
The flood protection structures erected around 1900 separated the Danube from the side arms. The result was a higher current speed and increasing deepening of the river bed in the main stream, while sand and clay deposits could no longer be sufficiently broken down in the side arms, which were no longer flown through. Because in natural ecosystems, the natural flow water dynamics are significantly influenced by trees and deadwood; through bank definition, erosion reduction, floating debris and accumulation, through the creation of areas with different current velocities or silting up zones. The water accumulates on trunks and smaller flotsam and reduces the flow rate, which leads to the deposition of sediment.

In order to counteract this, since 2002 individual side arms have been reconnected to the main stream by means of so-called waterway networks, i.e. lowering or breaking through of the Danube protective dam, so that they can be flown through at least when the water level is higher. In a model project completed in 2006 with the support of the LIFE+ program of the EU and the Austrian waterway company via donau, the entire 3 km bank barrier opposite Hainburg was removed, so that the river now has the opportunity to spread out again. In a similar project, a kilometer of bank protection was also removed near Witzelsdorf. After the Hainburg and Witzelsdorf pilot projects have been carried out, 50% of the Danube bank between Vienna and the eastern state border is to be dismantled as part of the overall river engineering project. In addition to revitalizing the floodplain, it is hoped that the effects of flooding will be alleviated and the bottom of the river bed will be stabilized in the interests of ecology and shipping.

The Donau-Auen National Park for visitors
Visits to the National Park begin at Schloss Orth National Park Center, the information center.

Habitats, animals and plants of the national park region are presented on the palace island, the outdoor area of ​​the center. A walk-in underwater station allows an underwater view of native fish in the castle pond.

Also popular are guided excursions with the national park rangers, who offer hikes and boat tours in rubber dinghies, canoes or in a replica Tschaike (long, narrow wooden boat with walls) as half-day or full-day tours. Workshops, themed events, festivals and project weeks for schools are also held.

Other information points are the national park information point Schloss Eckartsau and the national parkhaus wien-lobAU.

Wilderness along the river – Donau-Auen National Park, documentary Universum, 50 min., Austria, 2010, by Franz Hafner, ORF.
Wilderness by the great river. Donauauen National Park, documentary film, 50 min., Austria, 1996, by Manfred Christ, production: ORF.
Resisting the current: Hainburg – the Austrian way, documentary film, 60 min. short version / 80 min. normal version, Switzerland, 1987, by Roberto A. Epple, production: VIDOC, Vienna/Rorschach, Switzerland. (The documentation paints a close-up picture of the atmosphere and events of the legendary occupation of Hainburg in 1984 - the basis for the creation of a national park.)
Wild Austria - The power of water. In the flow of time, ARTE/ORF 2018

A large number of media from and around the Donau-Auen National Park can be found in the information center, which is the Download Service Center of the Donau-Auen National Park. This offers files and media in the following areas for download:

Reading events: Lectures and complete documentation of conferences and symposiums on the NPDA.
Scientific publications on the NPDA: Publications of the scientific series of the NPDA as well as scientific studies and project reports.
History of the NPDA: Documents on history up to establishment and on history from establishment.
Maps of the NPDA region: Historical maps and maps used in national park work.
DANUBEPARKS: all media printed in the course of the development of DANUBEPARKS.
The textual, graphic and audio-visual source material presented in the information center comes mainly from the Donau-Auen National Park GmbH and is now available to the general public.

The national park administration publishes the annual Au-Blick information sheet. In 2011, the edition number 35 had a circulation size of 300,000 copies.