Gesäuse National Park

Location: Upper Styria Map

Area: 110 km²

Official site


Description of Gesause National Park

Gesause National Park is Austria's youngest parks. It was established on 26 Oct, 2002 and covers 110 km2. Gesause National Park lies in the valley of the Enns river in the mountainous region of Ennstal Alps in the Upper Styrian province of Austria. Today it covers 110 square km and was established on October 26, 2002. The highest peak in Gesause National Park is mount Hochtor at 2369 m (7772 ft) and most of the park cover altitudes between 480 m and 2369 meters above sea level. Gesause National Park is largely covered by pine trees, spruce and fir. Mountain peaks are largely trees with alpine fields. The river valley is home to numerous rare animals and plants.



The currently (according to GIS) 12,118 hectares (around 120 km²) area is west of the Ennsknies in Upper Styria. The planning area at the time it was founded covered a total of 125 km². Over 99% of today's area is owned by the Styrian State Forests, only a small percentage is public water or private property. Characteristic are the steep Gesäuse mountains with their striking rocks and the gorge-like valley section of the Enns between the entrance to the Gesäuse and Hieflau. The altitude is between 490 m and 2369 m (Hochtor).

The national park is divided into a natural zone and a conservation zone. The natural zone covers around 75% of the area and will remain free of intervention after the completion of planned management measures. The conservation zone allows restricted forms of use (such as extensive alpine farming) and includes infrastructure.

In order to come closer to the goal of freedom from interference, after extensive preparations in 2018, 85% of the area was designated as a biotope protection forest (according to §32a Forestry Act 1975). In this case, the landowner is released from the obligation to take mandatory measures against bark beetle infestation. While no forest hygiene measures are carried out in this designated zone, such measures are strictly implemented in the remaining areas in order to protect adjacent forest operations and infrastructure from the effects of large-scale calamities.


Natural space

The habitats of water, forest, alpine pastures and rock are the defining elements in the Gesäuse National Park. Due to their special importance, they were incorporated into the national park's logo in the form of blue, green and gray stripes. The Enns river roars its way through a gorge at the entrance to the Gesäuse natural monument. Behind it is fed by the tributaries Johnsbach and Hartelsgraben, as well as numerous water bodies, some of which are only temporary. About half of the national park area is covered by forest. Alluvial forests and maple-ash forests can be found in the valley. Snow heather pine forests grow as Ice Age relicts in some locations. In terms of area, spruce-fir-beech forests make up a large proportion, with many forests having been heavily influenced by forestry in the past, with spruce dominating them today. Larch joins in at higher altitudes. As a special feature, the easternmost stands of Swiss stone pine grow here. Above the tree line, the mountain pine forms a closed belt of crooked wood. Due to the high relief energy, plants also migrate down the valley in the debris and avalanche channels, so that a large number of alpine plants (and animals) can also be found near the valley in the Gesäuse National Park.

Specially protected species
Proven species of the Habitats Directive are Apollo butterflies, common ant blue, Spanish flag, yellow ringed and scabious fritillaries, longhorned beetle, yellow-bellied toad, bullhead, Ukrainian brook lamprey, barbabie bat, lesser horseshoe bat and otter. Among the plants, yellow lady's slipper, green forktooth moss and green tarsier moss are listed.

Of the 90 breeding bird species, 17 are listed in Appendix I of the Bird Protection Directive and 24 are endangered throughout Austria.

The Gesäuse National Park is considered a hot spot for endemics. The density of species with a small geographical distribution is particularly high in this part of the Northeastern Limestone Alps. The national park's official website lists 30 endemic plant species, including the dainty (beautiful) feather carnation, the north-eastern alpine poppy or the Austrian bellflower. Among the animal species, 195 endemics are named, including the northern giant eye, a harvestman, and the Styrian creeper, a ground beetle.



At the end of the 19th century, the Styrian State Forests were founded to protect against land speculation.
In 1913 there were first proposals for the creation of a Styrian nature reserve in the Niedere Tauern and at the same time plans for the large-scale use of hydropower in the Gesäuse.
In 1958, the Styrian provincial government declared the Gesäuse and the adjoining Ennstal up to the provincial border as well as the Wildalpener Salzatal to be the first nature conservation areas in the province.
In 1977 a resolution was passed by the state parliament to create a Niedere Tauern National Park. Various studies and controversial discussions followed.
In the autumn of 1997, the forerunner of the Gesäuse National Park Association was established, which is committed to the national park.
In 1998, a protection group for the Gesäuse National Park was founded to oppose the establishment of a national park.
In 2001 there were several referendums that did not end uniformly.
On March 12, 2002, the National Park Act was passed in the state parliament.
On March 1, 2003, the ordinances, national park declaration and national park plan came into force.
On December 5, 2003, the Gesäuse National Park was internationally recognized as a category II protected area by the IUCN.
On February 9, 2006, the Gesäuse National Park Alpine Region Tourism Association was founded and expanded in November 2007. Until the end of 2014 it comprised 12 municipalities, after that 5.


Tourism infrastructure

Tourism association Gesaeuse
The three national park communities cooperate with other communities in the region in the Gesäuse Tourist Association. As part of the municipal structural reform in Styria, the tourism association founded in 2006 was also restructured on January 1, 2015 in accordance with the Styrian Tourism Act of 1992 (§ 4 Para. 3).

The communities are (in brackets the local class):
Admont (B)
Altenmarkt near St. Gallen (C)
Ardning (C)
Landl (B)
St. Gallen (B)

Important Places
The tourist office is based in Admont, where the information office for visitors is located.
The national park administration is located in Weng.
The national park pavilion is located in the middle of the national park in Gstatterboden. In addition to gastronomy, the building offers a fascinating view of the Hochtor group. The building made of wood, glass and concrete is decorated in the colors of the national park.
Near Johnsbach, on the Enns, you will find the willow cathedral, a willow church complex made of living trees and tarpaulins, in which you can see e.g. presentations and microscope observations. Another attraction for nature and environmental education is the "Walkable Ecological Footprint" in its immediate vicinity.
Theme trails include the "Au-Erlebnispfad" through the Lettmayr Au, the "Wilde John" from Weidendom to Johnsbach, the Johnsbacher Kupferweg between the copper show mine in the Radmer and Johnsbach and the Lynx Trail, which includes the protected areas of the Kalkalpen National Park and the Gesäuse National Park and Dürrenstein wilderness area.