Kalkalpen National Park

Kalkalpen National Park


Location: Upper Austria Map

Area: 21,000 hectares

Official site


Kalkalpen National Park is a protected reserve in the Northern Limestone Alps in the state of Upper Austria in Austria. In fact its name Kalk- alpen is derived from the name of its location.


The National Park Society is based in Molln, but there are also visitor centers in Reichraming and Windischgarsten that offer information material, events and exhibitions. Other surrounding towns are: Roßleithen, Rosenau am Hengstpaß, Weyer, Großraming and St. Pankraz.

The national park covers an area of ​​20,856 hectares. Of these, 89% are designated as a natural zone, eleven percent are conservation zones. 88% of the area is owned by the Austrian Federal Forests, 11% privately owned and 1% municipally owned.



People lived in the national park region as early as the Stone Age. Seven stone artefacts from Stone Age hunters between 18,000 and 10,000 BC. Chr. were found in the Nixloch (municipality of Losenstein).

Several axes and a lance point from around 1000 BC have been found in the municipality of Windischgarsten. found. They point to a settlement and inspection of the passes.

In this part of Upper Austria, on the borders with Lower Austria and Styria, mainly wood was felled in the core of the limestone foothills for the small iron industry of the Eisenwurzen, and in particular the large-scale industry around the city of Steyr - most small streams carry too little water for iron works themselves. The hunting grounds of the Counts of Lamberg, in which the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand was also a hunting tenant after 1900, were particularly untouched. Even in the interwar period, a transport axis was created with the Reichraming forest railway, which was in operation until the early 1970s. Even after the decline of the iron processing industry (particularly during the global economic crisis), a largely intact natural and cultural landscape was preserved here.

In 1976 the nature reserve Sengsengebirge was established. From the 1980s, active people (grassroots group, ARGE) and the ÖNB nature conservation association were involved in opposing both the project by the steel company VÖEST to set up a firing range for tanks in the uninhabited Hintergebirge and the subsequent plans by Ennskraftwerke AG to set up two reservoirs in the Hintergebirge. After the "occupation" of the Hintergebirge by opponents of the power plant (during the conflicts surrounding the Hainburg Au), the prospective power plant gave up his plan in April 1985.

Already in 1983 there were first plans for a national park in the Reichraminger Hintergebirge. At that time, Upper Austria did not yet have its own national park. Planning began in 1990, and the corresponding national park law was passed in 1996 in the Upper Austrian state parliament. On July 21, 1997, the National Park was established by decree, initially on an area of ​​16,509 hectares, and on July 25, 1997, the Kalkalpen National Park was finally opened. The international recognition of the Kalkalpen National Park by the IUCN as a category II protected area took place in the same year.

In 2001, the national park was expanded to 18,400 hectares. In 2003 it was expanded again to 20,856 hectares. Since 2004, the national park has also been a Ramsar area and Natura 2000 area (European protected area under both the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive). In 2009 there was a further change in area in accordance with the decision of the EC Commission of December 12, 2008.

In 2013, a dispute about the intended construction of the first wind power plants in the region around the national park began. In September 2013, Energie AG OÖ gave up its two wind power projects planned in the Steyr and Ennstal valleys because measurements had shown that the wind levels in the Sonnkogel-Schneeberg and Fahrenberg-Mittereck areas were not sufficient for economic viability. With the new wind power master plan in 2017, this became obsolete, and since then the entire Alpine region of the federal state has been a strict exclusion zone for large-scale plants.

In 2017, parts of the Kalkalpen National Park together with the Rothwald primeval forest and other forests in Europe were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site Primeval Beech Forests and Old Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe.


Geography and geology

The highest peak is the Hohe Nock at 1963 meters.

Four-fifths of the site is forested, with a mixed forest of spruce, fir and beech dominating.

There are over 200 km of undeveloped streams and 800 springs in the national park area.

The main types of rock in the national park are Wetterstein limestone and main dolomite.

So far, more than 70 caves have been discovered in the area of ​​the Kalkalpen National Park. The largest cave system in the national park is the Klara Cave, which was discovered in 2004. The deepest cave is the Krestenberg shaft, which drops 412 m from its entrance at 1165 m above sea level. There are also ice caves in the park, these are only accessible to experienced cavers. The “Ice Chapel” is located in the Sengsen Mountains. This cave essentially consists of a 60 m long, 30 m wide and about 6 m high hall. In some years, an ice pillar stays in the middle of the room until autumn. This cave used to be called "Devil's Chapel" by the locals.


Flora and fauna

Around 30 species of mammals, 80 species of breeding birds and 1500 species of butterflies live in the park. The flora has over 1000 different species of flowering plants, ferns and mosses.

Endangered species of mammals include otters, dormice and numerous species of bats in the national park. There are individual records of brown bears, lynxes and beavers.

The park is the habitat of many bird species that are on the Red List in Austria, including: capercaillie, tree falcon, black grouse, whinchat, kingfisher, gray heron, hawk, hazel grouse, stock dove, short-toed eagle, black stork, golden eagle, sparrowhawk, eagle owl, woodcock, peregrine falcon , dipper, white-backed woodpecker, honey buzzard, meadow pipit, nightjar and little flycatcher.

Endangered reptiles in the park include: Aesculapian snake, mountain lizard, slow worm, smooth snake/smooth snake, adder, grass snake and sand lizard.

Of the more than 850 proven plant species in the park, 102 are on the Red List of Endangered Plants in Upper Austria.

In 2019, the oldest dated beech tree in Europe was discovered. Their oldest tree rings have been dated to 1474. The oldest previously dated beech tree in Europe, around 20 years younger, is also located in the national park.

The national park area is under special protection and is easily accessible with hiking trails. The surrounding communities use the area exclusively for soft tourism.

There are 20 alpine pastures in the conservation zone, only a few of which are farmed.

Worth mentioning is the mountain cycle path on the old route of the former Reichraming forest railway, which opens up the eastern part of the national park. At the Brunnbach information hut in the national park, information about the forest railway is conveyed on display boards.