Thayatal National Park is a protected reserve located in the Lower Austria on the border with a Czech Republic where protected biosphere stretches into Podyjí National Park.
Location: Lower Austria Map
Area: 1300 hectares
Thayatal National Park reserve gets its name after a river Thaya that flows between hills. At 311 km it is the longest tributary to the Morava River. Originally this area was supposed to be filled up by an artificial lake after construction of a hydro plant. However public outcry stopped these plans from fruition. Thayatal National Park was established in 1997 after the Lower Austrian National Parks Act. Currently there are plans to expand the area, but no concrete steps have been made.
The tallest peak in Thayatal National Park is a mount Umlaufberg, completely surrounded by forests and rift valleys. This smallest protected area of Austria was established in 1971 and covers a total 1300 hectares of pristine untouched nature. In addition to marvellous nature you can visit ruins of medieval stronghold of Kaja and Hardegg Castle within its boundaries.
In addition to the town of Hardegg, the national park also includes Hardegg Castle and the Kaja ruins. Directly from the Austrian part you can go to the Czech National Park in Hardegg over the bridge over the Thaya, which forms the state border, or go by bike.
In addition to the orientation towards the sun, the shape of the valley and the chemical properties of the bedrock are also responsible for the ecological diversity.
Although the national park is much older on the Czech side, efforts to place it under protection in Austria also go back a long way.
After it became known in 1984 that a power plant was to be built on the Czech side of the Thaya, citizens' initiatives and the city of Hardegg successfully tried to prevent this.
In 1988 and 1991, two areas along the Thaya were placed under nature protection by decree of the Lower Austrian provincial government. These two areas are the forerunners of today's national park.
After the national park was created in the Czech Republic in 1991, it was decided in Austria as early as 1992 to draw level with the protected status.
After the preparation of the various feasibility studies and the creation of the legal framework, the state treaty was signed in 1997 between the Ministers Bartenstein and Edlinger for the Republic and Governor Proell for the State of Lower Austria for the establishment of the national park.
The smallest national park in Austria is home to half of all plant species found in the country. The reason for this is that the area lies on the climatic boundary between the rougher, wetter plateau climate of the Central European transitional climate in the Waldviertel and the continentally influenced Pannonian climate in the Weinviertel. In the western part and on the shady northern slopes, beech forest communities dominate, in which sycamore, yew and sycamore elm can also be seen in addition to the common beech. In the herb layer grow martagon lily, daphne, sorrel, onion toothroot, single-flowered pearl grass and, as a special feature, the white forest bird.
Especially in the eastern part of the area, oak and hornbeam forests can be found on the southern slopes, which are very dry and warm due to the sun's rays. The larva of the stag beetle is growing in the fallen trees. The rare steppe polecat migrates through the larger dry and warm oak forest stands of the Czech national park.
Numerous rare animal and plant species have been able to defend their habitat in the Thayatal: otters, dice snakes, crested newts and the white-tailed eagle as winter guests benefit from the intact river ecosystem. Black storks, Aesculapian snakes and white-backed woodpeckers live hidden in the near-natural forest stands. The dry grasslands and rocky sites are also an important habitat for endangered species such as the eastern green lizard, smooth snake, eagle owl and common raven. After the opening of the Iron Curtain, animal species that had already disappeared from Austria were sighted again in the Thayatal: the elk and the wildcat.
The valley on the border: Thayatal National Park, documentary, 50 min., Austria, 2000, production: Lotus Film, written and directed by: Heinz Leger
In the realm of the wildcat: 10 years Thayatal National Park, documentary film, 23 min., Austria, 2009, production: ORF-Landesstudio Niederösterreich, director: Sabine Daxberger
Experience Austria: Return of the Wilderness - The Thayatal National Park in Lower Austria, documentary, Austria, 2020, Austria, 2009, production: ORF-Landesstudio Niederösterreich, director: Sabine Daxberger