Direction: off highway 107
Area: 1,834 km2 (690 sq mi)
Hohe Tauern National Park is the largest National Park in Austria and covers an area of 1,834 km2 (690 sq mi) that cover partial territories of Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol. Hohe Tauern National Park is an extensive area that protects biosphere of the Central Eastern Alps covering several glaciers, picturesque waterfalls and the highest peaks east of the Brenner Pass. The most spectacular tourist destination is a Krimml Waterfalls.
Hohe Tauern National Park was established in 1971 and after several decades nature reserve is full of life and diversity. Centuries of human presence is now largely covered by lush vegetation. Its fauna includes Alpine ibex, chamois and red deer. Some of the most important burds that nest here include the golden eagle and griffon vulture. Reintroduction program of formerly extinct Bearded vulture and Alpine marmot have been successful. Hohe Tauern National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Austria. The best time to visit these lands is in late May to early September. Winter months make many of the hiking trails hard to access and quiet dangerous.
The area is:
in the state of Salzburg in the communities of Krimml, Wald im Pinzgau, Neukirchen, Bramberg, Hollersbach im Pinzgau, Mittersill, Stuhlfelden, Uttendorf, Kaprun, Fusch, Rauris, Bad Gastein, Hüttschlag and Muhr,
in the state of Tyrol in Dölsach, Hopfgarten in Defereggen, Iselsberg-Stronach, Kals am Großglockner, Matrei in Osttirol, Nußdorf-Debant, Prägraten am Großvenediger, Sankt Jakob in Defereggen, Sankt Veit in Defereggen, Virgen (all in Osttirol) and
in the province of Carinthia in the communities of Heiligenblut am Großglockner, Großkirchheim, Mörtschach, Winklern, Mallnitz, Obervellach and Malta.
In total there have been around 1000 different landowners in the national park since the beginning. The largest owner is the Austrian Alpine Association (ÖAV), which has been acquiring land since the First World War and which today owns around a quarter of the area, 333 km². The other pioneer, the Verein Naturschutzpark, sold its grounds of 3.5 km² to the state of Salzburg in 2016. The other large individual owner is the Republic of Austria, the Austrian Federal Forests (ÖBF) manage over 20 km², but the share of the public sector is comparatively small. A good part of the smaller owners are the farming families of the region, who together own about two thirds of the protected area. 110 active farmers are organized in the protective association of landowners in the Hohe Tauern National Park. This ownership constellation, that the good part belongs to a mountain club and active farmers, is a special feature for a national park.
Some of Austria's highest peaks, Großglockner (3798 m above sea
level) and Großvenediger (3657 m), lie in the core zone, in which nature
conservation is given absolute priority. The outer zone of the Hohe
Tauern National Park has been shaped by centuries of human activity and
is characterized by species-rich alpine and mountain meadows with
characteristic alpine infrastructure (traditional construction of alpine
buildings, wooden fences, stone walls, etc.) and sacred gems. The
central protected area (core zone) is a refuge for countless animal and
plant species. The national park also ensures that the populations of
endangered animal species recover.
In addition to the core and outer zone, two areas in Carinthia and three in Salzburg are under special protection as special protection areas. 67.28 km² of the core zone in Salzburg belong to the wilderness areas certified by the European Wilderness Society. In August 2019, this area (Sulzbach valleys) was classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as the second area in Austria (after the Dürrenstein wilderness area) in category Ib - Wilderness Area.
35% of the park are pastures and cultural landscapes.
Well-known sights of the national park are the Krimml Waterfalls, the Umbal Falls, the Innergschlöß Glacier Trail (Matrei in Osttirol) and the Franz-Josefs-Höhe on the Grossglockner. In several places you can also look into the geologically interesting Tauern window.
The national park is accessed through one of the busiest crossings in the Alps, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, which completely crosses and also divides the area. It contains some of the most climbed mountains in the Austrian Alps and is surrounded by areas of intensive tourist use (Ski amadé, Zell am See–Kaprun). This makes the national park a world-renowned experiment in the integration of nature conservation concerns and use as a recreational area in which ecological objectives and the economic basis are met in equal measure. As a result, the national park is anchored in the awareness of the local population as well as domestic and foreign visitors: This corresponds to the ideas of modern protection concepts, as the International Union for Conservation of Nature expressly recognized in the classification.
The flora and fauna of this national park are considered to be
particularly diverse, as there are different climatic conditions in a
small area due to the large differences in altitude and the location on
the main Alpine ridge. For example, the living communities on the north
and south sides of the Hohe Tauern differ significantly: the
climatically favorable and more sunny south side has some heat-loving
species that are not found on the north side, and the altitude levels in
the south are significantly higher than in the north. On average, the
tree line in the Hohe Tauern can be found at around 2000 m - 2200 m, but
can reach up to 2400 m on sunny slopes on the south side. However, this
altitude is due to extensive clearing of the stone pine forests for
timber and pasture land, the natural tree line would be 200 to 300
meters higher. The cleared but once wooded areas are now covered with
dwarf shrub heaths, especially alpine roses. Grazing is still practiced
in the national park today. From about 2800 m the Nival stage begins.
The Hohe Tauern National Park is home to a third of all plant species found in Austria; around 10,000 animal species are native to the national park, despite extreme conditions with a winter that can last up to eight months, combined with extremely short spring and autumn times. Due to the size of the national park, almost the entire flora and fauna of the Alps is represented, and it contains a number of biotope types that are unique in Austria.
The larger animals include the chamois, the alpine ibex, the griffon vulture, whose only (migratory) occurrence in the entire Alpine region is in the national park, the bearded vulture, which has been resettled in the nature reserve since 1986, and the golden eagle. The brown bear has been extinct in the Hohe Tauern since the middle of the 19th century. The wolf, which was widespread in the Hohe Tauern until the 17th century, also disappeared towards the end of the 19th century. Marmots also became very rare in the Hohe Tauern around 1800 - marmot fat was an important ingredient in medicines - but were reintroduced in the 20th century and are now very common. The red deer are now partially dependent on human feeding during the winter, as winter ranges in the valleys have been destroyed by urban sprawl and intensive agriculture. Due to the harsh living conditions, the deer there does not grow as large as in low-lying areas, and it also has smaller antlers. Due to excessive animal populations in the mountain forests, there was also increasing damage caused by browsing.
An important botanical refuge is the Gamsgrube special protection area below the Fuscherkarkopf. There, due to the wind transport of mica slate from the surrounding peaks, a shifting sand steppe with sand accumulations up to three meters high formed, which is rarely seen outside of the Arctic. The Rudolph saxifrage, which is endemic to the Hohe Tauern, also grows there, and the edelweiss can also be found there.
European nature reserve Hohe Tauern and other nature reserves in the national park
The national park also includes the European nature reserve Hohe Tauern: around 171,000 ha have been designated in accordance with the Habitats Directive (SCI) and Bird Protection Directive (SPA). In the Carinthian part, this only includes the NP core zone, otherwise also the outer zone, in all three countries also areas beyond that. Sub-areas: Carinthia (33,447 ha - areas not congruent: 29,496 ha FFH, 29,925 ha VS; 61% in the NP; GGB AT2101000/BSG AT2129000), Salzburg (108,400 ha, 74% in the NP; GGB+BSG AT3210001/NP 00001) and Tyrol (183,637 ha, 33% in the NP; GGB+BSG AT3301000). They include a total of 64 protected goods of European importance, that is 30 habitat types (Anh.I FFH), 8 of which have priority, 14 animal and plant species (Anh.II FFH) and 20 bird species (Anh.I VS).
At the same time, an Important Bird Area National Park Hohe Tauern has been designated (178,700 ha, IBA AT039).
The eastern end of the Salzburg part already belongs to the area of the Biosphere Park Salzburger Langau and Carinthian Nockberge.
The Hohe Tauern National Park is, as the national park concept intended, freely accessible to everyone: you will not find any prohibition signs - trusting that nature and its protection are anchored in the sense of responsibility of every individual. The administrations offer a rich range of excursions and experiences in the midst of the nature of the Hohe Tauern, both to present the meaning and purpose of this park and to present the environmental protection concept as a whole. Among other things, nature tours, special excursions, trekking tours, snowshoe hikes, lectures, visitor centers and exhibitions are offered.
Efforts to place the high Alpine region around the Großglockner under special protection date back to before 1910. The Society for Friends of Nature "Kosmos", the Dürerbund and the Austrian Reichsbund for ornithology and bird protection called for the establishment of nature conservation parks. The Naturschutzpark association, based in Stuttgart, was founded in Munich in 1909 and was based at Kosmos-Verlag in Stuttgart. Above all, he set himself the task of securing four typical and original landscapes between the sea and the Alps by establishing four national parks, a large-scale Wadden Sea protected area, a Lüneburg Heath protected area of the same type, a large Bavarian Forest protected area and an Alpine nature reserve in the High Tauern. Initially, areas were planned in the Niedere Tauern in the Alps, but their purchase failed due to high demands from the landowners there. The five-year lease of January 1, 1912, which covered 40 ha of woodland owned by Charles Henry Graf von Bardeau in the municipality of Schladming was not renewed. Together with the Viennese university professor Adolf Ritter von Guttenberg and the Salzburg lawyer and temporary deputy governor August Prinzinger, 11 km² in the Salzburg Stubach valley and the Amer valley could be purchased on Prinzinger's advice from the nature conservation park association from 1913. The First World War and the global economic crisis that followed prevented further planned purchases, and a long-term lease of adjacent areas owned by the Federal Forests was about to be concluded before the First World War. In 1918 the German-Austrian Alpine Club followed suit with purchases in Carinthia and later in Tyrol, in the Glockner and Venice areas. In 1919 part of the Hohe Tauern was initially designated as a plant protection area by the state of Salzburg. At the same time, Heinrich Medicus (Salzburg) took over the presidency for the Austrian part of the nature conservation park association. A first draft of a nature reserve in the Hohe Tauern National Park dates back to 1939, after many years before the establishment of a Tauern Park had been discussed. In 1929, on the other hand, the Salzburg state parliament decided to set up a study society to examine a project that provided for the drainage and energetic use of all Tauern streams over a total of 1000 km of slope channels. Two dams were to be built in the Kaprun Valley (Mooserboden, Orglerboden), and a third, huge stage near St. Johann im Pongau. At that time, the association for nature conservation parks determined "that our alpine park was being destroyed by the Tauern project and that all our work was being done in vain, that a lot of money was spent in vain." Heinrich Medicus, then Austrian President of the association for nature conservation parks, also reported in July 1929 that Plan met with massive resistance from the Austrian population and only the Chamber of Labor supported the plan. Although the areas of the association were not directly affected by the concrete hydroelectric power plant plans that followed, the untouched nature of the valley was already lost with the road construction required for the power plant work through the local Wiegenwald. In order to avoid expropriation, the association had to agree in 1940 to exchange the areas in the Stubach Valley for similar replacement areas in the Upper and Lower Sulzbach Valley. In 1942, as preparatory work for the National Park, Salzburg areas of the Hohe Tauern were protected as an alpine landscape protection area under the Reich Nature Conservation Act. In 1951 the Austrian Nature Conservation Union dedicated a memorandum to the national park. From 1948 to 1955, the Nature Conservation Union also managed the property of the Naturschutzpark association in the Alps, which had previously been confiscated by the victorious powers as German property. In 1953, the Austrian Alpine Club vehemently advocated an Alpine national park. In 1958, the state of Salzburg declared the Wildgerlostal, the Krimmler Achental, the Obersulzbachtal and Untersulzbachtal, as well as the Habachtal, Felbertal, Amertaler Öd and Dorfer Öd to be landscape protection areas. In 1964 the state of Carinthia placed the Schober Group and in 1967 the Großglockner with Pasterze and Gamsgrube under landscape protection.
After the European Year of Nature Conservation in 1970, the federal
states of Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol made the Heiligenblut Agreement
on October 21, 1971 to establish a national park. Carinthia declared
1981, Salzburg 1983 parts of the national park.
The East Tyrolean part was disputed mainly because of power plant projects including the Umball Falls and the Kalser Dorfertal, it was only included in the National Park in 1991.
In the three-country agreement of 1994, the "cooperation in matters of protection and promotion of the Hohe Tauern National Park" was codified.
The extensions went as follows:
1981: 186 km² Glockner and Schober group in Carinthia
1983: 667 km² Reichenspitz, Venice, Granatspitz, Glockner and Goldberg group in Salzburg
1986: 186 km² Ankogel Group in Carinthia
1991: 137 km² Ankogel Group in Salzburg
1992: 610 km² Lasörling, Rieserferner, Venice, Granatspitz, Glockner and Schober groups in Tyrol
2011: 21 km² Large and Small Fleiss Valley in Carinthia
This means that from the originally planned park area, around 53% in Carinthia, 70% in Salzburg and around 86% in East Tyrol are integrated into Austria's largest national park.
On February 11, 2003, the park was submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Commission, where it was inscribed in the natural category in the tentative list, according to criteria VII-X ("contains outstanding natural spectacles, exceptional examples of geological history, exceptional examples ecological processes, and highly important habitats").
In 2001, the Carinthian part of the national park was recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (category II), followed in 2006 by the Tyrolean and Salzburg parts. In its criteria, this also has the condition that three quarters of the area must be uncultivated, which was not the case here in the ancient high-mountain culture country with extensive rural property. Extensive decommissioning programs were therefore necessary. In addition, the development of the national park centers and more comprehensive visitor management changed the opinion of the IUCN, which takes the educational mission seriously. Until then, the national park, like Austria's mountains as a whole, was organized more on the basis of free space for alpinists. When the certificate was awarded, the IUCN then emphasized the successful combination of natural and cultural areas.
In 2016, the pioneer, the nature conservation park association, left the park and handed over its grounds to the state of Salzburg.
The three state administrations are:
Carinthia National Park Administration in Großkirchheim ♁⊙
National Park Administration Tyrol, Secretariat of the National Park Council in the National Park House Matrei i. O ♁⊙
Salzburg National Park Administration in the Mittersill National Park Center ♁⊙
In a national park, education plays a major role alongside visitor management. In the Hohe Tauern National Park there are facilities in each of the participating federal states where visitors are guided by national park rangers.
Carinthia: Mallnitz Visitor Center (Mallnitz ♁⊙)
Salzburg: National Park Worlds (Mittersill ♁⊙), Science Center Hohe Tauern National Park (Mittersill ♁⊙), National Park Workshop Klausnerhaus (Hollersbach ♁⊙), House Kings of the Air (Rauris ♁⊙)
Tyrol: National Park House (Matrei in Osttirol ♁⊙) and Kesslerstadel (Matrei ♁⊙), House of Water (St. Jakob in Defereggen ♁⊙)
The Hohe Tauern National Park Academy organizes events such as seminars, workshops and conferences for adults. These serve, for example, for the internal training of national park rangers, further training for teachers, information and a discussion platform for hunters and nature conservationists.
Science and Research
A fundamental task of a national park is the scientific recording and evaluation of the protected area, another is the investigation of the effects of changes caused by climate change, extinction/displacement and immigration of animals and plants as well as human influences.
Documentation on the occurrence and ecology of plants, animals and cultural assets are an essential contribution to science.
For the Hohe Tauern National Park there are scientific publications from the black series on the topics of flora, fauna (vertebrates), geology, alpine pastures, bodies of water and butterflies.
The series of scientific communications from the Hohe Tauern National Park (1993-2001), for example, describes the climate history of the Hohe Tauern and provides a bibliographical overview.
Resettlement projects and monitoring
The bearded vulture has been resettled in the Hohe Tauern since 1986 as part of an Alpine-wide project.
The primeval trout (native Danube-born brown trout) is successfully stocked in the mountain streams of the Hohe Tauern National Park.
The migration behavior of the alpine ibex is studied by radio transmitters.
Since 2003, the golden eagle monitoring has provided insights into the population, lifestyle and feeding habits as well as the breeding success of these birds of prey.
The lower airspace above the national park is closed to helicopter flights. There are exceptions for air rescue, which is stipulated in the respective state laws. However, there are difficulties for the air rescue service on the East Tyrolean side, since the permit here is purely limited to operational flights, practice flights, which mountain rescue services require due to the difficult conditions, are prohibited. This restriction also applies to the army.
A controversy arose over the new construction of a hunting lodge in the core zone of the national park, which was built without a permit in 2021. A photo taken by a light aircraft flown outside the core zone shows it standing about 15m from an older, much smaller hunter's lodge. The builder and hunter, ÖVP municipal politician from Gastein and hotelier sees no authorization requirement for the hunting lodge. Nature Conservation Councilor Daniela Gutschi, also ÖVP, sees a hunting seat with emergency shelters that is needed.
According to locals, the newest of the log cabins has two beds. The ensemble is located near two lakes popular with chamois in the Wasiger Kopf area (2,350 m), in front of the Schareck (3,123 m) high above Sportgastein and the Gasteiner Nassfeld.
Karin Dollinger, spokeswoman for nature conservation for the SPÖ in the Salzburg state parliament, sees a permit requirement before construction begins. National Park Director Wolfgang Urban wants to examine the factual and legal situation with an expert, as does the Salzburg State Environmental Attorney Gishild Schaufler.