National Park Donauauen:
Danube Shores of Vienna & Lower Austria

The National Park Donauauen comprises of flood plain forests (=swamps)

The Nationalpark Donauauen (National Park Danube Flood Plains) is a national park in Eastern Austria, spreading from Vienna to the Austrian-Slovakian border. The National Park Donauauen is 9,300 hectares big and follows the course of the Danube for approximately 38 kilometres. It is a very narrow piece of landscape: The widest part is only four kilometres. It became a National Park only in 1996, when the IUCAN-status of "Category II" was assigned to it. Apart from Vienna, there are several communities in Lower Austria that own a share of the National Park Donauauen: Groß-Enzersdorf, Orth an der Donau, Eckartsau, Engelhartstetten, Hainburg, Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Petronell-Carnuntum, Regelsbrunn, Haslau-Maria Ellend, Fischamend and Schwechat.

The National Park Donauauen is one of the biggest remaining flood plain landscapes of Europe. Its development is linked with the floods of the Danube, which were frequent events up to the late 19th century, when the Danube around Vienna was trained. Agriculture and wood management decreased the "natural" parts of the Danube flood plains in the 20th century, and since the 1950ies, river power plants were built wherever possible all over Austria.

In 1984, plans were proposed to build a power plant at Hainburg. This would have destroyed the forests of today′s National Park - which are the only "natural" course of the Danube in Austria alongside with the Wachau. The ruling Social Democrats underestimated the extent to which environmental awareness had grown in the early 1980ies and despite of severe resistance, the government gave orders to start with the construction.

Creation of National Park Donauauen: Citizen Movement

As a result, thousands of people "occupied" the flood plain forests near Hainburg and organised demonstrations and sit-ins. Many intellectuals, unionists and politically active citizens protested against the power plant. In December 1984, Chancellor Fred Sinowatz declared a "Christmas peace treaty" during which he suggested to carefully re-evaluate the situation.

In January of 1985, the Austrian supreme court prohibited further clearings of the forest area and later this year, 353,906 citizens signed a declaration against the power plant of Hainburg. This had two major results: The foundation of the Green party of Austria; and environmental studies that proved that the Danube flood plain forests were worthy being declared a National Park. This ultimately led to a treaty between the Federal Republic of Austria and its provinces Vienna and Lower Austria for the foundation of the National Park Donauauen - signed in 1996.

The National Park Donauauen is home to approximately 700 species of plants, 30 species of mammals, 100 species of birds that breed in this area, eight species of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians and 60 species of fish. In the years since 1996, several measures were taken to make the national park more "natural" again. The 19th century training measures of the Danube have accelerated the speed at which the river flows; this caused a deepening of the river bed and at the same time prevented the side-branches to be flooded once in a while. Recent measures connect "dead" parts of the Danube with the main course; older training walls are removed.

National Park Donauauen for Recreation

The National Park Donauauen is a popular recreational area for Viennese; it is within easy reach from Vienna via Lobau, where you find a museum for fisheries. The Lobau is divided into two sections and makes about 24 percent of the entire national park. The national park visitor centre is in the local palace of Orth an der Donau. Popular activities in the National Park Donauauen include boat trips (motorboats, but also kayaks), horseback riding, cycling and walking. It is by no means the most exciting National Park of Austria, but an interesting destination if you don′t want to go far away from Vienna.

Attractions nearby the National Park Donauauen include the Museum Aspern-Essling and the various "places to go" of the Marchfeld as well as Carnuntum and the many hunting chateaux of the area south of the Danube.

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Further Reading

Official Website of the National Park Donauauen

Government information on the National Park Donauauen