Austria′s Highest Waterfalls
The Krimmler Wasserfälle or „Krimml Waterfalls" are a cascade of three water falls and the highest in Austria. Together, they sum up to an impressive 380 metres. Their name is derived from the small mountain village of Krimml, which lies on the outermost edge of Salzburg, near the border to Italy. They are part of the National Park Hohe Tauern and lead the water of the Krimmler Ache creek towards the Salzach, which later merges with the Inn River.
The cascade is divided into three sections of 140, 100 and again 140 metres. The unusually high distance is due to tectonic shifts: When the central areas of the Alps were lifted up some 30 million years ago, the Upper Salzach Valley (Oberes Salzachtal) remained on a lower level. This difference was increased by erosion caused by glaciers during the last ice age. The stone that forms the river bed is hard granite, which explains why the force of the water caused relatively little erosion.
The Krimmler Ache is a glacial creek and the amount of water that runs through it varies hugely among different seasons. During the frosty February, it is as little as 500 cubic metres per hour; between June and July, it is 20,000 cubic metres per hour. This is concerned with a vast amount of energy, and for a long time, there were plans to the waterfalls for a power plant. As early as in 1899, the construction of such a power plant was proposed.
Current Commercial Use of the Waterfalls: Tourism
However, there were two good reasons not to build it: One was the strong fluctuation in the amount of water pouring down over the course of a year; the other was the awakening interest of the tourism industry in the waterfalls. However, various plans to exploit the waterfalls of Krimml for economic purposes were proposed in the following decades. Only in 1967, the site was awarded the status of a European nature reserve and plans to build a power plant were finally abandoned.
Today, the Krimmler Wasserfälle rank among the most popular tourist attractions in the province of Salzburg. This is not really new: Krimml played an important role as a stop-over place for travellers crossing the Alps ever since the middle ages. Trade of items like salt, gold or spices between today′s Italy and Germany ran through various routes across the mountains.
The first written record of a pub and guesthouse in Krimml (the "Krimmler Tauernhaus") dates back to 1389. In the 16th century, a path was built that followed the course of the waterfalls. This was for practical and not for tourism-politic reasons, though - there was no logical way to avoid the waterfalls. Only in the 19th century tourism in the modern sense started to kick in.
First Explorations of the Krimml Waterfalls
In 1835, Krimml local hero and tourism pioneer Ignaz von Kürsinger, built the first path for purely observational purposes. It even came with a fancy platform, where artists could paint the waterfalls. In 1879, the path was extended and secured to become the "Krimmler Tauernweg". In 1904, a fee for using the path was introduce to allow the maintenance of it. Due to the construction of a railway, the number of visitors steadily increased.
Today, an average of 400,000 visitors enjoy spectacular views on the Krimml waterfalls every year. Hiking all the way up from the ground level of the third waterfall to the top level of the first takes about one hour and can be exhausting at some spots. The hiking path then continues and hardcore mountain enthusiasts can aim for one of various local mountain huts.
Nearby attractions - might be geographically near, but due to the mountains, getting to places can be tricky. Nonetheless, Zell am See is fairly close, as well as Kitzbühel, Schwaz, Rattenberg, Alpbach, Kufstein and the Zillertal in Tyrol. "Close" means within a direct distance of 50 kilometres. Alas, don′t expect to drive in straight lines in alpine areas!
Back to: "Salzburg Sightseeing Guide"
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Info on the Krimmler Waterfalls in a Database
Photograph of the Krimml Waterfalls