National Park Hohe Tauern
The National Park Hohe Tauern is the biggest of Austria′s national parks and extends over central Alpine regions in the provinces of Salzburg (805 square kilometres), Tyrol (611 square kilometres) and Carinthia (420 square kilometres). Its east-west axis is approximately 100 kilometres long, its north-south axis up to 40 kilometres. As a nature reserve, the park exists since 1981. However, due to certain violations of national park regulations (such as skiing, hunting and farming in areas that would have required protection), the reserve was not recognised as a National Park until 2003.
Since then, the IUCN recognises the National Park Hohe Tauern as a national park of category II. That′s a good thing, as it helps the region to formalise environmental limitations and apply for grants to further develop the park in the spirit of a proper national park rather than a regional reserve. Characteristics of the National Park Hohe Tauern include the many glaciers, which cover a total of 130 square kilometres of the park′s surface. The rest of the landscape is also shaped by glaciers, dating back to the last ice age. Several of Austria′s highest mountains can be found within the National Park Hohe Tauern, such as the biggest of all, the Großglockner with 3798 metres and the Großvenediger with 3662 metres.
Both of these mountains can be found at the core area of the park, where the strictest regulations apply. Note that there is a famous and seriously impressive road running up to the Pasterze glacier and the Großglockner, the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße. It offers one of the most impressive Alpine panoramas I have encountered and I would rate it among the top five of Austria′s attractions.
Visitor Centres & Highlights of National Park Hohe Tauern
Beyond the core area, much of the landscape is not only shaped by glaciers, but also by relatively gentle agriculture. Meadows with Alpine huts, cows and occasionally sheep and goats keep forests down and help to diversify the landscape. 35 percent of the landscape in the park is "managed", meaning that it is under agricultural use of some kind. The National Park Hohe Tauern is home to one third of Austria′s plant species and thousands of species of animals.
Highlights of the National Park Hohe Tauern include 300 summits that exceed an altitude of 3,000 metres; 342 glaciers; 26 decent waterfalls and innumerable smaller (indecent) ones, including the famous Krimml Waterfalls, which are covered in a separate article; and 551 Alpine lakes between 35 square metres and 27 hectares. There are several visitor centres and scientific research centres.
The public and official visitor centres include the BIOS Nationalparkzentrum in Mallnitz (Carinthia); the Nationalparkhaus und Kesslerstadel in Matrei (Tyrol); and the Nationalparkwelten in Mittersill (Salzburg). In addition, there are the Haus des Wassers (House of Water) in St. Jakob im Defreggen in Tyrol; the Science Center National Park Hohe Tauern in Mittersill, the Nationalparkwerkstatt in Hollersbach and the Haus Könige der Lüfte in Rauris, all in Salzburg. These facilities offer guided tours, usually dedicated to the natural history of the park.
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