National Park Kalkalpen, Upper Austria
The National Park Kalkalpen is a national park in the Alps of Upper Austria. It was founded fairly recently, in 1997 and extends over the so-called Sengsengebirge and the Reichraminger Hintergebirge, two mountain ranges at the northern edge of the Alps. The visitor centres of the National Park Kalkalpen can be found in Molln, Windischgarsten and Reichraming. As it is usually the case with visitor centres, they offer guided tours, information on the natural history and on the history of the park. Beyond the named three towns, there are several other significant villages in the National Park Kalkalpen which might make good starting points for exploring the park. These include Roßleithen, Rosenau, Hengstpass, Weyer, Großraming and Sankt Pankraz.
The National Park Kalkalpen extends over an area of 20,856 hectares. 88 percent of the park are property of the Bundesforste, the national forest administration. 11 percent are private property, one percent belongs to the various local municipalities. Like all Austrian national parks, the National Park Kalkalpen is accessible free of any charges.
The area of National Park Kalkalpen is populated since Neolithic days. Stone tools that were found in the area are considered to be 65,000 to 30,000 years old. These tools were found in a local cave, which also contained bones and teeth of cave bears, lions, wolves and other furry fellows you wouldn′t find in the region these days. Other stone tools which are between 10,000 and 18,000 years old were found in the Nixloch cave in Losenstein. Later, the region was populated by Illyric, Celtic and Roman people.
National Park Kalkalpen as a "Cultural Landscape"
Through the Middle Ages and especially since the 16th century, the region developed into an important area for iron ore trade and iron manufacturing. In a way, this trend has continued until today, as you can see from the steel industry in Linz or the many car part, arms and other steel-processing companies in the area. However, the area of today′s National Park Kalkalpen remained unharmed by any industrial development and was predominantly an agricultural area. In 1976, the Sengsengebirge mountain range was made a nature reserve. In 1983, plans were proposed to make the Reichraminger Hintergebirge mountain range a national park.
By 1990, there were precise proposals to combine the two regions in one, extensive national park. The year the park was officially declared, it was recognised by the IUCN (not necessarily granted - just see my articles on the National Park Hohe Tauern or the still-not-National-Park Nockberge). In 2003, the national park was extended from 16,500 hectares to the current 20,856 hectares. One year later, it was included into the protected wetlands of the Ramsar convention and a Natura 2000 region of the EU.
Nature Hightlights of National Park Kalkalpen
The highest summit of the National Park Kalkalpen is the Hohe Nock with 1,963 metres. 80 percent of the park comprise of forests. The park is - as one would expect in the Calciferous Alps - famous for its many caves. More than 70 have been discovered to date, many of them are not fully mapped yet. Some of the caves are ice caves, but accessible only with approved guides. This is not recommendable for people inexperienced in caving; for a physically not very challenging ice cave, read my article on Werfen in Salzburg.
The National Park Kalkalpen is home to 30 mammal species including rare ones such as bears, lynx or beavers. Due to the many caves, it also has plenty of bats. It is also known for its many species of birds, plants and other biological delights - such as a good blend of endangered reptile species. Of the 850 recorded plant species of National Park Kalkalpen, 102 are endangered.