Black Forest

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For other uses, see Black Forest (disambiguation).
Black Forest
Relief Map of Germany, Black Forest.png
A map of Germany, showing the outlines of the Black Forest in green.
Length 150 km (93 mi)
Country Germany
State/Province Baden-Württemberg
Range coordinates 48°18′N 8°9′E / 48.300°N 8.150°E / 48.300; 8.150Coordinates: 48°18′N 8°9′E / 48.300°N 8.150°E / 48.300; 8.150
Parent range Southwest German Uplands/Scarplands
Orogeny Central Uplands
Type of rock Gneiss, Bunter sandstone

The Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald, pronounced [ˈʃvaʁt͡svalt]) is a great, forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. It is bounded by the Rhine valley to the west and south. Its highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres (4,898 ft). The region is almost rectangular in area with a length of 160 km (99 mi) and breadth of up to 60 km (37 mi).


The Black Forest stretches from the Upper Rhine in the south to the Kraichgau in the north. In the west it is bounded by the Upper Rhine Plain (which, from a natural region perspective, also includes the low chain of foothills); in the east it transitions to the Gäu, Baar and hill country west of the Klettgau. The Black Forest is the highest part of the South German Scarplands and much of it is densely wooded. It is composed of rocks of the crystalline basement and Bunter Sandstone and its natural boundary with the surrounding landscapes is formed by the emergence of muschelkalk, which is absent from the Black Forest bedrock. Thanks to the fertility of the soil which is dependent on the underlying rock, this line is both a vegetation boundary as well as the border between the Altsiedland ("old settlement land") and the Black Forest, which was not permanently settled until the High Middle Ages. From north to south the Black Forest extends for over 150 kilometres, attaining a width of up to 50 kilometres in the south, and up to 30 kilometres in the north.[1] Tectonically the range forms a lifted fault block, which rises prominently in the west from the Upper Rhine Plain, whilst seen from the east it has the appearance of a heavily forested plateau.

Natural regions[edit]

The natural regions of the Black Forest are separated by various features:

Geomorphologically, the main division is between the gentle eastern slopes with their mostly rounded hills and broad plateaux (so-called Danubian relief, especially prominent in the north and east on the Bunter Sandstone) and the deeply incised, steeply falling terrain in the west that drops into the Upper Rhine Graben; the so-called Valley Black Forest (Talschwarzwald) with its Rhenanian relief. It is here, in the west, where the highest mountains and the greatest local differences in height (of up to 1000 metres) are found. The valleys are often narrow and ravine-like; but rarely basin-shaped. The summits are rounded and there are also the remnants of plateaux and arête-like landforms.

Geologically the clearest division is also between east and west. Large areas of the eastern Black Forest, the lowest layer of the South German Scarplands composed of Bunter Sandstone, are covered by seemingly endless coniferous forest with their island clearings. The exposed basement in the west, predominantly made up of metamorphic rocks and granites, was, despite its rugged topography, easier to settle and appears much more open and inviting today with its varied meadow valleys.

The Feldberg, the highest mountain in the Black Forests, southeast of Freiburg

The most common way of dividing the regions of the Black Forest is, however, from north to south. Until the 1930s, the Black Forest was divided into the Northern and Southern Black Forest, the boundary being the line of the Kinzig valley. Later the Black Forest was divided into the heavily forested Northern Black Forest, the lower, central section, predominantly used for agriculture in the valleys, was the Middle Black Forest and the much higher Southern Black Forest with its distinctive highland economy and ice age glacial relief. The term High Black Forest referred to the highest areas of the South and southern Middle Black Forest.

The boundaries drawn were, however, quite varied. In 1931, Robert Gradmann called the Middle Black Forest the catchment area of the Kinzig and in the west the section up to the lower Elz and Kinzig tributary of the Gutach.[2] A pragmatic division, which is oriented not just on natural and cultural regions, uses the most important transverse valleys. Based on that, the Middle Black Forest is bounded by the Kinzig in the north and der line from Dreisam to Gutach (Wutach) in the south, corresponding to the Bonndorf Graben zone and the course of the present day B 31.

In 1959, Rudolf Metz combined the earlier divisions and proposed a modified tripartite division himself, which combined natural and cultural regional approaches and was widely used.[3] His Middle Black Forest is bounded in the north by the watershed between the Acher and Rench and subsequently between the Murg and Kinzig or Forbach and Kinzig, in the south by the Bonndorf Graben zone, which restricts the Black Forest in the east as does the Freudenstadt Graben further north by its transition into the Northern Black Forest.[4]

Work of the Institute of Applied Geography[edit]

The Handbook of the Natural Region Divisions of Germany published by the Federal Office of Regional Geography (Bundesanstalt für Landeskunde) since the early 1950s names the Black Forest as one of six tertiary level major landscape regions within the secondary level region of the South German Scarplands and, at the same time, one of nine new major landscape unit groups. It is divided into six so-called major units (level 4 landscapes).[5] This division was refined and modified in several, successor publications (1:200,000 individual map sheets) up to 1967, each covering individual sections of the map. The mountain range was also divided into three regions. The northern boundary of the Middle Black Forest in this classification runs south of the Rench Valley and the Kniebis to near Freudenstadt. Its southern boundary varied with each edition.[citation needed]

In 1998 the Baden-Württemberg State Department for Environmental Protection (today the Baden-Württemberg State Department for the Environment, Survey and Nature Conservation) published a reworked Natural Region Division of Baden-Württemberg.[6] It is restricted to the level of the natural regional major units and has been used since for the state's administration of nature conservation:[7]

No. Natural region Area
in km²
Population Pop./km² Settlement
in %
Open land
in %
in %
centres of
centres of
150 Black Forest Foothills[8] 0930 268,000 289 7.69 29.33 62.92 Pforzheim Calw,
151 Black Forest Grinden and Enz Hills[9] 0699 060,000 086 1.92 06,39 91,51
152 Northern Black Forest Valleys[10] 0562 107,000 190 4.12 19.48 76.41 Baden-Baden,
153 Middle Black Forest[11] 1,422 188,000 133 3.35 30.25 66.39 Haslach/Hausach/Wolfach,
Waldkirch, Schramberg
154 Southeastern Black Forest[12] 0558 080,923 112 3.03 32.44 64.49 Villingen-Schwenningen
155 High Black Forest[13] 1,990 213,000 107 2.44 26.93 70.31 Schopfheim,
Slopes of the Northern Black Forest to the Upper Rhine Plain (Northern Black Forest Valleys)

The Black Forest Foothills (Schwarzwald-Randplatten, 150) geomorphologically form plateaux on the north and northeast periphery of the mountain range that descend to the Kraichgau in the north and the Heckengäu landscapes in the east. They are incised by valleys, especially those of the Nagold river system, into individual interfluves; a narrow northwestern finger extends to beyond the Enz near Neuenbürg and also borders the middle reaches of the Alb to the west as far as a point immediately above Ettlingen. To the southwest it is adjoined by the Black Forest Grinden and Enz Hills (Grindenschwarzwald und Enzhöhen, 151), along the upper reaches of the Enz and Murg, forming the heart of the Northern Black Forest. The west of the Northern Black Forest is formed by the Northern Black Forest Valleys (Nördliche Talschwarzwald, 152) with the middle reaches of the Murg around Gernsbach, the middle course of the Oos to Baden-Baden, the middle reaches of the Bühlot above Bühls and the upper reaches of the Rench around Oppenau. Their exit valleys from the mountain range are all oriented towards the northwest.

Grassland economy in side valleys of the Kinzig, Middle Black Forest

The Middle Black Forest (153) is mainly restricted to the catchment area of the River Kinzig above Offenburg as well as the Schutter and the low hills north of the Elz.

The Southeastern Black Forest (Südöstliche Schwarzwald, 154) consists mainly of the catchment areas of the upper reaches of the Danube headstreams, the Brigach and Breg as well as the left side valleys of the Wutach north of Neustadt – and thus draining from the northeast of the Southern Black Forest. To the south and west it is adjoined by the High Black Forest (Hochschwarzwald, 155) with the highest summits in the whole range around the Feldberg and the Belchen. Its eastern part, the Southern Black Forest Plateau, is oriented towards the Danube, but drained over the Wutach and the Alb into the Rhine. The southern crest of the Black Forest in the west is deeply incised by the Rhine into numerous ridges. Immediately right of the Wiese above Lörrach rises the relatively small Bunter Sandstone-Rotliegendes table of the Weintenau Uplands (Weitenauer Bergland) in the extreme southwest of the Black Forest; morphologically, geologically and climatically it is separate from the other parts of the Southern Black Forest and, in this classification, is also counted as part of the High Black Forest.

The Belchen in the Southern Black Forest with its bare dome, seen from Münstertal


Topography of the Black Forest

The Black Forest consists of a cover of sandstone on top of a core of gneiss and granites. Formerly it shared tectonic evolution with the nearby Vosges Mountains. Later during the Middle Eocene a rifting period affected the area and caused formation of the Rhine graben. During the last glacial period of the Würm glaciation, the Black Forest was covered by glaciers; several tarns (or lakes) such as the Mummelsee are remains of this period.

Rivers and lakes[edit]

The River Schiltach in Schiltach
The Schluchsee, north of St. Blasien.

Rivers in the Black Forest include the Danube (which originates in the Black Forest as the confluence of the Brigach and Breg rivers), the Enz, the Kinzig, the Murg, the Nagold, the Neckar, the Rench, and the Wiese. The Black Forest occupies part of the continental divide between the Atlantic Ocean drainage basin (drained by the Rhine) and the Black Sea drainage basin (drained by the Danube).

The longest Black Forest rivers are (length includes stretches outside the Black Forest):

Important lakes of natural, glacial origin in the Black Forest include the Titisee, the Mummelsee and the Feldsee. Especially in the Northern Black Forest are a number of other, smaller tarns. Numerous reservoirs like the - formerly natural but much smaller – Schluchsee with the other lakes of the Schluchseewerk, the Schwarzenbach Reservoir, the Kleine Kinzig Reservoir or the Nagold Reservoir are used for electricity generation, flood protection or drinking water supply.


At 1,493 m above sea level (NHN) the Feldberg in the Southern Black Forest is the range's highest summit. Also in the same area are the Herzogenhorn (1,415 m) and the Belchen (1,414 m).

In generally the mountains of the Southern or High Black Forest are higher than those in the Northern Black Forest. The highest Black Forest peak north of the Freiburg–Höllental–Neustadt line is the Kandel (1,241.4 m). Like the highest point of the Northern Black Forest, the Hornisgrinde (1,163 m), or the Southern Black Forest lookout mountains, the Schauinsland (1,284.4 m) and Blauen (1,164.7 m[14]) it lies near the western rim of the range.

Political jurisdiction[edit]

An unmarried Girl of the Black Forest wearing a red Bollenhut (1900)

Administratively, the Black Forest belongs completely to the state of Baden-Württemberg and comprises the cities of Pforzheim, Baden-Baden and Freiburg as well as the following districts (Kreise). In the north: Enz, Rastatt and Calw; in the middle: Freudenstadt, Ortenaukreis and Rottweil; in the south: Emmendingen, Schwarzwald-Baar, Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, Lörrach and Waldshut.

Ecology and economy[edit]

The forest mostly consists of pines and firs, chiefly a mixture of the European native Norway Spruce and American imported Douglas fir and White pine. Some of them are grown in commercial monoculture. Similar to other forested regions, the Black Forest has had areas that were annihilated by mass logging. Due to logging and changes in land use, the forest proper is only a fraction of its original size and the original hardwood trees were replaced by fast-growing conifers. The cyclone Lothar downed trees on hundreds of acres of mountaintops in 1999. This left some of the high peaks and scenic hills bare, with only primary growth shrubs and young fir trees.

The main industry is tourism. In addition to the towns and monuments noted below, the Black Forest is crossed by numerous long distance footpaths, including some of the first to be established. The European long-distance path E1 crosses the Black Forest following the routes of some of the local long-distance paths. There are numerous shorter paths suitable for day walks, as well as mountain biking and cross-country skiing trails. The total network of tracks amounts to around 23,000 kilometres (14,000 mi), and is maintained and overseen by a voluntary body, the Schwarzwaldverein (Black Forest Society), which has around 90,000 members (figures from Bremke, 1999, p. 9).

Black Forest clockmakers are renowned for their precision clocks. Most of the mechanical clocks are now sold as antiquities as many factories were shut down after the First World War and the Second World War. A few factories survived the structural change.

Points of interest[edit]

Winter on Schauinsland: famous "Windbuchen" Beeches bent by the wind

There are many historic towns in the Black Forest. Popular tourist destinations include Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Calw (the birth town of Hermann Hesse), Gengenbach, Staufen, Schiltach, Haslach and Altensteig. Other popular destinations include such mountains as the Feldberg, the Belchen, the Kandel, and the Schauinsland; the Titisee and Schluchsee lakes; the All Saints Waterfalls; the Triberg Waterfalls, not the highest, but the most famous waterfalls in Germany; and the gorge of the River Wutach.

The Black Forest Open Air Museum is an open-air museum that shows the life of 16th or 17th century farmers in the region, featuring a number of reconstructed Black Forest farms. The German Clock Museum in Furtwangen portrays the history of the clock industry and of watchmakers.

For drivers, the main route through the region is the fast A 5 (E35) motorway, but a variety of signposted scenic routes such as the Schwarzwaldhochstraße (60 km (37 mi), Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt), Schwarzwald Tälerstraße (100 km (62 mi), the Murg and Kinzig valleys) or Badische Weinstraße (Baden Wine Street, 160 km (99 mi), a wine route from Baden-Baden to Weil am Rhein) offers calmer driving along high roads.[15] The last is a picturesque trip starting in the south of the Black Forest going north and includes numerous old wineries and tiny villages. Another, more specialized route is the German Clock Route (Deutsche Uhrenstraße),[16] a circular route which traces the horological history of the region.

Black Forest track

Due to the rich mining history dating from medieval times (the Black Forest was one of the most important mining regions of Europe circa 1100) there are many mines re-opened to the public. Such mines may be visited in the Kinzig valley, the Suggental, the Muenster valley, and around Todtmoos.

The Black Forest was visited on several occasions by Count Otto von Bismarck during his years as Prussian and later German chancellor (1862–1890). Allegedly, he especially was interested in the Triberg Waterfalls.[17] There is now a monument in Triberg dedicated to Bismarck, who apparently enjoyed the tranquility of the region as an escape from his day-to-day political duties in Berlin.


In addition to the expected kinds of wildlife to be found in a European forest area, the following types of animals may be observed in the Black Forest.[18]

Tourism and transport[edit]

Large parts of the Black Forest today depend mainly on tourism. The organisation, Black Forest Tourism (Schwarzwald Tourismus), assesses around 140,000 people work full-time in the tourism sector and that tourists spent around 34.8 million overnight stays in 2009.[20]

In spring, summer and autumn an extensive network of hiking trails and mountain bike routes enable different groups of people to use the natural region. In winter, of course, it is the various types of winter sport that come to the fore. There are facilities for both downhill and Nordic skiing in many places.

Sights and attractions[edit]

Hinterzarten in the southern Black Forest: church and Adler ski jump
The old town of Altensteig in the northern Black Forest

The most popular tourist destinations and resorts in the Black Forest are the lakes of Titisee and Schluchsee. Both lakes offer water sports facilities such as diving and wind surfing. These lakes may be reached from Freiburg on the B 31 through the Höllental, past the Hirschsprung monument at its narrowest point, and by the Oswald Chapel below the Ravenna Gorge.

One very popular urban destination is Baden-Baden with its thermal baths, casino and festivals. Other thermal baths include those at Badenweiler, Bad Herrenalb, Bad Wildbad, Bad Krozingen, Bad Liebenzell or Bad Bellingen.


A cuckoo clock, symbol of the Black Forest and Germany.

Dialects spoken in the Black Forest area are Alemannic and Swabian.


Wood-carving is a traditional cottage industry in the region and carved ornaments now are produced in substantial numbers as souvenirs for tourists. Cuckoo clocks are a popular example; they have been made in the region since the early 18th century and much of their development occurred there.

In the past singing bird boxes were produced as well. It is believed in the late Middle Ages, mechanical roosters were first created in some clocks to crow the hours. [21] These clocks may have preceded the Cuckoo Clock. Interestingly, new scientific evidence suggests a mechanized planetarium, created by Archimedes in Syracuse before the birth of Christ, may have sparked production of mechanical clocks in Europe. It is believed the ancient Greek knowledge of gearing came into Europe in the 13th century. [22] [23]


Black Forest ham originated from this region, and so, by name and reputation at least, did the Black Forest Cake. It also is known as the "Black Forest Cherry Cake" or "Black Forest Gateau" and is made with chocolate cake, cream, sour cherries and Kirsch.[24] The Black Forest variety of Flammkuchen is a Badisch specialty made with ham, cheese and cream. Pfannkuchen, a crêpe or crêpe-like (Eierkuchen or Palatschinken) pastry, is also common. The Black Forest is also known for its long tradition in gourmet cuisine. No fewer than 17 Michelin starred restaurants are located in the region, among them two restaurants with 3 stars (Restaurants Bareiss and Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn)[25] as well as the only restaurant in Germany that has been awarded a Michelin star every year since 1966. At Schwarzwald Hotel Adler in Häusern, three generations of chefs from the same family have defended the award from the first year the Michelin Guide selected restaurants in Germany until today.[26]


The German holiday of Fastnacht, or Fasnet, as it is known in the Black Forest region, occurs in the time leading up to Lent. On Fasnetmendig, or the Monday before Ash Wednesday, crowds of people line the streets, wearing wooden, mostly hand-carved masks. One prominent style of mask is called the Black Forest Style, originating from the Black Forest Region.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Information Service for Agriculture, Nutrition and Regional Planning at the Ministry for Regional Planning, Nutrition and Consumer Protection in Baden-Württemberg
  2. ^ Robert Gradmann: Süddeutschland. Engelhorn, Stuttgart 1931. Reprint: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, ISBN 3-534-00124-9. Vol. 2: The einzelnen Landschaften, p. 85.
  3. ^ c.f. Das Land Baden-Württemberg – Amtliche Beschreibung nach Kreisen und Gemeinden. Vol. 1: Allgemeiner Teil. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1974, ISBN 3-17-001835-3, p. 32, or: Christoph Borcherdt (ed.): Geographische Landeskunde von Baden-Württemberg. 3rd edition, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 1993, pp. 169 f.
  4. ^ Rudolf Metz: Zur naturräumlichen Gliederung des Schwarzwalds In: Alemannisches Institut (ed.): Alemannisches Jahrbuch 1959, Schauenburg, Lahr 1959, pp. 1–33
  5. ^ Emil Meynen, Josef Schmithüsen: Handbuch der naturräumlichen Gliederung Deutschlands. Bundesanstalt für Landeskunde, Remagen/Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9 instalments in 8 books, updated 1:1,000,000 map with major units, 1960).
  6. ^ Thomas Breunig: Überarbeitung der Naturräumlichen Gliederung Baden-Württembergs auf Ebene der naturräumlichen Haupteinheiten. In: Naturschutz-Info 1998, Heft 1
  7. ^ Major natural region units, Baden-Württemberg State Office for the Environment, Survey and Conservation (Landesanstalt für Umwelt, Messungen und Naturschutz Baden-Württemberg) (pdf, 3.1 MB)
  8. ^ Natural region fact file Schwarzwald-Randplatten (150)LUBW (pdf, 9,9 MB)
  9. ^ Natural region fact file Grindenschwarzwald und Enzhöhen (151)LUBW (pdf, 8,9 MB)
  10. ^ Natural region fact file Nördlicher Talschwarzwald (152)LUBW (pdf, 9,0 MB)
  11. ^ Natural region fact file Mittlerer Schwarzwald (153)LUBW (pdf, 9,6 MB)
  12. ^ Natural region fact file Südöstlicher Schwarzwald (154)LUBW (pdf, 6,8 MB)
  13. ^ Natural region fact file Hochschwarzwald (155)LUBW (pdf, 10,1 MB)
  14. ^ Map services of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
  15. ^ "The complete guide to The Black Forest". The Independent. 2014-03-19. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  16. ^ Apropos Werbung, Telefon 07721-98770. "German Clock Route Location". Deutsche Uhrenstrasse. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  17. ^ Ken Barnes (2007). A Rough Passage, Volume II: Memories of Empire. The Radcliffe Press. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  18. ^ Enjoy nature with all the senses / Nature / Home / Inhalte – Schwarzwald Tourismus GmbH
  19. ^ Lamparski, 1985
  20. ^ Including private accommodation and visitors by relatives and friends. Schwarzwald Tourismus GmbH: Tourismusentwicklung im Schwarzwald 2009, retrieved 12 October 2011.
  21. ^ "Precedents". 
  22. ^ "In the Forest". 
  23. ^ "Ancient Computer". 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Michelin Restaurants. Via Michelin. Retrieved 18 June 2011
  26. ^ "The Michelin Guide and the Zumkeller Chefs". Schwarzwald Hotel Adler. Retrieved 18 June 2011


  • Bremke, N. (1999). Schwarzwald quer. Karlsruhe: Braun. ISBN 3-7650-8228-7
  • Lamparski, F. (1985). Der Einfluß der Regenwurmart Lumbricus badensis auf Waldböden im Südschwarzwald. Schriftenreihe des Institut für Bodenkunde und Waldernährungslehre der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i. Br., 15. ISSN 0344-2691. English summary
  • German Wikipedia "Pfannkuchen" disambiguation
  • Barnes, K. J. (2007). A Rough Passage: Memories of an Empire

Further reading[edit]

  • Käflein, Achim (photographs); Huber, Alexander (German text); Freund, BethAnne (English translation) (2012), Schwarzwald: Natur und Landschaft,, p. 228, ISBN 978-3-940788-16-0 }

External links[edit]