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East Hesse Highlands

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The East Hesse Highlands (German: Osthessisches Bergland) describes a heavily wooded range of hills lying mainly in the German state of Hesse, but also extending a little way into Lower Saxony to the north, Thuringia to the east and Bavaria to the southeast. The region is sandwiched between the West Hesse Depression to the west, the Weser Uplands to the north, the Thuringian Basin to the northeast, the northwestern edge of the Thuringian Forest to the east, the Spessart to the south and the Wetterau to the southwest.

The East Hesse Highlands forms a natural region (no. 35 or D47) and is both part of the European Central Uplands as well as the Rhine-Weser watershed. It includes the Vogelsberg-Meißner Axis,[1] also known as the Hessian Central Uplands,[2] the East Hesse Depression and the Rhön.

The West and East Hesse Highlands together form the Hesse Highlands and correspond to the geological unit of the Hesse Depression in its wider sense, because geologically recent layers of Zechstein and Bunter sandstone, and in places even younger Muschelkalk rocks, from the lower Jurassic and Tertiary periods have been preserved here.[3]

Natural divisions[edit]

The Hesse Environmental Atlas[4] distinguishes the following major geographical units (three-figure numbers):

Landscape characteristics[edit]

The East Hesse Highlands is bounded immediately to the east by the West Hesse Highlands and Lowlands. Almost all of the region is formed by Bunter sandstone and this defines both its relief and the surface of the land apart from occasional layers of overlying volcanic basalt.

All the prominent ridges are, at least partly, characterised by volcanic features. Between the Hoher Meissner (754 m) and Kaufungen Forest (up to 643 m high) in the north, the Knüll (636 m) in the centre, the Vogelsberg (773 m) in the southwest and the Rhön (950 m) in the southeast, there are numerous individual singularities which catalogue the volcanic activity between the two Central Uplands regions.

Location of geographical units[edit]

The northern part of this natural region includes the Fulda-Werra Uplands, with the Hoher Meissner and Kaufungen Forest, which descends to the Lower Werra Land in the northeast and into the Salzungen Werra Uplands in the southeast. In the southwest of the area are the Knüll Uplands, in the south the Fulda-Haune Plateau and in the southeast the Anterior Rhön and Kuppen Rhön (including the Landrücken) to the southeast, which run into the High Rhön still further to the southeast.

South of the Fulda-Haune Plateau and west of the Rhön are the Lower und High Vogelsberg hills, the former encircling the latter.

Hills (selection)[edit]


The central river in the area is the Fulda, which runs from south to north and leaves the East Hesse Highlands just before its confluence with the Werra in the West Hesse Depression. Left of the Fulda lie the Knüll and Vogelsberg, right of it the major part of the Fulda-Werra Highlands and the Rhön.

Right hand tributaries of the middle and lower reaches of the Schwalm, which lie almost entirely in the West Hesse Depression, drains the western part of the area, whilst left hand tributaries of the Werra drain the east. Only the source of the Schwalm and the mouth of the Werra lie within the Highlands themselves.

The tributaries are also north of the Rhine-Weser watershed, apart from the Ohm the only tributary of the Lahn, which is clearly oriented in a south-to-north direction, whilst the streams running into the Main tributaries of the Nidda, Kinzig and Franconian Saale flow south.

Table of most important rivers[edit]

The most important rivers of the East Hesse Highlands are listed in the following table, in clockwise order, beginning on the north side of the Rhine-Weser watershed by the Vogelsberg.[5]
For a better overview or to see them listed in a downstream order, by river system, enter the DGKZ numbers after the number of the parent river followed by a dash.
River names and lengths listed in italics are those which clearly leave the region of the East Hesse Highlands (depressions on the perimeter excluded), where catchment areas and discharges are given in italics, it indicates that part of the catchment area is external and has significant tributaries from outside the East Hesse Highlands (see the notes below the table). Main rivers are linked if they are entirely located outside the area.

Catchment area
(MQ) [l/s]
Source region
geog. units
Antreff Schwalm (l) 38.6 115.3 980 Vogelsberg 350/1 4288-2
Schwalm Eder 97.1 1,298.8 9,044 Vogelsberg 350/1 428-8
Berfa Schwalm (r) 20.0 42.2 218 Ottrau Upland 355.0 4288-16
Grenff Schwalm (r) 22.0 86.4 711 Ottrau Upland 355.0 4288-32
Efze Schwalm (r) 38.2 220.5 1,481 Knüll 356 4288-8
Rohrbach Fulda (l) 18.0 73.9 576 Neuenstein-Ludwigseck Ridge 357.0 42-714
Geisbach Fulda (l) 22.1 76.2 487 Knüll 356 42-596
Aula Fulda (l) 22.6 124.8 919 Knüll 356 42-56
Jossa Fulda (l) 22.9 122.0 780 Schlitzer Land 355.1 42-54
Schlitz Fulda (l) 43.3 314.6 3,715 Vogelsberg 350/1 42-4
Lüder Fulda (l) 36.4 190.0 2,306 Vogelsberg 350/1 42-36
Fliede Fulda (l) 22.1 271.4 3,627 Landrücken 353.0 42-2
Fulda Weser 220.7 6,946,6 66,924 Hohe Rhön 354 42
Lütter Fulda (r) 17.5 50.7 672 Hohe Rhön 354 42-14
Haune* Fulda (r) 66.5 499.0 4,113 Kuppenrhön 353.2 42-6
Nüst Haune (r) 22.8 97.2 1,029 Kuppenrhön 353.2 426-6
Solz Fulda (r) 21.4 91.5 682 Kuppenrhön 353.2 42-712
Ulfe Fulda (r) 27.6 71.5 552 Seulingswald 357.2 42-72
Pfieffe Fulda (r) 21.5 117.1 1,235 Stölzinger Hills 357.4 42-78
Losse Fulda (r) 28.9 120.6 1,418 Stölzinger Hills 357.4 42-96
Nieste Fulda (r) 21.8 88.1 921 Kaufungen Forest 357.7 42-98
Gelster Werra (l) 18.2 60.6 771 Söhre 357.7 41-96
Wehre** Werra (l) 36.5 451.7 4,147 Söhre 357.7 41-8
Taft*** Ulster (l) 11.8 61.6 564 Kuppenrhön 353.2 414-8
Ulster Werra (l) 55.5 421.0 5,279 Hohe Rhön 354 41-4
Weid Ulster (r) 36.0 539 Hohe Rhön 354 414-4
Felda Werra (l) 38.8 Hohe Rhön 354 41-?
Streu Franconian Saale (r) 35.5 Hohe Rhön 354 244-2
Brend Franconian Saale (r) 26.2 Hohe Rhön 354 244-32
Sinn Fränkische Saale (r) 61.1 Hohe Rhön 354 244-8
Schmale Sinn Sinn (r) 27.6 103.6 1,439 Hohe Rhön 354 2448-2
Steinaubach Kinzig 23.2 64.8 798 Vogelsberg 350/1 2478-16
Salz Kinzig (r) 29.8 91.3 1,219 Vogelsberg 350/1 2478-2
Bracht Kinzig (r) 31.5 117.7 1,644 Vogelsberg 350/1 2478-4
Seemenbach NidThe (l) 37.4 145.0 1,452 Vogelsberg 350/1 2486-6
Nidder Nidda (l) 68.6 435.7 3,875 Vogelsberg 350/1 248-6
Nidda Main (r) 89.7 1,942.4 13,065 Vogelsberg 350/1 24-8
Horloff Nidda (r) 44.5 279.2 1,004 Vogelsberg 350/1 248-2
Wetter Nidda (r) 68.8 517.0 2,994 Vogelsberg 350/1 248-4
Seenbach Ohm (l) 18.3 96.5 1,288 Vogelsberg 350/1 2582-2
Ohm Lahn 59.7 983.8 7,950 Vogelsberg 350/1 258-2
Felda Ohm (r) 29.9 107.4 1,276 Vogelsberg 350/1 2582-4

(*: the source of the Haune lies, strictly speaking, still just in the Western Rhön Foreland, 353.1
**: the Wehre rises, strictly speaking, in the Rommerode Hills, 357.53, the eastern foreland of the Söhre)
***: the values for catchment area and discharge of the Taft are limited to the Hessian part and do not include its confluence area in Thuringia)

The following parts of the (catchment areas of the) rivers listed are not in the East Hesse Highlands:

  • Antreff - entire middle and lower course in the Upper Hesse Ridge
  • Schwalm - almost all left tributaries in various parts of the West Hesse Highlands; river lies on the western boundary of the area
  • Fulda - mouth lies on the northwestern border; left tributaries above the Eder lie outside; of the catchment area of the Eder, which is largely in the Rest-Fulda catchment area, only the right-hand tributaries of the Schwalm come from the East Hesse Highlands, whilst the Eder is fed by the West Hesse Highlands apart from the upper course which is fed by the Süder Uplands.
  • Streu - lower course in the Grabfeld
  • Brend - middle and lower reaches lie, without major tributaries, in the part of the Südrhön belonging to the Spessart region
  • Sinn - middle and lower courses lie in various parts of the Spessart
  • Bracht and Seemenbach - lower courses lie, without major tributaries, in the Büdingen Forest region of the Spessart
  • Nidder - from the Seemenbach it runs along the eastern boundary of the Wetterau to the Ronneburg Hills, but without any major tributaries
  • Horloff - middle and lower reaches on the southeastern boundary; (only moderately sized) right tributaries from the Wetterau
  • Nidda - from the confluence with the Horloff it runs into the Wetterau; where it is joined by the Wetter and Nidder
  • Wetter - leaves the East Hesse Highlands shortly after its source and nimmt draws water from, inter alia, the Taunus.
  • Ohm - from the confluence with the Felda it runs through various parts of the West Hesse Highlands

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dickinson, Robert E (1964). Germany: A regional and economic geography (2nd ed.). London: Methuen, p. 512. ASIN B000IOFSEQ.
  2. ^ Elkins, T H (1972). Germany (3rd ed.). London: Chatto & Windus, 1972, p. 223. ASIN B0011Z9KJA.
  3. ^ Dierck Henningsen (1986), Einführung in the Geologie the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (in German) (3. ed.), Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, pp. 49–54, ISBN 3-432-88513-X
  4. ^ Map and Description of the East Hesse Highlands in the Hesse Environmental Atlas
  5. ^ River data from WRRL Hesse Archived 2009-06-01 at the Wayback Machine

General sources[edit]

External links[edit]