The main rivers in the district are the Saale and the Orla, which also contributed to the name of the district. The highest elevation with 732.9 m above sea level is the Sieglitzberg (near Lobenstein), the lowest with 180 m is near Schimmersburg Langenorla. The district is mountainous, covering the Thüringer Schiefergebirge. The dams of the Saale create the biggest system of artificial lakes in Germany.
The two lions in the top of the coat of arms represent the historic states which covered the area in the past. In the left is the lion with crown of the Reuß family, while the lion to the right is the symbol of the margravate of Meißen. The two wavy lines in the bottom symbolize the two rivers of the district, Saale and Orla.