Thuringian Forest

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Location of Thuringian Forest in Germany

The Thuringian Forest[1][2] (Thüringer Wald in German), is a mountain range in the southern parts of the German state of Thuringia, running northwest to southeast between the valley of the river Werra near Eisenach and the Thuringian-Vogtlandian Slate Mountains. The boundary with the latter range follows approximately a line from Gehren via Großbreitenbach to Schönbrunn near Schleusingen. The Thuringian Forest forms a continuous chain of ancient rounded mountains with steep slopes to both sides and poses ample difficulties in transit routing save through a few navigable passes. It is about 120 km (75 mi) long and 35 km (22 mi) wide. The highest elevation is Großer Beerberg at 982 m (3,222 ft) a.s.l.

The Rennsteig (sometimes called Rennweg) is an ancient path following the main ridge and connecting the summits. It is now a famous hiking path and marks the traditional boundary between the hills-dominated terrain of central Germany and the more rugged terrain characteristic of southern Germany, and also the boundary between central/north Thuringia and Franconia. Dialects and traditional customs and costumes are different on either side of the Rennsteig. The Rennsteig is also the subject of the song Rennsteiglied (de), the unofficial hymn of Thuringia.

The Thuringian Forest is famous for Wartburg Castle outside Eisenach (where Martin Luther lived in exile) and year-round tourism, including many winter sports resorts.

Geologically, the Thuringian Forest is defined by a belt of strongly uplifted and deformed metamorphic and igneous rock that divides the relatively flat sedimentary plains of the Thüringer Becken (to the northeast) from similar rock formations in the valley of the Werra (to the southwest). The Schwarza River, following the axis of the Schwarzburg anticline (Schwarzburger Sattel), divides the Thuringinan Forest from the slate hills of Thuringia and Franconia, to the southeast.[3] Ore deposits associated with this upthrust have been of significant historical importance in the development of the region, for example, in Suhl[4] and Ilmenau.[5]

Sunrise on the mountain Ruppberg near Zella-Mehlis (Thuringian Forest, Germany)
View from the Ruppberg near Zella-Mehlis
View at a part of Stützerbach

Natural regions[edit]

Northwest Thuringian Forest[edit]

The Northwest Thuringian Forest comprises an area of about 70 km² reaching heights up to 470 metres (1,540 ft), hardly exceeding those of the adjacent Buntsandstein forelands to the southwest, but exhibiting a much more pronounced relief. It stretches until Moosbach stream, a tributary or Erbstrom river, in the north east, and to Bundesstraße 19 in the east and south, which follows the upper reaches of Elte river between the villages of Wilhelmsthal and Etterwinden. The predominant rock species is Eisenacher Rotliegend, namely conglomerates and sandstones. The area is known for the so-called Drachenschlucht, a narrow gorge near Eisenach, and the Wartburg castle. The northern part of the area is drained by several streams into the Hörsel, the southern part into the Elte. Hence, the ridge of the Northwestern Thuringian Forest only forms the watershed between Hörsel and the middle course of the Werra.

The much larger natural region of Central Thuringian Forest with an area of about 850 km², whose ridge rises mostly above 600 metres (2,000 ft), is subdivided into several parts described below in their sequence from the north-west to the south-east.

Ruhla Thuringian Forest[edit]

This part, situated around the town of Ruhla north of the Rennsteig, is geologically formed by the basement rocks of the Ruhlaer Kristallin, consisting of granites, gneiss, and schist. There is no pronounced ridge, summits on both sides of the watershed reach heights of 700 metres (2,300 ft) or more. Its northeastern parts drain towards the Hörsel, the southwestern parts towards the middle course of the Werra. The area is limited towards the south-east by state road 1027 between Schwarzhausen and Bad Liebenstein.

Brotterode Thuringian Forest[edit]

Reaching until Tambach-Dietharz, the part of Thuringian forest around the town of [[Brotterode] is geologically more heterogeneous than the region around Ruhla. State road 1026 between Friedrichroda and Floh-Seligenthal which follows the valleys of the rivers Schilfwasser and Schmalkalde and passes through Kleinschmalkalden and state road 1028 between Georgenthal and Floh-Seligenthal which follows the valleys of the rivers Apfelstädt and Flohbach divide the area into segments. In this area the mountain ridge becomes more pronounced. The summit of Großer Inselsberg of volcanic origin causes a marked shift of the ridge towards the north. South of Georgenthal, the mountain range becomes the watershed between Elbe and Weser.

Tambach-Oberhof Thuringian Forest[edit]

1951 winter sport championships at Oberhof

The B 247 from Luisenthal via Oberhof and Zella-Mehlis to Suhl, which follows the Ohra to the north, a section along the Lichtenau to the south and finally the lower reaches of the Mühlwasser, together with the slightly more than 10 km long L 1028 road that runs parallel to it to the northwest separates this natural sub-division of the Thuringian Forest from the rest. Apart from the south, this region is traversed by very few public roads and is only populated in the south – in the villages of Schnellbach and Struth-Helmershof in the municipality of Floh-Seligenthal, the Rotterode, Unterschönau and Oberschönau suburbs of Steinbach-Hallenberg and the town of Zella-Mehlis.

The Elbe-Weser watershed, accompanied by the Rennsteig, reaches heights of around 900 m at several places southwest to west of Oberhof, but does not really form any individual mountains and has very much the character of a mountain crest. By contrast, the Großer Hermannsberg und Ruppberg (see below) that rise to the southwest of the ridge are better known and popular tourist destinations. To the northeast, where the terrain gradually flattens out, are two of the 3 largest reservoirs in the Thuringian Forest (see below). The best known rock formation in the mountain range, the Falkenstein, is also found in this area.

Rivers and lakes[edit]

The Ohra Dam

The northeastern flank of the mountains is drained by right tributaries of the Apfelstädt, especially the Schmalwasser, and left tributaries of the Ohra, notably the Kernwasser, via the (Apfelstädt,) Gera and Unstrut into the Saale. The Apfelstädt is impounded by the Tambarz-Dietharz Dam into a small lake and the Schmalwasser and Ohra by the Schmalwasser and Ohra Dams into larger reservoirs.

The south is drained by the Asbach which flows via the Stille into the Schmalkalde and by rivers and streams belonging to the fan-like system of tributaries of Hasel (Werra), in particular the Schwarza,[6] Häselbach,[7] Lichtenau and a stream from Albrechts, feeding into into the Werra.

Notable Mountains[edit]

The main crags on Gebrannter Stein (897 m)
  • Großer Beerberg (984 m, main crest 3,4 km east of Zella-Mehlis, highest elevation in the Thuringian Forest)
  • Großer Inselsberg (916.5 m, between Brotterode and Tabarz, popular tourist destination)
  • Schützenberg (904 m, main crest southwest of Oberhof)
  • Greifenberg (901 m, main crest west of Oberhof)
  • Gebrannter Stein (897 m, south of the Rennsteig, north of Zella-Mehlis) with remarkable cliffs
  • Donnershauk (894 m, main crest, centre section)
  • Schmalkalder Loibe (886 m, main crest in the western section)
  • Großer Hermannsberg (867 m, southwest flank) - local mountain for Steinbach-Hallenberg, AT
  • Ruppberg (866 m, southwest flank) - local mountain (northwest) for Zella-Mehlis', AT
  • Großer Buchenberg (813 m, north of the main crest and southwest of the Schmalwasser Dam)
  • Krämerod (765 m, main crest in the extreme northwest, by the L 1028)
  • Schwarzer Kopf (749 m, extreme south, southwest of Zella-Mehlis)
  • Siegelberg (734 m, extreme northeast, southeast of Luisenthal)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elkins, T H (1972). Germany (3rd ed.). London: Chatto & Windus, p. 288-9. ASIN B0011Z9KJA.
  2. ^ Kohl, Horst; Marcinek, Joachim and Nitz, Bernhard (1986). Geography of the German Democratic Republic, VEB Hermann Haack, Gotha, p. 7 ff. ISBN 978-3-7301-0522-1.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Schwarza is called the Haselbach in its upper reaches and the Schönau in its middle course
  7. ^ The Häselbach is, especially in its source region, also called the Dürre Hasel

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°40′N 10°50′E / 50.667°N 10.833°E / 50.667; 10.833