West Hesse Highlands

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The Kellerwald in the West Hesse Highlands, with the Hohes Lohr (656.7 m, l), Jeust (585 m, m) and Wüstegarten (675.3 m, r); in front are the Gilserberg Heights
View from the Amöneburg of the southeastern Amöneburg Basin, the Vogelsberg foothills (right: the 405 and 407 m high Mardorfer Kuppe) and the "actual" Vogelsberg (left rear)

The West Hesse Highlands (German: Westhessisches Bergland), also known as the West Hessian Lowlands and Highlands (Westhessisches Berg- und Senkenland), refers to a heavily forested region of the Central Uplands in Germany that lies mostly within the state of Hesse, between those elements of the Rhenish Massif right of the Rhine in the west, the Weser Uplands to the north, the Hessian Central Uplands (part of the East Hesse Highlands) to the east and the Wetterau to the south.

The West Hesse Highlands are one of the major natural regions of Germany (no. 34 or D46) and are part of the Central European Uplands as well as being the watershed between the Rhine and the Weser. They comprise a line of hill ranges in the west, running north-northeast to south-southwest on the shoulder of the Rhenish Massif and including the Kellerwald, and a fault trough in the east, the West Hesse Depression.

The West and East Hesse Highlands or Hesse Highlands correspond to the geological unit known as the Hesse Depression[1] (Hessischen Senke), in its wider sense, because here geologically young layers of Zechstein and Bunter sandstone, and in places even younger rocks like Muschelkalk, of the Jurassic, Paleogene and Neogene periods, have been preserved.[2]

Division of natural regions[edit]

The following geographical units (3-digit numbers) are taken from the Hesse Environmental Atlas (Umweltatlas Hessen):[3]

  • 34 West Hesse Lowlands and Highlands (Westhessisches Berg- und Senkenland)
    • 340 Waldeck Upland (Waldecker Tafel or Waldecker Tafelland)
      • 340.0 Waldeck Plain (Waldecker Gefilde)
      • 340.1 Waldeck Forest (Waldecker Wald)
    • 341 East Waldeck Border Lowlands (Ostwaldecker Randsenken)
      • 341.0 Middle Diemel Depression (Mitteldiemelsenke')
      • 341.1 Rhoda Depression (Rhoder Senken)
      • 341.2 Volkmarsen Basin (Volkmarser Becken)
      • 341.3 Wolfhagen Hills (Wolfhager Hügelland) (including the Elsberg Ridge and the Isthaberg
      • 341.4 Naumburg Depression and Ridge (Naumburger Senken und Rücken)
      • 341.5 Wildungen Depression (Wildunger Senke)
      • 341.6 Hessenwald
      • 341.7 Löwenstein Bottom (Löwensteiner Grund)
    • 342 Habichtswald Highlands (Habichtswälder Bergland)
      • 342.0 Habichtswald (including Langenberg)
      • 342.1 Habichtswald Depression (Habichtswälder Senke)
      • 342.2 Hinter Habichtswald Hills (Hinterhabichtswälder Kuppen)
      • 342.3 Dörnberg and Schreckenberge
      • 342.4 Malsburg Forest (Malsburger Wald)
    • 343 West Hesse Depression (Westhessische Senke)
      • 343.0 Schwalm
      • 343.1 Landsburg Depression (Landsburger Senke)
      • 343.2 Hessengau
      • 343.3 Kassel Basin (Kasseler Becken)
      • 343.4 Hofgeismar Depression (Hofgeismarer Rötsenke)
      • 343.5 North Habichtswald Foreland (Nordhabichtswälder Vorland)
    • 344 Kellerwald
      • 344.0 High Kellerwald (Hoher Kellerwald)
      • 344.1 Middle Kellerwald (Mittelkellerwald)
      • 344.2 Wildungen Highlands (Wildunger Bergland)
      • 344.3 Große Hardt
      • 344.4 Herzhausen-Hemfurth Eder Valley (Herzhausen-Hemfurther Edertal)
      • 344.5 Lower Kellerwald (Niederkellerwald)
    • 345 Burgwald
      • 345.0 Wetschaft Depression (Wetschaft-Senke)
      • 345.1 Northern Burgwald (Nördlicher Burgwald)
      • 345.2 Southern Burgwald (Südlicher Burgwald)
      • 345.3 Wohra Valley (Wohratal)
      • 345.4 Buntstruth
      • 345.5 Frankenberg Upland (Frankenberger Oberland)
    • 346 Upper Hessian Ridge (Oberhessische Schwelle)
      • 346.0 Gilserberg Heights (Gilserberger Höhen)
      • 346.1 Neustadt Saddle (Neustädter Sattel)
      • 346.2 Northern Vogelsberg Foreland (Nördliches Vogelsberg-Vorland)
    • 347 Amöneburg Basin (Amöneburger Becken)
      • 347.0 Ohm Depression (Ohmsenke)
      • 347.1 Ebsdorf Bottom (Ebsdorfer Grund)
    • 348 Marburg-Gießen Lahn Valley (Marburg-Gießener Lahntal)
      • 348.0 Marburg Highlands (including Marburg Ridge and Lahnberge) (Marburger Bergland (mit Marburger Rücken und Lahnbergen))
      • 348.1 Giessen Basin (Gießener Becken)
    • 349 Vogelsberg Foothills (Vorderer Vogelsberg)
      • 349.0 Lumda Plateau
      • 349.1 Ohm Valley (Ohmtal)
      • 349.2 Gießen Ridge (Gießener Landrücken)
      • 349.3 Laubach Hills (Laubacher Hügelland)

Landscape characteristics[edit]

The tectonics of the Upper Rhine Rift, which continue along the eastern edge of the Rhenish Massif as far as the Upper Weser Hills, form highlands and lowlands here that merge into the volcanic East Hesse Highlands beyond the West Hesse Depression on their eastern perimeter. The ridges never attain the height of the loftiest peaks of the highlands to the east and west.

Although the two highland areas of this Central Uplands region reach heights of 675 m (Kellerwald) and 615 m (Habichtswald), the typical height of the ridges is more like 400 m. Between them, there are large river valleys and depressions, in places up to 200 m lower.

Location of the geographical units[edit]

The Habichtswald highlands, which are up to 615 m high, in the north are separated from the peaks of the Waldeck Plateau (Waldeck Plateau) to the west, generally between 400 und 500 m high, by the East Waldeck Basin (East Waldeck Basin). Immediately south of the plateau is the 675 m high Kellerwald. The latter runs away to the south, splitting into two ridges mainly around 400 m high: the Burgwald, to the southwest, and the Upper Hessian Ridge to the south.

South of the Burgwald is the Marburg-Gießen Lahn Valley to the west (up to 380 m high near the Lahnberge) and the Amöneburg Basin to the east, which is flat apart from the singularity of the 365 m high Amöneburg itself. The basin rises southwards into the 405 m high (Lumda Plateau) Vogelsberg foothills. In the far east, the West Hesse Depression runs alongside almost all the ridges mentioned, following the valleys of the Schwalm (south) and Eder (north).

The northern part of the Burgwald, the southwestern Kellerwald and the Upper Hessian Ridge form part of the Rhine-Weser watershed and link the Rothaargebirge with the Vogelsberg.

The many depressions in the West Hesse Highlands and Lowlands have led to a buildup of loess soils, which is why arable farming is widespread here.

Hills (a selection)[edit]

  • Wüstegarten (675 m) - Kellerwald
  • Hohes Lohr (657 m) - Kellerwald
  • Große Aschkoppe (640 m) - Kellerwald
  • Hohes Gras (615 m) - Habichtswald
  • Großer Bärenberg (601 m) - Habichtswald
  • Hoher Dörnberg (579 m) - Habichtswald
  • Isthaberg (523 m) - Singularity within the East Waldeck Basin
  • Weidelsburg (492 m) - Singularity on the boundary of the East Waldeck Basin and Waldeck Plateau
  • Hundskopf (471 m) - north Upper Hessian Ridge
  • Heitzelberg (467 m) - Waldeck Plateau
  • Wasserberg (412 m) - central Burgwald
  • Mardorfer Kuppe (405 m) - Lumda Plateau
  • Dachsberg (388 m) - central Upper Hessian Ridge
  • Christenberg (387 m) - western Burgwald
  • Burgholz (380 m) - west of the Upper Hessian Ridge
  • Ortenberg (380 m) - Lahnberge
  • Frauenberg (370 m) - Lahnberge
  • Vogelheerd (370 m) - Marburg Ridge
  • Amöneburg (365 m) - Singularity in the Amöneburg Basin


The main rivers in the West Hesse Highlands flow from the west out of the Rothaargebirge: the Diemel (only right-hand tributaries, north), Eder (middle) and Lahn (only left-hand tributaries and river valley, south). Whilst the two rivers of the Weser river system in the extreme northeast (Diemel) and east (Eder) discharge into the West Hesse Depression, the Lahn leaves the Highlands after following a semi-circular course and heads southwest into the Rhine Massif again.

The right-hand tributaries of the Wetter, a tributary of the Nidda and thus part of the Main river system, only enter a small part of the Vogelsberg foothills in the extreme southeast. In addition, a few left tributaries of the Fulda from the Habichtswald highlands join the Fulda itself just below the Eder confluence.

Table of the most important rivers[edit]

The following table lists the most important rivers in the West Hesse Highlands, from north to south and internally in a downstream direction, i.e. mainly from west to east.[4]

For a better overview or to sort them downstream based on the river system, enter the following DGKZ code numbers after the number 44 - Diemel, 428 - Eder, 24 - Fulda, 258 - Lahn and 2484 - Wetter.
Natural regions in italics are those outside the West Hesse Highlands; catchment areas and discharge quantities are given in italics where they only represent part of the total value (see footnotes below the table)!

Catchment area
(MQ) [l/s]
Source region
(of the tributaries)
Glinde[5] Diemel (r) 8.4 35.3 Waldeck Plain 340 44-32
Orpe Diemel (r) 19.1 98.1 774.2 Waldeck Plateau 340 44-34
Twiste***[5] Diemel (r) 40.8 446.7 2,685.9 E. Sauerland Hills
(Waldeck Plateau;
Habichtswald - r)
342 - r)
Calenberger Bach (Holsterbach)***[5] Diemel (r) 9.1 34.0 88.7 Habichtswald 342 44-52
Warme Diemel (r) 33.1 157.3 1,321.4 Habichtswald 342 44-6
Esse Diemel (r) 27.6 191.9 1,187.8 West Hesse Depression 343 44-8
Itter* Eder (l) 11.6 76.1 771.3 Waldeck Plain
(E. Sauerland Hills)
Aselbach* Eder (l) 6.6 18.1 135.4 Waldecker Fields 340 428-533
Werbe* Eder (l) 13.2 42.3 322.6 Waldeck Plateau 340 428-537
Reiherbach* Eder (l) 7.4 27.3 188.9 Waldeck Plateau 340 428-538
Netze Eder (l) 12.9 29.0 169.5 Waldeck Plateau 340 428-554
Elbe Eder (l) 33 123.5 731.3 Waldeck Forest
Ems Eder (l) 34.1 146.2 753.3 Habichtswald 342 428-92
Pilgerbach Eder (l) 8.8 25.6 102.2 Habichtswald 342 428-98
Bauna Fulda (l) 17.2 47.4 333.8 Habichtswald 342 42-92
Grunnelbach Fulda (l) 9.2 24.1 150.0 Habichtswald 342 42-94
Drusel** Fulda (l) 11.4 11.0 96.4 Habichtswald 342 42-952
Ahne** Fulda (l) 21.4 21.1 295.5 Habichtswald 342 42-958
Espe Fulda (l) 8.6 24.3 159.5 Habichtswald 342 42-992
Nemphe Eder (r) 14.2 38.4 293.5 Northern Burgwald 345 428-198
Lengelbach Eder (r) 11.4 25.9 209.9 Northern Burgwald
(Kellerwald - r)
Lorfe Eder (r) 11.8 24.3 245.7 Kellerwald 344 428-512
Banferbach* Eder (r) 7.2 16.4 213.9 Kellerwald 344 428-535
Wesebach Eder (r) 25.3 63.4 618.2 Kellerwald 344 428-56
Wilde Eder (r) 17.1 51.9 471.4 Kellerwald 344 428-58
Schwalm Eder (r) 97.1 1,298.8 9,044.5 Vogelsberg
(Fulda-Haune Tableland, Knüll - r;
U. Hessian Ridge, Kellerwald - l)
(355, 356 - r;
346, 344 - l)
Wetschaft Lahn (l) 29.0 196.2 1,701.6 Northern Burgwald
(E. Sauerland Hills, Rothaargebirge - r)
(332, 333)
Ohm Lahn (l) 59.7 983.8 7,949.8 Vogelsberg
(U. Hessian Ridge, Kellerwald, Burgwald - r;
Vogelsberg foothills - l)
(346, 344, 345 - r;
349 - l)
Zwester Ohm Lahn (l) 20.0 69.5 405.2 Vogelsberg foothills 349 258-334
Lumda Lahn (l) 30.0 131.5 950.4 Vogelsberg foothills 349 258-36
Wieseck Lahn (l) 24.3 119.6 663.5 Vogelsberg foothills 349 258-38
Kleebach Lahn (l) 26.9 164.6 815.9 Eastern Hintertaunus
(Vogelsberg foothills - r)
Lauter Wetter (r) 7.0 13.6 126.2 Vogelsberg foothills 349 2484-14
Äschersbach Wetter (r) 13.6 42.9 325.3 Vogelsberg foothills 349 2484-2

(*: Edersee tributaries); **: Catchment area and discharge somewhat larger than given in the table, because the lower courses are combined with the Fulda sections; ***: Discharge value excluding confluence region in NRW)

Schwalm and Ohm[edit]

The two longest and biggest rivers in the table by far, the Schwalm and the Ohm, have a special role. They both emerge in the Vogelsberg, which the Ohm leaves after about 45% of its total length and 27% of its catchment area with roughly 35% of its volume[4] (see also here). The Schwalm, on the other hand, leaves the Vogelsberg much earlier and receives about half its water volume at its mouth from right-hand tributaries from the East Hesse Highlands.

Because the river systems of both rivers drain several major areas, they may be considered more or less as major rivers.

Rivers which enter the Schwalm from the left out of the West Hesse Highlands include the following:

Significant tributaries from the middle and lower courses of the Ohm are:

  • Ohm
    • various smaller left tributaries (Vogelsberg foothills)
    • Klein (r, 23,2 km, 163,4 km², 1122,9 l/s, Upper Hessian Ridge
    • Wohra (r, 33,8 km, 285,9 km², 2010,3 l/s, Kellerwald)
      • various smaller left tributaries (Gilserberg Heights)
      • Schweinfe (r, 13,4 km, 54,6 km², 412,0 l/s, Kellerwald)
      • Bentreff (r, 13,1 km, 48,9 km², 267,7 l/s, Northern Burgwald)
    • Rotes Wasser (r, 18,6 km, 51,0 km², 221,1 l/s, Burgwald)

Other rivers crossing the boundary of this natural region are the Twiste in the northwest, the Kleebach in the southwest and the Wetschaft in the west.

The Wetschaft, which is fed from the left by the Burgwald, receives more water at its confluence with the Treisbach (r, 16,8 km, 68,2 km²) flowing out of the Rothaargebirge (810 l/s) than it delivers to that point (666,2 l/s), despite the fact that it has already been fed from the right by the East Sauerland Hills

The Kleebach on the other hand draws most of its water from the Eastern Hintertaunus, only receiving a small quantity of water from the Vogelsberg foothills via its right-hand stream, the Lückenbach (12,0 km, 38,9 km², 139,7 km) .

Opposite, the Twiste rises almost in the East Sauerland Hills, but receives, apart from this source region, all its water from the West Hesse Highlands. Likewise, only a little water flows into the Itter in the northwest from the eastern slopes of those particular hills.

Water features[edit]

The largest and most important stretch of water in the West Hesse Highlands by far is the Edersee. Other lakes and reservoirs are listed below:

Catchment area
(MQ) [l/s]
above [NN]
Edersee Eder 11.800 1.406,1 21.795,4 245 Kellerwald 344
Affolderner See Eder 165 1.452.4 22.104,5 204 East Waldeck Basin 341
Twistesee Twiste 76 125,3 828,6 210 Waldeck Forest 340
Antrift Valley Dam Antreff 31 61,6 674,0 281 Northern Vogelsberg Foreland 346
Borkener See (N/A) 139 3,5 177 West Hesse Depression 343
Singliser See (N/A) 74 185 West Hesse Depression 343

See also[edit]


Dickinson, Robert E. (1964). Germany: A regional and economic geography (2nd ed.). London: Methuen. ASIN B000IOFSEQ. 

  1. ^ Divided by Dickinson (1964) into the West and East Hesse Depressions and the Vogelsberg-Meissner and Spessart-Rhön Axes.
  2. ^ Dierck Henningsen (1986) (in German), Einführung in die Geologie der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (3. ed.), Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, pp. 49–54, ISBN 3-432-88513-X 
  3. ^ Karte und Beschreibung des Westhessischen Berglandes im Umweltatlas Hessen
  4. ^ a b River data from WRRL Hessen
  5. ^ a b c River data from NRW at TIM online

General sources[edit]

External links[edit]