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The Harz is a mountain range in central Germany. It is the highest mountain chain in northern Germany occupying parts of the German states of Lower Saxonymarker, Saxony-Anhaltmarker and Thuringiamarker. The name Harz derives from the Middle High German word Hardt or Hart (mountain forest). The following districts (Kreise) fall wholly or partly within the Harz: Goslarmarker and Osterode am Harzmarker in the west, Harzmarker and Mansfeld-Südharzmarker in the north and east, and Nordhausenmarker in the south. The Brockenmarker is the highest peak in the Harz Mountains with a height of . The Wurmbergmarker ( ) is the highest peak in the Harz located totally within the federal-state of Lower Saxonymarker.


Location and extent

The Harz has a length of , stretching from the town of Seesenmarker in the northwest to Eislebenmarker in the east, and a width of . It occupies an area of , and is divided into the Upper Harzmarker (Oberharz) in the northwest, which is up to 800 m high apart from the 1,100 m high Brocken massif, and the Lower Harz (Unterharz) in the east which is up to around 400 m high and whose plateaus are capable of supporting arable farming. The districts of the Upper Harz are Goslar and Osterode (both in Lower Saxony), whilst the Lower Harz is on the territory of Harz and Mansfeld-Südharz districts (both in Saxony-Anhalt). The Upper Harz is generally higher and features fir forests, whilst the Lower Harz gradually descends into the surrounding area and has deciduous forests interspersed with meadows.

The dividing line between Upper and Lower Harz follows approximately a line from Ilsenburgmarker to Bad Lauterberg, which roughly separates the catchment areas for the Weser (Upper Harz) and Elbe (Lower Harz). Only on the southeastern perimeter of the Upper Harz, which is also called the High Harz (Hochharz) (Goslar, Osterode and Harz districts), does the mountain range exceed on the Brocken massif. Its highest peak is the Brocken (1,141 m), its subsidiary peaks are the Heinrichshöhemarker (1,044 m) to the southeast and the Königsbergmarker (1,023 m) to the southwest. Other prominent hills in the Harz are the Acker-Bruchbergmarker ridge (927 m), the Achtermannshöhemarker (925 m) and the Wurmbergmarker (971 m) near Braunlagemarker. In the far east, the mountains merge into the East Harz foothills (Harz district, Saxony-Anhalt), which are dominated by the Selke Valley. Part of the south Harz lies in the Thuringian district of Nordhausen.

The Harz National Parkmarker is located in the Harz; the protected area covers the Brocken and surrounding wilderness area.Approximately 600,000 people live in towns and villages of the Harz mountains.

Rivers and lakes

Reservoir behind the Wendefurth Dam
Because of the heavy rainfall in the region the rivers of the Harz Mountains were dammed from an early date. Examples of such masonry dams are the two largest: the Oker Valley Dam and the Rappbode Valley Dammarker. The clear, cool water of the mountain streams was also dammed by early mountain folk to form the various mountain ponds of the Upper Harz waterways, such as the Oderteichmarker.

The 17 dams in the Harz block a total of twelve rivers. Because the Harz is one of the regions of Germany that experiences the most rainfall, its water power was used from early times. Today the dams are primarily used to generate electricity, to provide drinking water, to prevent flooding and to supply water in times of scarcity. Modern dam-building began in the Harz with the construction of the Söse Valley Dammarker, that was built between 1928 and 1931. The dams of the Upper Harz lakes are some of the oldest dams in Germany that are still in operation.

See List of dams in the Harz

The largest rivers in the Harz are the Innerstemarker, the Okermarker and the Bode in the north ; the Wippermarker in the east; and the Odermarker in the south. The Innerste merges into the Leinemarker and its tributaries are the Nette and the Granemarker. The rivers Radau, Ecker and Ilse all discharge into the Oker. The Hasselmarker, the Selke and the Holtemme (whose main tributary is the Zillierbach) flow into the Bode. The Wipper is fed by the Einemarker. The Rhume is joined by the Söse and the Oder; the latter being fed by the Siebermarker. The Zorgemarker, the Wiedamarker and the Uffe all flow into the Helme.


See List of mountains in the Harz


Climatically a mountain range has lower temperatures and higher levels of precipitation than the surrounding land. The Harz is characterised by regular precipitation throughout the year. Exposed to westerly winds from the Atlantic, heavy with rain, t, the windward side of the mountains has up to 1,600 mm of rain annually (West Harz, Upper Harz, High Harz); bu contrast the leeward side only receives an average of 600 mm of precipitation per annum (East Harz, Lower Harz, Eastern Harz foothills).File:Klimadiagramm-Brocken (Harz)-Deutschland-metrisch-deutsch.png|Brocken (windward)File:Klimadiagramm-Braunlage-Deutschland-metrisch-deutsch.png|Braunlage (windward)File:Klimadiagramm-deutsch-Vatterode-Graefenstuhl (ST)-Deutschland.png|Mansfeld (leeward)

Geology and pedology


Geological overview map
Gabbro Quarry near Bad Harzburg
The Harz is the most geologically diverse of the German Central Uplands, although it is overwhelmingly dominated by base-poor rocks. The most common rocks lying on the surface are argillaceous shales, slaty (geschieferte) greywackes and granite intrusions in the shape of two large igneous rock masses or plutons. The Gießen-Harz surface layer of the Rhenohercynian zone which is widespread in the Harz consists mainlys of flysch. Well-known and economically important are the limestone deposits around Elbingerode and the Gabbro of Bad Harzburg. The landscapes of the Harz are characterised by steep mountain ridges, stone runs, relatively flat plateaus with many raised bogs and long, narrow V-shaped valleys, of which the Bode Gorge, the Okermarker and Selke valleys are the best known. A representative cross-section of all the Harz rocks is displayed on the Jordanshöhe near Sankt Andreasbergmarker near the car park (see photo).

The formation and geological folding of the Harz mountains began during a prominent phase of the Palaeozoic era, in the course of Hercynian mountain building of the Carboniferous period about 350 to 250 million years ago. At that time in the history of the Earth numerous high mountains appeared in Western Europe, including the Fichtelgebirgemarker and Rhenish Massifmarker. They were, however, heavily eroded due to their height (up to 4 km) and were later covered over by Mesozoic rocks. From the Early Cretaceous and into Late Cretaceous times the Harz was uplifted in a single block by tectonic movements and, particularly during the Tertiary period, the younger overlying strata were eroded and the underlying base rock left standing as low mountains. The most important uplift movements were during the Sub-Hercynian phase (83 mya), when the northern edge was steeply tilted. This formed a fault zone on the northern border of the Harz (the Harznordrandverwerfung).

The Harz is a fault-block mountain range, that rises abruptly from the surrounding lowlands in the west and northeast and gradually dips towards the south. It is dissected by numerous deep valleys. North of the mountains lie the Cretaceous layers of the Sub-Hercynian depression in the rolling hills of the Harz Foreland; south of the Harz, Permian sediments lie flat on southwest-dipping Palaeozoic beds.

As a result of the northern fault zone and the vertical or, sometimes even overfolded, geological strata, the geology of the Harz sometimes changes frequently within a relatively small area of just a few square kilometres. As a consequence of this it is also referred to as the "Classic Geological Square Mile" (Klassischen Quadratmeile der Geologie).


Bode Gorge


The vegetation of the Harz mountains is divided into six altitudinal zones:
  • Subalpine zone: Brocken summit, over
  • Altimontane zone: highest areas (except the Brocken summit) between 850 and
  • Mean montane zone: higher areas between 750 and
  • Montane zone: medium height areas between 525 and
  • Submontane zone: lower areas between 300 and
  • Colin zone: areas around the edge of the Harz between 250 and


The Bode Gorge with its deciduous woods
Spruce woods in the Harz

Beech woods
From the edge of the Harz to 700 m above sea level beech woods dominate, especially the Wood-Rush beech woods on locations poorly supplied with nutrients where the Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is often the only tree species. In lower, drier locations the English oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea) occur as well. Sycamore trees (Acer pseudoplatanus) may be found growing in wetter places. During times of decay and rejuvenation when there is plenty of light, light-dependent pioneers such as rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), silver birch (Betula pendula) and pussy willow (Salix caprea) play a role. Melic grass beech woods are found in the few places where there is an abundance of nutrients and bases, e. g. over dolerite and gneiss formations, and they have a vegetation layer rich in variety and luxuriant growth. Here, too, the common beech dominates, mixed, for example, with sycamore, ash (Fraxinus excelsior), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and Scots elm (Ulmus glabra). As a result of the increasingly continental climate on the eastern edge of the Harz the common beech gives way to mixed forests of sessile oak.

Beech-spruce mixed woods
At intermediate heights of between 700 and 800 m above sea level, mixed woods of spruce (Picea abies) and common beech would predominantly be found under natural conditions. Apart from a few remnants, these were however supplanted a long time ago by spruce stands as a result of deliberate forest management. The sycamore also occurs in these woods.

Spruce woods
Spruce woods thrive in the highest locations from about 800 m to the tree line at around 1,000 m above sea level. These woods are also home to some deciduous trees such as rowan, silver and downy birches (Betula pendula and Betula pubescens) and willows (Salix spec.). Conditions of high humidity foster an environment rich in mosses and lichens. In spite of the near-natural habitat there are only a few, indigenous, genetically adapted (autochthone) spruce trees. Wood-reed spruce woods dominate. A well developed ground vegetation thrives on their moderately rocky and fresh, but certainly not wet, soils, characterised in appearance especially by grasses such as shaggy wood-reed (Calamagrostis villosa) and wavy hair-grass (Avenella flexuosa). The soils in the higher regions are, as in most of the Harz, comparatively poor in nutrients and bases, so that only a few herbaceous plants occur here, such as heath bedstraw (Galium saxatile). For that reason it is more the ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi that, in addition to spruce trees, characterise these woods. Boulders and stone runs occur in the areas of weather-resistant rock in the high (alti-)montane and montane zones – these are extreme habitats for vegetation. Due to the lack of soil material, only weak, straggly, very open spruce woods thrive here. They have an especially high variety of trees and allow more room of light-loving species such as silver birch, rowan, sycamore, willow and dwarf bushes such as the blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). Mosses and ferns are also common here. One unusual species is the Carpathian birch (Betula carpatica). Bog-spruce woods are found around the raised bogs on marshy and boggy soils. In these sorts of places spruce woods can, in exceptional cases, also form the natural woodland in lower down the mountains. These wet, moorland woods have a high proportion of peat mosses (Sphagnum spec.). The ground vegetation may also have a rich proliferation of low bushes such as cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). Clumps of purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) are also typical of this type of woodland habitat. The characteristic species of fungi in natural spruce woods are Phellinus viticola and prunes and custard (Tricholomopsis decora).Ravine (Schluchtwald), riparian (Auwald) and river source (Quellwald) woods only occur in small areas. In these places the common beech gives way to hardier deciduous species such as sycamore, large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos), Scots elm or ash. The herbaceous layer is similar to that of the better-nourished beech woods. Notable species amongst the plant communities here include the Alpine blue-sow-thistle (Cicerbita alpina), perennial honesty (Lunaria rediviva), hard shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum) and long beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis).

Raised bogs

Torfhaus Moor
The Harz moors or bogs are some of the best preserved in central Europe. They were formed at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. A significant proportion of the vegetation on these raised bogs is made up of peat mosses (Sphagnum spec.). The wetter areas (Schlenken) and the higher-lying, drier areas (Bulten) are home to different species of flora. In the Schlenken, for example, Sphagnum cuspidatum is found, whereas the Bulten are preferred by Sphagnum magellanicum. The blanket of peat moss is penetrated by dwarf bushes such as cowberry and blueberry. Bog-rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) is a relict of the ice age. Other such ice age plants include the dwarf birch (Betula nana) and few-flowered sedge (Carex pauciflora). Cranberries (Vaccinium oxicoccus) bloom from May to June. The black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) may also be seen amongst those bearing black fruit. Common heather (Calluna vulgaris) grows on the drier Bulten and occasionally the cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix) may be found. Typical grasses are the sheathed cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), known for its bright, white clusters of fruit and deergrass (Scirpus cespitosus), which is rust-red in the autumn. One fascinating moorland plant is the round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). Bog or northern bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) grows on the drier bog perimeters.


The lynx – once more found wild in the Harz
A multitude of wild animals live in the beech forests of the Harz mountains. Over 5,000 species, most of them insects, have their home in these woods. They include many species that help to decompose leaves and work them into the soil and ground cover; including springtails, oribatid mites, woodlice, roundworms, millipedes, earthworms and snails. Characteristic breeding birds in the beech woods with their abundance of dead wood are e.g. the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) and stock dove (Columba oenas). An indication of the natural state of the beech woods in the Harz is the return of the black stork (Ciconia nigra). This shy and susceptible resident of richly diverse deciduous and mixed forest has become very rare in central Europe due to increasing disturbance of its habitat (causing e. g. a lack of old trees and natural brooks). Through improvements to its habitat including the renaturalisation of waterways and the creation of relatively undisturbed peaceful areas the black stork population has now recovered. A typical mammal of such deciduous woods is the wild cat (Felis felis), that has established a stable population in the Harz. It prefers the diverse wooded areas which offer a rich variety of food.The animal kingdom of the mixed beech and spruce woods is also diverse. Species that thrive in in mixed forest are especially at home. For example, the mixed mountain forest is the natural habitat of the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). The Tengmalm's Owl (Aegolius funereus) may also be found here. It breeds almost exclusively in black woodpecker holes in old beeches and needs, unlike the spruce woods, more open beech forest with its higher population of small mammals in its search for food. For cover, however, it prefers the darker, denser spruce trees.

A large number of the animals that live in natural spruce forest are suited to the special conditions of life in the higher parts of the Harz. Typical residents amongst the bird population include the crested tit (Parus cristatus), goldcrest and firecrest (Regulus regulus und Regulus ignicapillus), siskin (Carduelis spinus),treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), coal tit (Parus ater) and crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). Special mention should be made here of the pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum) which is threatened with extinction and which lives in the submontane to subalpine zones within mixed and pine forests interspersed with open areas. They prefer spruce woods for breeding, but feed in more open stands of trees or on open moorland. Like the black stork the pygmy owl had long since disappeared from the Harz, but returned in the 1980s of its own volition as its ancestral homeland once again became more natural, so that there was sufficient food to support it (insects, small mammals and small birds) as well as standing dead wood (spruce trees with woodpecker holes).

In addition to the many species of bird there is a range of large butterflies in the various spruce woods that, outside of the Harz, are seriously endangered or simply non-existent. Two species will be mentioned here as examples. Gnophos sordarius occurs in old, open wood-reed spruce forest, sometimes in connexion with stone runs or bog spruce forests; whilst Enthephria caesiata is a native of the bilberry-rich bog spruce woods.

Only a few animals are able to survive the extreme conditions of the raised bogs. Examples of these are the Alpine Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora alpestris), which only occurs in Lower Saxony in the Harz and is endangered with Germany, and the Subarctic Darner (Aeshna subarctica), a damselfly which is threatened with extinction.

Rocks and stone runs are important habitat components for the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus). The peregrine, which is threatened with extinction here, needs steep rock outcrops with little vegetation. After its population had died out in the Harz, a breeding pair was re-established in the region. A crucial contribution has been made by extensive efforts to promote quiet areas in the ancestral breeding grounds of this shy species. Since 1980 a breeding pair has settled in the eastern Harz as the result of a wildlife reintroduction project. The ring ouzel prefers semi-open stone runs and lightly-wooded transition zones between treeless raised bogs and forests. The Harz is home to one of its few, isolated breeding areas in central Europe. Its main distribution area extends across northwest Europe, including large parts of England and Scotland, as well as the high mountains of southern and eastern Europe.

The waterways, with their distinct mountain stream character, play an important role right across the Harz. In comparison with the other natural regions of Lower Saxony, they are still very natural and varied and the water is very clean. As a result of the high water velocity of the Harz streams, flowers rarely gain a foothold in the water. Even the animals in these streams need to be well suited to high velocities. Only a few species, such as fish, swim actively against the stream. The most common species are brown trout (Salmon trutta forma fario) and bullhead (Cottus gobio). Much richer in variety, by contrast, is the range of species in the system of crevices under the streambed. In addition to the insects and fish larvae that thrive here, may be found protozoons, flatworms (Turbellaria) and water mites (Hygrobatoidea). Other species of animal cling fast to the stones, e. g. caddis fly larvae (Trichoptera) and snails or can only live in the reduced water velocities on the bed of the stream or on stones by having flat body shapes, e. g. stonefly larvae. In the calmer parts of the stream, behind stones or in blankets of moss there are also water beetles (Hydrophilidae) and small shrimp-like amphipods.

Occasionally the golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltoni) and Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo), a type of damselfly, can be seen by streams in the Harz.

The dipper (Cinclus cinclus), which is found everywhere on Harz streams, occurs almost exclusively in the highlands. Its habitat is very fast-flowing, clear mountain streams with wooded banks. It can dive and run under water along the stream bed. It turns stones over in its search for food. The grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) also uses the rich food supplies of the mountain brooks.

In 2000 the lynx was successfully reintroduced by the Harz National Parkmarker and it has since fitted in well to the ecology of the region. Through specific conservation measures in past years the retreat of the bat population in the Harz has been halted. Amongst the mammals that may be hunted are the red deer, roe deer, wild boar and mouflon


The Harz was first mentioned as Hartingowe in a 814 deed by the Carolingian King Louis the Pious. Settlement within the mountains began only 1000 years ago as in ancient times dense forests made the region almost inaccessible. The suffix -rode (from , to stub) denotes a place where woodland had been cleared to develop a settlement.

The year 968 saw the discovery of silver deposits near the town of Goslarmarker, and mine became established in the following centuries throughout the mountains. During the Middle Ages ore from this region was exported along trade routes to far flung places such as Mesopotamia. The wealth of the region declined after these mines became exhausted in the early 19th century. People abandoned the towns for a short time, but prosperity eventually returned with tourism. Between 1945 and 1990 the inner German border ran through the Harz, the west belonging to the Federal Republic of Germanymarker (West Germany) and the east to the German Democratic Republicmarker (East Germany). Today the Harz forms a popular tourist destination for summer hiking as well as winter sports.

Pre-history and early history

About 700,000 to 350,000 years ago Homo erectus hunted in and around the Harz near Bilzingslebenmarker (Thuringia), Hildesheimmarker and Schöningenmarker (Lower Saxony). The Neanderthals entered the stage about 250,000 years ago and hunted aurochs, bison, brown bear and cave bear, mammoths, rhinos, horses, reindeer, forest elephants and other animals in the Harz region. Tools used by Neanderthals were discovered inter alia in the Einhorn Cave in the southern Harz (100,000 years ago) and in the Rübeland Caves. Finds of birch pitch near Aschersleben on the northern edge of the Harz point to the use of this prehistoric adhesive by Neanderthals about 50,000 years ago. The Upper Palaeolithic Revolution, about 40,000 years ago, saw Homo sapiens move from Africa into Europe including to the Harz region; where he appears to have ousted the Neanderthals and subsequently settled here.

Many discoveries in the Harz, such as the bronze club of Thale, which was found by the Roßtrappemarker, could indicate an earlier Celtic occupation of the Harz.

Middle Ages

Harz 1852
The Harzgau itself was first mentioned in a deed by the Emperor, Louis the Pious, from the year 814, in which it was referred to by its High German form, Hartingowe. According to the Fuldamarker annals of 852 the Harzgau was occupied by the Harudes and after whom the Harudengau (Harudorum pagus) was named. Harud, from which Hard, Hart and Harz are derived, means forest or forested mountains, and the Harudes were the residents or dwellers in the Harud.

Of more recent origin are settlements whose names end in –rode, a suffix that is first discernable in the Harzgau from the mid-9th century. Where the founders of these villages came from is unknown.

Charlemagne declared the Harz a restricted imperial forest or Reichsbannwald. The Saxon Mirror (Sachsenspiegel), the oldest German law book (Rechtsbuch), probably published around 1220/30 at Falkenstein Castle in the Selke valley, later made the imperial restriction clear: "Whoever rides through the Harz Forest, must unstring his bow and crossbow and keep dogs on a line – only crowned royalty (gekrönte Häupter) are allowed to hunt here". Eike von Repkow's Sachsenspiegel which, for centuries, formed the basis on which German law was administered, described the Harz as a place where wild animals are guaranteed protection in the king's restricted forests. There were three restricted forests, so described, in the state of Saxony, where there was no longer unfettled access for everyone.

This ban did not last for ever. Mining, ironworks, water management, increasing settlement, woodland clearances, cattle driving, agriculture and, later, tourism, all undermined this imperial protection over the centuries.

As early as 1224, monks who had settled in Walkenried bought extensive tracts of forest in the western Harz, in order to secure economically the one quarter of the Rammelsberg ore profits promised to them by Frederick Barbarossa in 1129. From that it can be deduced that there was already a shortage of wood at that time. From the 12th to the 14th centuries large parts of the Harz were managed economically by the Cistercian Abbey of Walkenriedmarker. As well as agriculture and fishing, they also controlled the silver mining indusry in the Upper Harz and in Goslar.

In the middle of the 14th century the settlements in the Harz became heavily depopulated as a result of the Black Death, and a systematic resettlement of mining villages in the Upper Harz did not take place until the first half of the 16th century.

Modern era up to the World War II

In 1588 the Nordhausen doctor, Johannes Thal, published the first book on regional flora in the world, Silva hercynia, in which he described the flowers specific to the Harz.

In 1668, Rudolph Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg granted the first conservation order for Baumann's Cavemarker. The ducal decree stated, inter alia, that the cave should be permanently preserved by all those responsible as a special, natural wonder. It also stated that nothing should be spoiled or destroyed and that groups of ordinary strangers should not be allowed to enter without prior arrangement. A resident mine worker was entrusted to oversee the natural monument. Until the issue of this conservation order, there had only been an order for the protection of the forest, which had been issued by the ruling princes for real, practical considerations. But for the first time the 1668 cave order took ethical-aesthetic considerations into account. 1668 was the birth of classic, nature conservation in the Harz. The order had been precipitated by the earlier, serious destruction of the cave's features by vandals. The first Harz 'rangers' were formed.

In 1705 the last bear was killed in the Harz, on the Brocken.

The steadily increasing consumption of wood by the pits and smelting works led to overexploitation of the forests and, from about 1700, to their outright destruction. There were no less than 30,000 charcoal piles in the Harz. In 1707 an order by Count Ernst of Stolberg forbade Brocken guides to take strangers or local folk to the Brocken without special permission and the lighting of fires was forbidden.To start with, the first attempts at forest conservation in the Harz were centred on the Brocken and began with a far-sighted nature conservation act over 275 years ago. In 1718, Count Christian Ernst of the House of Stolberg issued an ordinance in which an destruction or damage to the forest on the Brocken would be severely punished. In 1736 Count Christian Ernst also built the Wolkenhäuschen ("Little House in the Clouds") on the Brocken.

As a young man the famous German poet, Goethe visited the Harz several times and had a number of important lifetime experiences. These included his walks on the Brocken, his visit to the mines in Rammelsberg. Later his observations of the rocks on the Brocken led to his geological research. His first visit to the Harz awakened in him a keen interest in science (see Goethes: Wahrheit und Dichtung). In 1777 Goethe climbed the Brocken, departing from Torfhaus.At that time there was still no mass tourism on the Brocken; in the year 1779 only 421 walkers were recorded. Goethe described his feelings on the summit later, as follows: So lonely, I say to myself, while looking down at this peak, will it feel to the person, who only wants to open his soul to the oldest, first, deepest feelings of truth.

On 23 March 1798 the last wolf was killed in the Harz near the Plessenburg.

The count's guest house on the Heinrichshöhe had become too small and suffered from overcrowding; in 1799 it burned down. In 1800 a new guest house was built on the Brocken to replace it.

Around 1800 large swathes of the Harz were deforested. The less resistant, spruce, monoculture that arose as a consequence of the mining industry in the Upper Harz, was largely destroyed by a bark beetle outbreak and a storm of hurricane proportions in November 1800. This largest known bark beetle infestation in the Harz was known as the Große Wurmtrocknis and destroyed about of spruces forest and lasted about for 20 years. The woods were largely reforested with spruce. Continuous problems with bark beetle and storms were the negative side effects of mining in the Harz mountains.

In 1818 a mounted forester, Spellerberg, from Lautenthal killed the last lynx in the Harz on the Teufelsberg.

At the start of the 19th century, the increasing changes to the natural landscape wrought by the man and the extinction of large mammals like the bear, wolf and lynx raised awareness of the threat to nature.

In 1852 the district administrator of Quedlinburg placed the Teufelsmauer, "a rock outcrop famous as an object of folklore and as a rare natural curiosity", near Thale under protection, because the inhabitants of neighbouring districts were using the rocks as a quarry. This protection order survived in spite of all protests from the local villages. Thus a valuable natural monument was saved from destruction, and it is of note that the authorities felt that the 'romantic' reasons for its preservation were entirely justified.

In 1890 Professor Dr. Albert Peter laid out the Brocken Garden. This was the first Alpine flower garden to be established on German soil. And, in terms of its scientific concept and scope, the Brocken Garden was the first of its type worldwide.

In 1899 the Brocken Railway was taken into service, against the already strong concerns of conservationists. For example, the botanist, Bley, wanted to prevent trains from climbing the Brocken, because it he felt it would threaten the Brocken's flora.

In the last weeks of the Second World War the so-called Harz Fortress (Harzfestung) is worth mentioning. In February/March 1945 the SSmarker Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler, established the Harz Fortress to defend central Germanymarker from the western allies. Its headquarters was at Blankenburg. Amongst the formations mobilised were gehörten the divisions of the 11th Army, divisions of the Waffen SS and the Volkssturm. When the 1st US Army reached Nordhausenmarker in the southern Harz and went to advance to northwards, it met with resistance especially in the hills around the towns of Ilfeldmarker and Ellrichmarker. Not until 7 May 1945 did the last formations of the 11th Army and Waffen SS surrender in the mountains of the Harz. Several units of Volkssturm troops fought on against the Americans during May. Seen objectively the Harz was, however, at the end of the Second World War never a fortress that should have been strongly held from a military point of view. The western allies bypassed the Harz relatively effortlessly on their way to Berlin.

Former Inner German Border

Until 1990 the Inner German Border ran through the western third of the Harz. The Brocken plateau and other peaks near the border were part of a large military out-of-bounds area which demonstrating walkers first entered on 3 December 1989. Tourism on the Brocken has since then become very intense – about 1.3 million people visit the summit of the Brocken annually. The former out-of-bounds area today has many habitats worth protecting and, as a result, it is being turned into a green zone

Towns and municipalities in the Harz




Narrow gauge railway
The Harz Narrow Gauge Railways, an old fashioned, steam and diesel-powered railway network is a very popular mode of transport, especially with tourists. The railways link Wernigerodemarker, Nordhausenmarker, Quedlinburgmarker and the Brocken. Prior to the closure of the Inner German Border the network was joined at Braunlagemarker to the South Harz Railway Company.

Main line railways serve the major towns around the Harz including Halberstadtmarker, Wernigerode, Thalemarker, Quedlinburg and Nordhausen. The Harz used to be served by a number of branch lines, some of which are still open. Those operating regular passenger services are the Halberstadt–Blankenburg, Quedlinburg–Thalemarker, KlostermansfeldmarkerWippramarker and Bergamarker-KelbramarkerStolbergmarker lines. All the branch line in Lower Saxony (the Innerste Valley Railway and Oder Valley Railway) have been closed. The Rübeland Railway is only used by goods traffic at present, but there are plans to run it as a heritage railway.

Around the Harz a number of railway lines from a ring. They are, clockwise from the north, the Heudeber–Danstedt–Vienenburg, the Halberstadt–Vienenburg railway, the Halle–Halberstadt railway, the Berlin-Blankenheim Railway, the Halle-Kassel Railway, the South Harz Line, the Herzberg–Seesen railway, the Goslar–Seesen railway and the Vienenburg–Goslar railway.


The B 4/B 242 Harz high road near Braunlage
The Harz is grazed by the A 7 motorway in the west and the A 38 in the south. A four-lane motor road, the B 243 runs along the southwestern perimeter of the Harz via Osterode to Bad Lauterberg. In addition there is a good federal road (the B 6, B 4) from Goslar to Braunlage. The North Harz Foreland benefits from the newly-built B 6n. Both the B 4 and the B 6n have been upgraded almost to motorway standard. The B 4 crosses the Harz from Bad Harzburg on a north-south axis running through Torfhaus and Braunlage as far as Ilfeld on the edge of the South Harz. The rest of the Harz is also well served by federal roads. Important ones include the Harz high road (Harzhochstraße, the B 242), which crosses the Harz in an east-west direction (from Seesen to Mansfeld) and the B 241, which runs from Goslar in the north over the Upper Harz (Clausthal-Zellerfeld) as far as Osterode in the south.

Rivers originating in the Harz

Bode Gorge


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