The unique floodplain landscape of the National Park.
The Donau-Auen National Park preserves the last great floodplain landscape in Central Europe, between the European metropolises of Vienna and Bratislava. The Danube, which still flows freely here, is still a lifeline to many and a dynamic creative force, forming an abundance of habitats. This is how the protected area ensures that the numerous endangered species there can survive.
With an area of 9,615 ha, the National Park extends over two federal provinces: Lower Austria and Vienna.
65% alluvial forest
20% bodies of water
The Donau-Auen National Park was established in 1996 and recognised by the IUCN as a protected area under category II in 1997.
Sections of the Danube in the National Park and in the Wachau valley are the last free flowing stretches in Austria.
The Donau-Auen National Park boasts 38 kilometres of protected wetlands territory as well as a free flowing section of the Danube river that’s around 36 km in length. However, it’s the natural course of the river itself, which is constantly changing, that ultimately shapes the face of the Danube Wetlands. Its numerous bodies of water are connected to the river (depending on the water level) and create space for extensive, jungle-like alluvial forests between the tributaries and calm, oxbow lakes.
Dried gravel beds and meadows on the steppes, created by man in the middle of the forests, add to the mosaic of habitats.
Water is always the dominating element of the landscape here: the Danube flows through the alluvial forest with overwhelming force during periods of high water. This creates gravel banks and tears steep walls in the river bank, which in turn introduces nutrients into the current. It’s this that makes the river a source of life as well as creative design.
The fauna of the Danube floodplains is extraordinarily diverse.
The biodiversity of the Donau-Auen National Park is characteristic of riverside floodplains, which have become a rarity in Central Europe. This is what makes the National Park area is one of the last refuges for rare species of mammals, breeding birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, as well as a wide range of invertebrates.
If you put some time aside to watch the skies and riverbank areas, it won’t be long before you spot white-tailed eagles, dice snakes and little ringed plovers. By encouraging the natural course of the floodplain and thanks to renaturation projects, the protected area also contributes to the preservation of highly-endangered species, such as the dog-fish, the European pond turtel, the great capricorn beetle and the green club-tailed dragonfly.
In years gone by, the European pond turtel was caught in large numbers as it was a popular meal to enjoy during Lent. The reptile, which can reach an age of up to 60 years old, is under serious threat today. The Donau-Auen National Park is making an important contribution to saving the species from extinction thanks to the research we have carried out and the way in which we have improved the habitat conditions and protected their eggs.
The kingfisher is referred to as a “flying gem” because of its colour and shape. However, controls placed on the river and water pollution are causing a sharp fall in the population. The Danube Wetlands host the largest Austrian breeding grounds and therefore offer the best conditions for spotting the distinctive bird.
The long missing dog-fish was rediscovered in the National Park territory in 1992. The species, which is currently threatened with extinction, takes its name from it’s characteristic swimming style: the alternating movement of the large pectoral fins resembles the swimming motion of dogs.
The Donau-Auen National Park conceals a great wealth of plant species by means of its diverse, closely integrated landscape structure. If you look carefully, you can also spot unique species in the abundant flora, such as the seriously endangered black poplar, the Siberian iris, the wild grapevine as well as a relict population of water soldier.
Thanks to its position on the Danube corridor, the protected area also makes a special contribution to biodiversity and species conservation across all of Europe
The black poplar is cropping up as a riverside tree in the lowlands of large rivers and is one of the few tree crops, which can populate gravel banks. The trees, which can sometimes reach the ripe old age of 300 and even develop bizarre, powerful growth habits, are important breeding grounds for large nest builders, such as black storks and white-tailed eagles. This is important as these are on the red list of endangered species in Austria.
This plant species was once represented in large numbers in the swamps of the Marchfeld plain, but now you can only spot the water soldier in a few oxbow lakes of the Danube. As a result of river controls, the plant, which even in bloom protrudes no more than half way above the water, has been displaced in many places. Today the species is threatened with extinction.
The Siberian iris dominates the face of the Danube Wetlands when in bloom in May and June. Given that it only appears at sites that are first mowed in late summer and are not fertilised, the species has now become seriously endangered.
Whether you opt for a ranger-led expedition, an atmospheric hike, a stroll along the riverbank or participating in the colourful family and workshop programme: you won’t be disappointed by a visit to the Donau-Auen National Park, which always provides an escape from everyday life.
As part of the schlossORTH National Park Centre, the “Schlossinsel” floodplain adventure site is a place of authentic encounter with animals, plants and habitats in the region. In addition to native species of snakes and amphibians, ground squirrels, wild bees, beetles, dragonflies and butterflies, European pond turtles can also be spotted. Young visitors should have a great time playing on the suspension bridge, exploring the wooden bridge trail and bird’s nest.
The Orth Auen are a particularly dynamic habitat. Where two tributaries connect with the River Danube, the landscape is constantly changing and creates the ideal conditions for amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds and water-based insects. Bodies of water in the Orth islands have also become inviting wild bathing sites and the basis for natural forests and unspoilt primeval forests.
Boat tours provide the opportunity to experience the River Danube and bodies of water in the wetlands close up. Whether it be a canoe/rubber dinghy trip along the oxbow lake or a ship tour downstream: learning about the flora and fauna from the water is an experience that you won’t forget. National Park rangers accompany visitors on specialist tours to guarantee that no natural secret remains undisclosed.
Uncover the secrets of the floodplain by tracking the footsteps of those who live there: this is facilitated by the variety of information and visitor offers provided at the Donau-Auen National Park.
National Park Lounge and Floodplain Adventure Area „Schlossinsel“
The schlossORTH National Park Centre provides new perspectives on the floodplain and offers comprehensive visitor information. The multimedia “DonAUräume” exhibition allows visitors to experience the history of the protected area as well as providing information on how it’s run today. This as well as the National Park lounge and the floodplain adventure site “Schlossinsel” invite visitors to explore and enjoy what’s on offer. An exhibition displayed in the observation tower: “Upwind. The return of the white-tailed eagle” – Interesting facts about the comeback of the majestic birds of prey. A visit to the National Park shop and the opportunity to book guided tours are just some of the great ways you can enhance your trip.
schlossORTH National Park Centre
Schlossplatz 1, 2304 Orth an der Donau
Tel.: +43 (2212) 3555
Visitor Centre for the Vienna part of the Donau-Auen National Park
The visitor centre for the Viennese section of the Donau-Auen National Park is the perfect place to enjoy nature and relax away from the city. The National Park exhibitions “tonAU” and “AU-Kino” as well as the special exhibitions that change each year provide in-depth insights into the flora and fauna of the protected area. The generous garden with an adventure play area and picnic benches provide the perfect opportunity to relax – special exclusive tours (that can be booked on site) allow visitors to make further discoveries.
wien-lobAU National Park House
Dechantweg 8, 1220 Vienna
Tel.: +43 (1) 4000 49495
The Marchfeld Hunting Castle Eckartsau can look back over a long tradition. Today this castle, which was once the residence of the last Austrian imperial couple, forms part of the Donau-Auen National Park and is a venue for numerous National Park programmes, as well as the “W|LD°WECHSEL” exhibition. The extensive castle park, which includes an observation lodge and imperial road, invites visitors to spend time relaxing and enjoying nature.
Österreichische Bundesforste AG
Donau-Auen National Park Office
Schloss Eckartsau, A-2305 Eckartsau
Tel.: +43 (2214) 2240