Wasserkar Primeval Forest, Austria

Wasserkar in the Blühnbach Valley is a subalpine virgin forest with European larch (Larix decidua) and Norway spruce (Picea abies). Wasserkar (35 ha), particularly its upper part, is very difficult to reach. As parking along the road running through the valley is not allowed without a special permit, an 11 km hike from Tenneck is first needed. Wasserkar is not marked in any way. It is located on a north-facing steep slope that is possible to reach from the north. From all other directions the forest is protected by high cliffs (photo right). There may have been wood extraction in the past from the lowest part of the reserve; at least trees felled by wind were removed1. Ascending further, however, there is a very steep rockslide passable at only a few points. Low dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo) thickets grow on these very steep rocky sites, making the access even more difficult. The rockslide has protected the upper parts of Wasserkar, which are virtually untouched1. For pasturing, the area was too small1.

The slope is slightly less steep above the rockslide. Spruce dominates up to 1350 m, then spruce together with larch, and from 1550 m up to the tree line at 1700 m larch dominates alone1. There is abundant spruce regeneration in the larch forest, too, but it is not capable of developing further due to the cold climate1. There are also a few European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and whitebeam (Sorbus aria, syn. Aria edulis). In Wasserkar larch reaches approx. 30 m in height. The forest is open with abundant windfalls. Browsing of chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) and red deer (Cervus elaphus) is severe1 and their traces and paths are abundant. In total contrast, human traces are entirely absent. The scenery is gorgeous, the highest surrounding summits reaching over 2400 m. Annual precipitation is approx. 1500 mm, with a summer maximum, and the average annual temperature (probably in the lowermost part) 4°C 1. The soil is lime rich1.



  1. Mayer, H. & Wallmann. R. (1987): Der Urwaldrest Lärchenwiesenwald im Wasserkar (Blühnbachtal). In Mayer. H. (ed.): Urwaldreste, Naturwaldreservate und schützenswerte Naturwälder in Österreich. Institut für Waldbau, BOKU.