For thousands of years, water has been one of the elements that shaped the mountain region of the Erz-gebirge and the Vogtland. Moors, springs and the rugged, steep valleys carved out by mountain rivers are an ongoing influence on our landscape.
Springs of exceptionally clear, consistently cold and nutrient-poor water erupt all over the mountain ridges and at the start of the valleys. Only a small number of plants, such as bog chickweed and water moss, are adapted to thrive here. At approximately 1,120 metres above standard zero, the spring of the Zschopau river on the northern slope of the Fichtelberg mountain is one of the highest springs in the Sax-on Erzgebirge. Both the Zwickau Mulde and Freiberg Mulde rivers start from springs at around 800 metres above standard zero in the western (Zwickau) and eastern (Freiberg) mountain ridges of the Erzgebirge. The source of the Vogtland’s largest river, the White Elster, is on the western slope of the Kappelenberg mountain and flows through the Czech territory of the Elstergebirge (Elster Mountains).
A number of these mountain springs are particularly well known for the healing properties resulting from their mineral content. As a result, the spa towns of Bad Elster and Bad Brambach developed in the Up-per Vogtland in the previous century – as did the Wiesenbad thermal springs right on the border of the nature park in the central Erzgebirge.
The headwater regions and upper reaches of the Vogtland streams are the last remaining habitats of the freshwater pearl mussel, which is threatened with extinction throughout Europe. At the start of the twentieth century, these mussels occupied larger stretches of water in the Vogtland, and their pearls were treasured by the Saxon nobility. Nowadays, however, nearly all the remaining populations are ageing and low in number. Preserving them through the improvement of the water quality and the designation of large protected areas is a major undertaking in nature conservation.
Author: Dr. Thomas Brockhaus
Brockhaus, Thomas (1997): “Der Naturpark als Wasserspeicher” IN: Unser Naturpark Erzgebirge / Vogtland, Dresden