Another event was on our schedule this weekend because we wanted to do a paddling tour on the Unstrut, a smaller tributary to the Saale, which we had had on our to-do list for a long time.
Still relatively inexperienced in determining the length of such a paddling tour, Freyburg was initially considered as the destination, which we then roughly halved when we took a closer look at the map and the recognizable many loops of the Unstrut. So we decided to do the tour from Roßleben landing stage to Kirchscheiden, up to the landing stage, in the end it was also too long, as we had to find out on the way, especially since we couldn't start until around noon. Hardly any current in the river then promised that continuous paddling was announced. In the implementation, we parked a vehicle in Kirchscheiden directly at the small campsite or at the canoe landing stage, which was very busy with paddlers at the time. Then we continued with the second car to Roßleben at our chosen starting point. Our Gumotex Palava was quickly inflated and lowered into the water and we were ready to go.
Unstrut - calmly flowing water means a lot of paddling work
As already mentioned, the Unstrut is a tributary of the much more well-known Saale and measured against its catchment area of more than 6,000 km², with only about 30 m³/s discharge it is comparatively low in water. This is caused on the one hand by the widened flatness of the Thuringian Basin and on the other hand by the fact that the upper reaches of the larger water tributaries as well as the Unstrut itself come from the leeward side of the surrounding mountain ranges.
Even the Gera, which drains the montane Thuringian Forest in the upper reaches, only reaches just under 7 l/s km², while the rivers draining the Werra on the windward side of the mountains carry more than twice the amount of water per square kilometre of catchment area. In our case, it is the resin that ensures that the amount of water is only small, which means more work for us on paddle strokes, since the flow rate is of course also low as a result. Well, life is just a learning process!
Lock at Wendelstein Castle - then Memleben and more
The first part of the way was done in a very entertaining way, then the lock at the Wendelstein. Boat out of the water, walk around the lock and put the boat back in the water.
No problem for two. So you don't have to worry about lock times. The ruins of Wendelstein Castle, on which there are still inhabited buildings, are located directly on the river. A little later we reach the town of Memleben, where there was an Ottonian imperial palace from the 10th century, which was often visited by Heinrich I and Otto the Great.
In today's village you can still find the foundation walls of the associated monastery and the partially preserved monastery church from the 13th century. A permanent exhibition provides information about the history of the Palatinate and the monastery. A stopover is a must for newcomers to the region.
The Nebra sky disc was found on the Mittelberg in the Ziegelroda forest, which stretches north of the Unstrut near Wangen. The unusual museum building is clearly visible from the river.
Unfortunately closed at the moment due to construction work. A little later we pass the Unstrut Tal Bridge on the new Erfurt-Leipzig/Halle ICE line near Karsdorf, which went into operation in December 2015 and is considered the second longest railway bridge in Germany.
Then comes the baroque castle of Burg cuttings, in which the later Countess Cosel lived for several years, unfortunately not open to the public at the moment.
Steep slopes of gypsum, sandstone and shell limestone in the Unstrut valley
Actually, it is red sandstone and shell limestone from the Triassic formation that shape the face of the Saale-Unstrut Triassic region. But the gypsum rocks of the Wendelstein, which rise up abruptly just before Memleben directly on the Unstrut, are extraordinary and striking.
As the eastern foothills of the Bottendorferhöhe, it is one of the bulges of the Zechstein, which comes to light here due to the northern edge fault of the Hermundurian floe. Between Memleben and Nebra, the Unstrut flows through a valley cut into the Middle Buntsandstein, whose quarry walls bear witness to centuries of building stone extraction.
The valley widens near Karsdorf, the soft slate of the Upper Buntsandstein was partially washed out by the river. The lime is extracted as a raw material in the Karsdorf cement works.
In some places they are obscured by Tertiary and Quaternary sediments, in other places they are openly exposed. The sequence of geological strata can be seen particularly well in the lower reaches. The breakthrough valley of the Thüringer Pforte separates the Hainleite and Schmücke mountain ranges, which in turn consist of shell limestone, bordering the Thuringian Basin in the north and northeast.
The Unstrut gains its special charm from the contrast between river meadow biotopes and adjacent dry soil. The wet banks are lined with willows, poplars and ash trees. Dry and semi-dry grasslands can be found on the dry, calcareous soils, and rare orchids such as the pale and purple orchid, bee, spider and fly orchid, lady's slipper or the large twig grow in sheltered places such as in the Dead Valley nature reserve.
The Unstrut area is a centuries-old cultural landscape that is particularly characterized by winegrowing and orchards that have emerged from various fallow vineyards. Water-loving birds such as the dipper and the kingfisher are at home here, as we have seen on several occasions. Since the 1990s, the cormorant, which fishermen do not like to see as a competitor, has increasingly been encountered, as well as gray herons and, as a very special guest, the beaver. At first it was just the gnawing marks on the trees along the shore, but we were lucky enough to come across beavers twice on the way.
Sluice near Tröbsdorf and landing stage at Kirchscheiden
On the way there were a few other highlights that made a stopover seem more than practicable, so there were various social gatherings of campers and paddlers on the left and right of the Unstrut, who had already reached their destinations. Very tempting, but we were not quite sure when we would reach our goal.
The lock at Tröbsdorf was similar to the lock at Wendelstein, although there is a telephone number if you want to be locked. Which is certainly an adventure. It goes without saying that certain times have to be observed here. We wanted to move on as quickly as possible, although we met other canoeists here who also offered to help carry the canoe.
About 30 minutes later, it was now 7:30 a.m., we had reached our destination, we admit that we were really exhausted, in Kirchscheiden. The rest of the evening was dedicated to relaxation. Learned a lot and seen and experienced even more. A great tour that you should start in the morning or just plan less distance.
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