The High Altitude Reservoir is located in the Hohe Tauern national reserve and is accessible from the world-famous ski sports town, Kaprun.
Another excellent spot to visit is the Grossglockner high alpine road which is situated on the other side of the high altitude reservoir, but the same region of Salzburg.
July 2014, Austria. Today I am taking you back 3 month into the past, at a time when we were enjoying the fresh Austrian summer air. In July we organized a 3 day camping trip in the Salzburg alps, which is situated right beside our region, Tyrol, some 20 kilometers distance or so. Wile I am sitting right now in Goa, patiently enduring the overwhelming after monsoon heat, I get a longing to go back and in fact I wish I could even jump through the picture, just so that I can get a whiff of a cool and clear mountain air breeze.
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The majestic mountain range surrounded by summer’s greenery with it’s natural diversity and it’s timeless beauty… You would want to be in the Austrian alps now if you are looking for a quite and serene holiday. You would also like to be there during summer if you enjoy hiking and discovering Gaya’s simple wonders.
I think most travelers that I have encountered visiting our lands, called it God’s own country. As a local you are not always enamored, you know what I mean to say? If you were born in a beautiful place, the beauty becomes omnipresent and therefore normal. However, as a local you don’t always get to the higher mountain points, but when we do, we end up as enthralled by the scenery around us. That was the case when we were faced with a massive man made reservoir, rich in history and which has been working so well in favor for the natural environment.
How to get to the High Altitude Reservoir Hohe Tauern?
The village of Kaprun is situated near Mittersill and Zell am See in the region of Salzburg. The town is a popular winter sport holiday destination for tourists from all over the world. To reach the office of the high altitude reservoir cross the village of Kaprun and continue towards the glacier lifts which should be prominently directed. You will come across boards directing you towards the High Altitude Reservoir Hohe Tauern.
Once you have reached your destination, find a parking and get a ticket at the counter. Shuttle buses pass frequently so you won’t have to wait for long, but keep in mind the opening hours and last ascent (more further down). The travel up to the reservoir will take about 30 minutes, where you will change from the first shuttle bus into a cool and fun open air lift, and then you will be taking to another shuttle bus with the other visitors and at last you will be left at your final destination. The shuttle bus will take you through narrow short tunnel passages, we enjoyed the roller-coast like experience.
About the High Altitude Reservoir Hohe Tauern and our experience
The Kaprun Hohe Tauern reservoir should be actually called reservoirs because there are two artificial dam lakes nested in between the colossal glaciers, whereas the lower reservoir is known as Wasserfallboden and the upper one as Mooserboden. The purpose of the reservoir is to generate clean electricity for the Austrian country and the 170 million m³ of water generate annually a whooping 700 million kWh for the Austrian households and industry.
Austria is one of the few no nuclear plant countries, although the government did built a nuclear plant which was never used and at the end, after rigorous demonstrations and a referendum, Austria was declared an anti-nuclear country.
So, the water collected by the dams mostly comes from the Pasterze glacier in the neighboring region Carinthia. Glaciers are also known as eternal high altitude fresh water ice patches, which are vital for the ecological balance. As you know glaciers have been reduced over the last 100 years due to global environment changes.
The water, that has been used for the generation of electricity, is later on returned to the natural cycle. With that I think they mean to say that they pump it back up or similar. The thing is we never took a guided tour and I did forget to ask the lift controller how the water is returned to the upper reservoir, but my father mentioned that they pump it back up. You know, I am not that technical…
Once we reached the top destination with the last comfortable shuttle bus, we took in the pretty picture around us with it’s vastness and mirroring waters. To take a walk on the upper reservoir bridge is definitely refreshing and it’s a pleasant change. You can take in all the beauty around you and you can take your own time, nobody will disturb you.
From the upper reservoir you might be able to see some wildlife so binoculars might come useful. The whole surrounding could remind one of autumn or spring, with the snow-peak mountains and cloud shrouded mountains. The weather is a bit cooler up there compared to the valley but the temperatures are pleasant.
If you are more of a technical person like my father and husband, you will also enjoy the Power and Ice Museum which is situated on the other side of the bridge. You will be able to chill out there as well, have a hot goulash and a cool beer while enjoying the peaceful and perfect scenery around you.
The museum itself explains the history of the reservoir well with video material and show pieces such as workers pickaxes and helmets. You have to know the building of the reservoir was initiated before the 2nd world war and during the war many prisoners and foreigners worked there under harsh conditions. Later on after the war I was told that locals, even from my area, so to say parents and grandparents of today’s generation, worked there constructing the immense high altitude reservoir Hohe Tauern.
All the work and years that it took to build such a master idea deserves recognition. A memory of the struggles reminds us that all this could have not been without the hard working men of the time.
The above picture, the complete history, the technical details and an introduction on how the reservoir can benefit the natural balance of the environment can be learned in the same museum. Also, you can get an exclusive guided tour into the reservoir tunnels etc which might be interesting if you get there in the earlier hours of the day.
I was already satisfied by just sitting there and taking in the whole scenery but we saw people too trekking and there are guesthouses where you can take a room for one or two nights so that you can take your own time to discover the area around you with its secret hideouts.
The last shuttle bus leaves around 4:30 so you will have to be there on time too or you won’t get back down to your car. Remember Austrians are punctual! Anyway, if you just want to escape the world, to miss the bus might be a good idea after all. 😉
Opening hours and price: High Altitude Reservoir Hohe Tauern
Take a break from your busy life and visit from the end of May to mid-October, daily from 9 am – 4:45 pm and the last chance to get a lift up is at 3:30 pm. The ticket price for the several shuttle buses and the lift ride is per grown-up 19,50€, per child (6-15y.) 12€ and per child under 5 for free. For more information about group prices, contact number, email etc visit the Reservoir’s website.