Source: Helmut Gehring
The Danube lowland in the south of Donaueschingen is also called “Riedbaar”, an indication of the extensive wet areas. The ecological value of this landscape is extremely high and of countrywide importance.
Between Donaueschingen and Gutmadingen, the Danube runs through a wide valley in which there was even a lake during the Ice Age.
While its course between Donaueschingen and Pfohren has been clearly changed and straightened, below Neudingen one can still marvel at beautiful natural river meanders.
Along the river you can regularly see storks and herons catching frogs, mice and grasshoppers on the meadows. Although the grey heron used to be called “fish heron” in german, it feeds mainly on meadows. Correctly one would have to call it therefore “mice heron”.
In the whole Riedbaar the groundwater level is relatively high. Many areas were drained in order to make them usable with machines. As a consequence of this re-landscaping people started to use parts of the area as farmlands. An unwelcome change in places like this. The Riedbaar is regularly flooded and erosion occurs on arable land. Since the Danube has been designated as a flood area, at least no new upheavals are permitted. There is still a great natural diversity in the Riedbaar at particularly humid places. Areas formerly used as litter meadows are now partly maintained by nature conservation. There the Siberian iris still grows, and with a little luck you can watch the impressive mating flight of the Common snipe.
For over 20 years the so-called “Riedbaar-Project” exists on areas of Donaueschingen and Hüfingen. In the 90s the project was administered by the environmental office, since then by the district office. Farmers are paid compensation when they limit the fertilisation of their land, when they later mow or turn arable land into grassland. Several dozen contracts with a total of around 200 ha of land already exist.
Perhaps the gratifying increase in the white storks’ population is also due to the Riedbaar project. It has been breeding in paws since time immemorial, and has resettled in Neudingen and Sumpfohren.
The Riedbaar is crossed by the Danube Cycle Path, from which one gets a good insight into the area. In early summer thousands of cyclists can marvel at the variety of traditional hay meadows where common bistort, devil’s claw and brook thistle bloom.
In winter, when the reed lakes near Pfohren are frozen over, the Danube is full of life. Hundreds of water birds come to the Baar for wintering and then concentrate in areas where there is still ice-free water.
A map of the protected areas on the Riedbaar can be found here. (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation)