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Simonswald

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Simonswald wetland

Simonswald watershed and wetland

Canoeing Simonswald

     Climbing up the Zweribach Waterfalls and reaching the top you will see complete different sceneries; firstly, walking up on small trails through a forest, and at the top reaching flat green meadows. This is due to two rivers: Danube (Donau) and Rhine (Rhein). Simonswald is part of the continental divide between the Atlantic Ocean watershed (drained by the Rhine) and the Black Sea watershed (drained by the Danube).

     Originally all water (rain) went to the East, the Danube, finally flowing into the Black Sea. Recently, just 2 million years ago, Danube has been facing a new competitor: the so-called Father Rhine. Simply put, water was faced with the choice either flowing in the traditionally slow manner to the East, or joining its Western rival, directly, steep down, wildly. Over millions of years, most waters decided to join the wild side, thus forming valleys by pushing directly downhill, caused by high pressure adhesion. The Plateau (Platte) above Zweribach also decided in favour of the West; for example one of its rivers, the Glotter, has been forming the Glotter Valley (Glottertal). Still, The Plateau's landscape (the soul) is still Danubinan; the brain, where the water flows to, is Rhenish.

     The Rhine's origins are in the Swiss Alps. The "Vorderrhein" springs from Lake Tuma near the Oberalp pass. The "Hinterrhein" starts from the Paradies glacier near Rheinquellhorn at the southern border of Switzerland; both tributaries meet near Reichenau in Graubünden.

     The Rhine flows then north to form the frontier with Liechtenstein and Austria, and empties into Lake Constance (Bodensee). Rhine then re-emerges, flows west, mainly along the border between Switzerland and Germany, and falls over the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen. Over 1000 kilometers, the Rhine is the longest river within Germany. It is here that the Rhine is joined by other rivers such as Neckar, Main and Moselle.

     The Danube is much older than the Rhine, with which its catchment area competes in Southern Germany. This has an interesting geological implication. Since the Rhine is the only river rising in the Alps which flows north towards the North Sea, an invisible line divides parts of southern Germany, which is sometimes referred to as the European Watershed which also runs through Simonswald..

     Before the last Ice Age, the Rhine started at the southwestern side of the Black-Forest, while the waters from the Alps that today feed the Rhine were carried east by the original Danube. Parts of this ancient river's bed, which was much larger than today's Danube, can still be seen in now waterless canyons in the Swabian Alb. After the Upper Rhine Valley had been eroded, most waters from the Alps changed their direction and began feeding the Rhine; today's upper Danube is but a minor reflection of its former power.

     Since the Swabian Alb is largely shaped of limestone, and because Rhine's water-level is far lower than Danube´s level, sub-surface rivers carry much water from the Danube to the Rhine. On some days in the summer, when the Danube carries very little water, it completely sinks into underground channels at two locations in the Swabian Alp, which are referred to as Danube Sink. Most of this water resurfaces only 12 km south with 8,000 liters per second, north of Lake Constance (Bodensee) feeding the Rhine.

     Since this enormous amount of underground water erodes much of its surrounding limestone, it is forecasted that Danube´s upper course will one day disappear in favour of the Rhine - no happy ending.

     The river through Simonswald is called Wild-Gutach which has also decided to go for Rhine destiny, and thoroughly deserves its wildness attribute. Many canoeing competitions have been held along its challenging course and sadly enough people even lost their lives in it. Last recorded deadly accident happened on April 21, 2005.

     Besides being watershed, Simonswald has lots of wetland including 33 bogs (moor). Famous are "Häuslematt" and "Schurtensee-Kar". Wetlands are found under a wide range of hydrological conditions, usually by saturating soil with water, resultin in a hydric soil, one characterised by an absence of free oxygen sometimes or constantly and therefore called a biologically reduced environment. Wetland plants are adapted to the reduced environment of such soils and can survive in wetlands, whereas upland plants could not survice if faced with an absence of soil oxygen. Adaptations to low soil oxygen characterise most wetland plants. A bog is wetland which accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material. The term peat bog in therfore a bit redundant. There are quite a number of terms which are frequently used as synonyms for bog, but are imprecise, for example, the term moor can refer to a flat, boggy area with patches of heath and peat moss. And just in case you didn´t know: July 30th is International Bog´s Day.

     Moisture is provided entirely by precipitation and because of this, bog water is acidic. Bog´s water outflows are mostly brownish. Bogs are widely distributed in Simonswald.

     Bogs are challenging environments for plant life because they are low in nutrients and very acidic. Only so-called carnivorous plants have adapted to these conditions by using insects as a nutrient source. The high acidity of bogs and the absorption of water by sphagnum moss reduce the amount of water available for plants. Some bog plants, such as leatherleaf, have waxy leaves to help retain moisture. Bogs also offer a unique environment for animals. For instance, Simonswald bogs give a home to boghopper beetles.

     Industrial uses of bog: A bog is a very early stage in the formation of coal. Most people are unaware that Bogs can catch fire and often sustain long-lasting smouldering blazes, producing smoke and CO2 causing health and environmental problems. After drying, peat can also be used as fuel. Some barns in Simonswald still use peat as energy source but this is nothing compared to Russia, the leading producer of peat for fuel, producing more than 90 million metric tons per year. Crops of blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries are also grown and harvested in bogs.

     Another major use of dried peat is as a soil amendment to increase the capacity to retain moisture - also used as a mulch.

     These (fewer and fewer) industrial uses and need for farmland threaten the existence of bogs. More than 50 per cent of the bogs in Simonswald have been destroyed this way. Recently, environmentalists are committed to preserve what's left of Simonswald bogs.

 
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