A pollarded willow reflected in the Elbe in flood
Pollarded willows are typical features of riverbank meadows. ©Jan Schormann / LUGV

Elbe Riverside UNESCO-Biosphere Reserve

The Elbe Riverside Biosphere Reserve is a unique natural and man-made landscape extending over five German states.

This unspoilt landscape with numerous river meadows runs along the river Elbe from the Middle-Elbe lowlands to the North German Plain.

Sites of world heritage await visitors to the Middle Elbe, which lies in Saxony-Anhalt. The unique natural wonders of the Elbe valley, home to beavers, otters and white-tailed eagles, are as popular as the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, Lutherstadt Wittenberg or the Bauhaus building in Dessau.

The river and its bankside meadows meander lazily through the Brandenburg section of the reserve for 75km. In the spring and autumn, cranes, Nordic geese and lapwings are to be found in their thousands on the banks of the river. The white stork is particularly at home here. In the 'European Stork Village' of Rühstädt, over 30 pairs breed here every year.

To the south-east of Hamburg there is another region teeming with wildlife: the Lower Saxony Elbe Valley. This unique landscape is characterised by the varied terrain of the Elbe foreland, by gnarled trees standing in isolation on marshland, and by inland dunes covered with forest. With a bit of luck you'll be able to see plenty of storks, grey herons as they fish, resting cranes and white-tailed eagles circling overhead.

Across the entire breadth of a valley that was formed by ancient glaciers, one can see not only the wide, varied riverside meadows in south-west Mecklenburg formed by the Elbe and its tributaries, but also bare inland dunes and steep banks overhanging the river.

Cyclists can explore the reserve on purpose-built bike paths. The reserve follows the Elbe up through northern Germany, with a small part of it extending into Schleswig-Holstein. The 860km Elbe Cycle Route connects Bad Schandau on the German-Czech border to Cuxhaven on the North Sea coast.


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