Project 16: Geopark Muskau Coal Crescent

Shaped by ice and coal

This is a landscape phenomenon found only in Lusatia: the Muskau Coal Crescent range of hills between Germany and Poland. Its geology and geomorphology is unique – and it is also the place where lignite mining in Lusatia began. The aim of this IBA project is to protect the whole of this cultural landscape and to allow people to view the interactions between natural processes and human activity.


The Muskau Coal Crescent is a horseshoe-shaped chain of hills stretching from Döbern in South Brandenburg through Weisswasser and Bad Muskau in Saxony and ending at Trzebiel in the Polish state of Lubusz. The Coal Crescent was created during the so-called Elster ice age (around 450,000 years ago), by a glacier exerting massive pressure on the sand, clay and coal layers beneath it, pressing them together and pushing them out from its edge as »folds.« Geologists describe this as a »push moraine.« Over the millennia that followed, the Muskau Coal Crescent was heavily eroded, but the chain of hills still stands out clearly in an otherwise flat landscape.
Particularly remarkable are the lignite seams, which were pushed up close to the surface by the folding and thereby made available to human beings, making the area the cradle of the Lower Lusatian lignite industry. The Julius trench at Wolfshain was opened in 1843, and sixty more trenches quickly followed. They were joined by industrial facilities such as brickworks and glass factories, which used the clay and sand that had to be dug out to reach the coal as raw materials. By 1959, however, the seam in the Brandenberg area had been exhausted, and the coal also ran out in Saxony ten years later; mining has also ended in Poland. Today, this old mining region is an enchanted realm of woods, meadows, and small lakes shining every shade of blue – the depressions and hollows deepened by mining, and later filled up with water.


The IBA primarily wanted to reveal the hidden, forgotten, or buried origins of this (cultural) landscape and expand on the German-Polish collaboration by supporting landscape tourism development and cross-border cooperation. Two feasibility studies provided a concrete plan: a cross-border Geopark to market the landscape and develop it for tourism. A striking guidance system will be the connective element for this wide expanse of landscape.

Much of the concept for Brandenburg was implemented between 2002 and 2004 by the district of Spree-Neisse and the communities involved using money from the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE). Since 2004, the 35-metre Felixturm tower at Felixsee has been providing a fine view of the cobalt-blue Felixsee lake, the thickly forested Coal Crescent, and its hinterlands. In Jerischke, a small information centre at a local residential school presents an exhibition about the Coal Crescent, and classes of schoolchildren start off here on tours to explore the surrounding area. Four themed routes lead through the landscape: the »Altbergbautour« (old mine tour), the »Glastour« (glass tour), the »Geologietour« (geology tour), and the »Neissetaltour« (Neisse valley tour) crisscross the historic landscape.

The path network in Poland and Saxony is also being gradually built up. For instance, on the south edge of the Coal Crescent, at the Nochten open-cast mine, the Kommunikations- und Naturschutzzentrum Weisswasser (KNW) was opened by the Vattenfall mining business in 2008 – directly on the cycle path from the Kromlauer Park to the Findling-spark (boulder park) at Nochten. Tourism services are also being developed for the Polish side. The aim of the collaboration is to create an information and visitor centre with both German and Polish staff that can handle booking for the Muskau Coal Crescent’s tourist services and support the further development of the Geopark. The offices in Döbern, which have existed since 2007, would provide the premises for this visitor centre.

This project to preserve the landscape and to inform people about its origin and its unique features has since been recognised: in 2006, the Muskau Coal Crescent was elevated to »National Geopark« status – together with the likes of the Vulkaneifel and the Harz mountains. The next step is for the Coal Crescent to be included in the European Geopark network.


From the present seat of the Geopark offices in Döbern’s town hall, an independent organisation is to be created to run a visitor and information centre and to administrate and market the Geopark. Part of its task will be to signpost the various individual locations, to further develop the German-Polish projects and the tourist services that are already underway, and to attract tourists to the region. The aim of the German-Polish park is to market the numerous tourist attractions in the Muskau Coal Crescent in a centralised way. Another potential asset for marketing this landscape further afield is being able to work with the European network of National Geoparks and the added value that comes from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additional information points in Saxony and Poland – in Bad Muskau’s Neues Schloss, for instance – serve the same purpose. The Geopark central office will initially be based in the glassworks at Döbern. There are plans to transfer it to the historic brickworks in Klein Kölzig, which is to be extended.

Download the flyer: Geopark Muskau Coal Crescent (458.2 KB)

Download the flyer: Mammoth from Klinge (2.4 MB)


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last update: 1/26/2017 13:13