Nature parks in NRW
Paradises for animals and people
In the 12 nature parks in NRW, the beauty of nature can be explored right up close. Many unusual and threatened animals and plants have settled here.
It’s not only in the Eifel national park, the only national park in North Rhine-Westphalia, that visitors can experience nature right up close. In the federal state’s 12 nature parks, unique biospheres have developed, since the parks consist mainly of landscape and nature conservation areas.
Many threatened animal and plant species, some of which have almost become extinct, have found refuge here, and with a bit of luck, visitors to the parks might find rare or unusual examples themselves, such as fire salamanders, mouflons or black storks.
Unique nature parks
Each nature park in the federal state has its own special features. The Hohes Venn-Eifel German-Belgian nature park is a highland moor area which is unique in Europe. Here, visitors can become acquainted with the natural world of the Eifel region in different ways, either on a tour over walkways or underground in one of the mines that are open to the public.
The Schwalm-Nette nature park is also a cross-border project, although this time on the German-Dutch border. In the area between the triangle of three cities - Mönchengladbach on the Lower Rhine, Venlo and Roermond - visitors will find juniper heathland, lakes created by peat cutting, and of course, the three rivers that give the nature park its name.
Park with wild horses
The stars of the Hohe Mark nature park are the Dülmen wild horses, the only herd of wild horses still living on the European continent. However, the Münsterland region is also worth a visit to see the burning heath or watch the birds on the Silbersee II lake.
The Dümmer nature park, located in the north-eastern tip of NRW in the Teutoburger Wald forest and in Lower Saxony, is also a place of refuge for numerous plants and animals. Cranes breed here, and Eurasian wigeons have chosen the lake and moor landscape as their winter quarters.
Brine, moor and healing waters
The Teutoburger Wald/Eggegebirge nature park is also known as the “healing garden of Germany”, since here, there is a unique density of natural healing elements such as brine, moors and healing waters. The unique feature here are the Externsteine rocks and the Desenberg volcano, the northernmost volcano in Germany.
In the Terra vita nature and geopark, which extends across the north of North Rhine-Westphalia and the south of Lower Saxony, 300 million years of the earth’s history can be experienced. Here, among other things, visitors will find megalithic tombs, dinosaur traces and boulders from the ice age.
The newest nature park in NRW
The newest and largest nature park in NRW is the Sauerland-Rothaargebirge nature park. It was created as recently as 2015 from the Homert, Rothaargebirge and Ebbegebirge nature parks. In the north of the nature parks, the sea of rocks near Hember and the Balver Höhle, the largest man-made cave in Germany, are among the main attractions. Skiing is also possible here during winters with heavy snowfall.
However, the place more likely to have snow is the area around Winterberg in the Rothaargebirge region. However, even if there is no snow, it’s worth a visit just for the healthy, bracing climate in the high ground of the Sauerland and Siegerland-Wittgenstein regions.
Nature experience in the Sauerland region
The Ebbegebirge in the Sauerland region is dominated above all by the large number of dams there. Hundreds of years ago, the area in the western Sauerland region became a centre for iron production. Despite this, it has largely preserved the charm of a cultural landscape dominated by farming - and the dams are also part of the reason why the region has become such a popular leisure and recreation area. Some of the highest peaks in the Sauerland region are to be found in the Diemelsee nature park, which is populated by red stags and timid mouflons. During the late summer, the upland heathland transforms the landscape into a luxuriant carpet of flowers.
Nature parks close to cities
Some of the nature parks in NRW are also located very close to major cities, such as the Rheinland nature park right on the doorstep of Cologne and Bonn. The nature park stands out for its incredible variety of landscapes, with lakes, forests, flood plains and hilly volcano landscapes, with individual villages nestling in between.
The Siebengebirge nature park - the first nature park in North Rhine-Westphalia - is not far away. With is gorge-like valleys, peaks covered in dense forest, rough rocks and of course, the incomparable view over the Rhine, it has fascinated painters, poets and travellers alike for centuries.
Forests and dams
The heights in the Bergisches Land region are also covered in dense forest. The dominant feature in the Bergisches Land region, apart from its hills, are the lakes and dams here, which were already used centuries ago to drive commercial machines, and which still fulfil important tasks today as providers of drinking water or as popular leisure destinations.
Another popular place to visit is the Möhnesee lake, which is located in the middle of the Arnsberger Wald forest nature park. However, this is not only a popular place for people to spend time; the lake is also a real paradise for water birds. Anyone wanting to get to know the entire nature park, the best tip is to follow the Sauerland forest route, which covers 240 kilometres and travels right through the entire area.