30.07.2010

Wadden Sea National Park of Lower Saxony

Welcome to the Wadden Sea National Park in Lower Saxony! You’ll get to know a landscape which is unique in the entire world and is therefore definitely worth protecting. Here are some useful hints to enable you to experience and enjoy its special environment. At the same time we will explain how you can contribute to the conservation of the park.

We will tell you about:

  • The different conservation zones
  • The importance of the Wadden Sea
  • The Information Centres

What is a National Park?

In a National Park the aim is to leave nature to itself to the greatest possible extent and be preferably unaffected by humans. The Wadden Sea National Park was founded in 1986 and is protected by law.

* In the Wadden Sea National Park the special character of the landscape along the shoreline is conserved and protected from any adverse effects.
* The natural processes are allowed to continue.
* The biological variety of the plant and animal species is to be conserved.

Everyone is welcome to experience the special environment of the park. The marked paths open up the full variety of nature to you.

Information boards will help you find your way around and learn about your surroundings so you can enjoy nature without disturbing it.

Unique throughout the world – Irreplaceable throughout the World

The Wadden Sea habitat, on the German North Sea coast, is unmatched anywhere else in the world. The following factors combine here to form a unique and very special place.

* The seabed slopes gradually and is only up to 10 metres deep
* Sediments are carried here from rivers which flow into the Wadden Sea and form deposits in quiet waters
* At a tidal range beyond 1.7 metres the tidal current is strong enough to deposit material from the sea.
* The dunes and sandbanks which were formed from deposited sand act as natural breakwaters
* The temperate climate causes the open character of the tidal landscape (under the same conditions that mangrove woods can be found in the tropics)

The Wadden Sea is of great importance as:

* A habitat for seals
* A central stopping place in the eastern Atlantic for migrating birds. Only here in the Wadden Sea can the migrant birds find sufficient nourishment to build up their reserves for the annual flights of thousands of kilometres between their breeding grounds in the north and their winter homes in the south.
* Breeding and moulting grounds for waders and waterfowl
* Wintering grounds for Brent Geese
* A nursery for North Sea fish
* The "larder” of the North Sea. (Micro-organisms use the nutrients and serve as food for larger animals).
* A habitat for plants which have adapted to the effects of salt, wind, flooding or being covered by sand (eg seaweed, Salicornia, Sea Aster and beach grass).
* A home to the people living and working here for centuries
* A recreation area for hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers.

Habitats in the Wadden Sea

Mudflats are those parts of the Wadden Sea which are regularly flooded and left to dry again with the changing tides, while the sea channels stay filled with water. On and under the surface of the mudflats live innumerable micro-organisms. They draw nourishment from the water and the soil, and also consume the pollutants that are washed in with the tide. They, in turn, form a rich source of food for fish and birds.

Salt marshes develop when so much sediment is deposited in front of the dike that areas rise up out of the tides and are only flooded at irregular intervals. Under such special influences – with changing salt content, flooding and a supply of food – these locations develop a highly specialised community. For example, around 400 species of insects are found on only 25 plant species in the salt marshes!

Dunes and beaches form mainly on the east and north sides of the islands. Dunes develop from sand which is blown in and are held together by deep-rooting plants. They are vital to the survival of the islands and the people who live there, providing protection as natural breakwaters from floods. Anyone who destroys dunes and their plant life is putting human life at risk!

Special habitats

In the Wadden Sea you’ll find

* The sandy cliffs at the Jade Bay (next to Dangast) and near Cuxhaven-Sahlenburg
* The brackish water reed in bays (Dollart) and at the western mouth of the Weser, where saltwater and freshwater mix
* The swimming bog in the Jade Bay (Sehestedt)
* The waters of the North Sea to the north of Borkum and Baltrum, which are important moulting grounds for black scoters and have belonged to the National Park since 2001.

Information and Education

Visitor Centres: These offer exhibitions, lectures, excursions and experimental programmes. You can also ask for special offers for children, teenagers and other groups. The centres in Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven are also World heritage information centres.

Along the coast:

  • Cuxhaven, Hans-Clausen-Straße 19, 27476 Cuxhaven-Sahlenburg, Tel. (0049) 4721 28681
  • Wurster Nordseeküste, Am Kutterhafen, 27632 Dorum-Neufeld, Tel. (0049) 4741 2826
  • Fedderwardersiel, Am Hafen 1, 26969 Butjadingen, Tel. (0049) 4733 8517
  • Dangast, Zum Jadebusen 179, 26316 Varel-Dangast, Tel. (0049) 4451 7058
  • Carolinensiel, Pumphusen 3, 26409 Carolinensiel, Tel. (0049) 4464 8403
  • Dornumersiel, Oll Deep 7, 26553 Dornumersiel, Tel. (0049) 4933 1565
  • Norden-Norddeich, Dörper Weg 22, 26506 Norden-Norddeich, (0049) 4931 81635
  • Greetsiel, Schatthauser Weg 6, 26736 Greetsiel, Tel. (0049) 4926 2041

On the Islands:

  • Wangerooge, Friedrich - August - Str. 18, 26480 Wangerooge, Tel. (0049) 4469 8397
  • Baltrum, Haus Nr. 177, 26579 Baltrum, Tel. (0049) 4939 469
  • Norderney, Am Hafen, 26548 Norderney, Tel. (0049) 4932 2001
  • Juist, Carl-Stegmann-Str.5, 26560 Juist, Tel. (0049) 4935 1595
  • Borkum ("Feuerschiff Borkumriff") 26757 Borkum, Tel. (0049) 4922 2030

National Park Guides are specially skilled and certified for guided tours in the National Park. For further information about routes and dates see

www.nationalpark-partner-nds.de (in German only)

or have a look on the local noticeboards.

Leaflets and other publications

are available at all the visitor centres, or can be ordered at the National Park Administration (see Service -> Publications on this website).

An overview of the National Park

Founded: 1986

Boundaries: Tidal mudflats, tidal creeks, salt marshes, dunes and beaches offshore from Lower Saxony between the Dollart and the estuary mouth of the Elbe, including the preliminary islands, flats and sandbanks

Area: about 3450 square kilometers consisting of:

* Restricted zone: 60.7 %
* Intermediate Zone: 38.7%
* Recreation zone: 0.6%

International Protection:

  • Wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Convention) since 1976
  • Part of the European sanctuary net "Natura 2000”
  • Biosphere reserve since 1993
  • World heritage since 2009

Local support and supervision:

* National Park Rangers
* Volunteer countryside rangers
* Police and Water Police
* NGOs (Nature conservation organisations)

The protected zones of the National Park

The National Park of Lower Saxony is divided in three zones.

• Restricted zone

The restricted zone covers the most sensitive areas of the National Park. The strictest rules on conservation apply here.

• Intermediate zone

Basically the same rules on conservation as in the restricted zone apply here, but walkers may leave marked paths. There may be exceptions to the restrictions, however, because of the lower sensitivity of the countryside.

• Recreation zone

Finding your way around

In the regional leaflets and on information boards you will find orientation maps about the area you are in. Zoning signs – white lettering on a blue background – give information about the character of the protected zone you are in and about special rules.

The permitted paths are marked by color-coded posts:

* Green for walks
* Red for horseriding

On the islands the paths over the dunes are marked by dunecrosses.

In the restricted zone and in the intermediate zone any actions which would destroy, damage or change the National Park or individual elements of it are prohibited:

* It is not permitted to disturb the peace of the natural surroundings.
* It is not permitted to disturb the animal life. Animals may not be tracked down, filmed or photographed in their breeding or living areas.
* Dogs must be kept on leads
* It is not permitted to fly kites or model aircraft.

To protect the environment the use of the restricted zone and the intermediate zone is restricted not only for recreation but also for agriculture, fishing, hunting, boats etc.

Step on the restricted zone

In the restricted zone please keep to the marked routes for hiking, biking, riding etc from where you will be able to enjoy nature without disturbing it. Take note of the separate local arrangements indicated.

Step on the intermediate zone

In the intermediate zone you may leave the marked paths for walking. The salt marshes are an exception. During the birds’ breeding and rearing season - the period from April 1st to July 31st - they may only be entered by the marked paths. Please keep in mind that you may only use marked paths for walking, cycling and riding. Fishing is allowed everywhere in the intermediate zone. For certain parts of the intermediate zone separate arrangements apply which are indicated by signs (e.g. no access to dunes because of coast protection).

Step on the recreation zone

The recreation zone is available for leisure and health purposes. In this area of the National Park all activities are allowed which are essential for a holiday on the North Sea coast – swimming, resting, relaxing in beach chairs, riding, fishing, collecting shells and playing sports on the beach.

Camping, caravans, noisy events, and off-road vehicles are not allowed.

You can also ask for the arrangements of the local health resort. Many of them offer special beaches or other areas for dog-owners and kite-fliers.

To protect wild animals, please make sure that your sporting and leisure activities do not disturb the adjoining restricted and intermediate zones. This applies, for example, to surfing and kite-flying.