Kaprun Dam, Austria


A popular day-trip in Southern Salzburg, the mountainous part of the province Salzburgerland, takes visitors to the dramatic region around Kaprun.  Here there are two large dams and water reservoirs that keep a hydroelectric power plant running.  The result is a very scenic piece of landscape shaped both by nature and man.


For Austrians, the history of the Kaprun Dams is closely linked with the Nazi past of the country.  Construction work of the Kaprun Dams was finished in 1938, after the Nazis had announced plans for a "Tauernkraftwerk" power plant.  But the Nazi architects had failed to present detailed plans for power plant construction, and they decided to pursue development of the plant.


During the war, the Nazis transferred thousands of slave laborers to Kaprun where they worked under very harsh conditions.  Despite supply problems towards the end of the war, the first unit of the Kaprun Hauptstufe power plant "went online" in 1944.


After the war ended the construction of the Kaprun dams stopped.  Only two years later, in 1947, it was taken up again and advanced quickly:  In 1951, the 120 m high Limberg wall was finished and one year later, the main power plant of Kaprun started to operate.  In 1950, the construction of the second Kaprun Dam had started: Kaprun Oberstufe. It was finished five years later and made the ensemble complete.  Kaprun Oberstufe and Hauptstufe are connected through a 12 kilometre long tunnel.


After the opening, the Kaprun power plants quickly became icons of post-war reconstruction and the involvement of the Nazis was ignored.  Only in the past 20 years have Austrians grown more aware of the contribution from slave labour which enabled the Nazis to build the first Kaprun dam so damn quickly.

Today, the Kaprun power plants produce 700 kWh a year, which makes them an important element in Salzburg′s power supply.  Most of the water in the Kaprun reservoir, by the way, has come off the Pasterze glacier by Mount Großglockner.  If you plan a trip to the power plants, make the town of Kaprun your starting point. 


A bus takes visitors to the base camp of the Lächwand elevator, Europe′s longest diagonal outdoor elevator. It takes you from the base camp (1,209 metres) to the mountain base (1,640 metres), right trough one of Salzburg′s most dramatic mountain sceneries. From here, a bus will take you to theWasserfallboden Reservoir and the Mooserboden Reservoir, the latter one at 2,040 metres. Guided tours take you directly to the Kaprun Dams, a visitor centre presents a modern exhibition on the geography, history and technology behind the Kaprun power plants.


The above shot is of the Wasserfallboden Reservoir, all the other ones used in this post are of the Mooserboden Reservoir.  The people give an idea as to the scale of this place - it's huge!

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For a list of Ian Cook's photography and TravelGumbo contributions, please click on this link.


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