Ore Mountains

Ore Mountains
Ore Mountains
Erzgebirge - Krušné hory
Water reservoir near Myslivny
Countries Czech Republic, Germany
Regions Karlovy Vary Region (Czech Rep.), Ústí n. L. Region (Czech Rep.), Saxony (Germany)
Highest point Klínovec
 - elevation 1,244 m (4,081 ft)
 - coordinates 50°23′46″N 12°58′04″E / 50.39611°N 12.96778°E / 50.39611; 12.96778
Geology sedimentary, metamorphic
and magmatic rocks
Orogeny Variscan
Period Paleozoic
Location in Germany
Location in the Czech Republic
Physical map

The Ore Mountains (German: Erzgebirge, Czech: Krušné hory) in Central Europe have formed a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia for many centuries. Today, the border between Germany and the Czech Republic runs just north of the main crest of the mountain range. The highest peaks are the Klínovec (German:Keilberg), which rises to 1,244 metres (4,081 ft) above sea level and the Fichtelberg (1,215 metres (3,986 ft)).

The area played an important role as the setting of the earliest stages of the early modern transformation of mining and metallurgy from a craft to a large-scale industry, a process that preceded and enabled the later industrial revolution.




The Ore Mountains are a Hercynian block tilted so as to present a steep scarp face towards Bohemia and a gentle slope on the German side.[1] They were formed during a lengthy process:

During the folding of the Hercynian mountains metamorphism occurred deep underground, forming crystalline slate and gneiss. In addition, large granite deposits are found in older magma bubbles. By the end of the Palaeozoic era, the mountains had been eroded into gently undulating hills (the Permian rump), exposing the hard rocks.

In the Tertiary period these mountain remnants came under heavy pressure as a result of plate tectonic processes during which the Alps were formed as the North American and Eurasian plates were separated. As the rock of the Ore Mountains was too brittle to be folded, it shattered into an independent fault block which was uplifted and tilted to the northwest. This can be very clearly seen at a height of 807 m above sea level on the mountain of Komáří vížka which lies east of Zinnwald-Georgenfeld on the Czech side, right on the edge of the fault block.

Consequently it is a fault-block mountain range which, today, has been incised by a whole range of river valleys whose rivers drain southwards into the Eger and northwards into the Mulde or directly into the Elbe. This process is known as dissection.

View from Mückentürmchen in the Eastern Ore Mountains to the west. Left: the escarpment descending to the Eger Graben; right: the gentle northern dip slope.

The Ore Mountains is geologically considered to be one of the most heavily researched mountain ranges in the world.

The most important rocks occurring in the Ore Mountains are schist, phyllite and granite with contact metamorphic zones in the west, basalt as remnants in the Pleßberg (Plešivec), Scheibenberg, Bärenstein, Pöhlberg, Velký Špičák (Großer Spitzberg or Schmiedeberger Spitzberg), Haßberg (Jelení hora) and Geisingberg as well as gneisses and rhyolite (Kahleberg) in the east. The soils consist of rapidly leaching grus. In the western and central areas of the mountains it is formed from weathered granite. Phyllite results in a loamy, rapidly weathered gneiss in the east of the mountains producing a light soil. As a result of the subsoils based on granite and rhyolite, the land is mostly covered in forest; on the gneiss soils it was possible to grow and cultivate flax in earlier centuries and, later, rye, oats and potatoes up to the highlands. Today the land is predominantly used for pasture. But it is not uncommon to see near-natural mountain meadows.

To the north of the Ore Mountains, west of Chemnitz and around Zwickau lies the Ore Mountain Basin which is only really known geologically. Here there are deposits of stone coal where mining has already been abandoned. A similar but smaller basin with abandoned coal deposits, the Döhlen Basin, is located southwest of Dresden on the northern edge of the Ore Mountains. It forms the transition to the Elbe Valley zone is also mainly known in geological circles.


The western part of the Ore Mountains is home to the two highest peaks of the range: Klínovec, located in the Czech part, with an altitude of 1,244 metres (4,081 ft) and Fichtelberg, the highest mountain of Saxony, at 1,214 metres (3,983 ft). The Ore Mountains is part of a larger mountain system and adjoins the Fichtelgebirge to the west and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains to the east. Past the River Elbe, the mountain chain continues as the Lusatian Mountains. While the mountains slope gently away in the northern (German) part, the southern (Czech) slopes are rather steep.


The Ore Mountains and several bordering landscapes
Motif on the Joachimsthaler Straße near Breitenbrunn/Erzgeb.

The Ore Mountains is oriented in a southwest-northeast direction and is about 150 km long and, on average, about 40 km wide. From a geomorphological perspective it is divided into the Western, Central and Eastern Ore Mountains, separated by the valleys of the Schwarzwasser and Zwickauer Mulde and the Flöha ("Flöha Line"), the division of the western section along the River Schwarzwasser is of a more recent date. The Eastern Ore Mountains mainly comprise large, gently climbing plateaus, in contrast with the steeper and higher-lying western and central areas, and are dissected by river valleys that frequently change direction. The crest of the mountains themselves forms, in all three regions, a succession of plateaux and individual peaks.

To the east it is adjoined by the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and, to the west, by the Elstergebirge and other Saxon parts of the Vogtland. South(east) of the Central and Eastern Ore Mountains lies the North Bohemian Basin and, immediately east of that, the Bohemian Central Uplands which are separated from the Eastern Ore Mountains by narrow fingers of the aforementioned basin. South(east) of the Western Ore Mountains lie the Sokolov Basin, the Eger Graben and the Doupov Mountains. To the north the boundary is less sharply defined because the Ore Mountains, a typical example of a fault-block, descend very gradually.

The topographical transition from the Western and Central Ore Mountains to the loess hill country to the north between Zwickau and Chemnitz is referred to as the Ore Mountain Basin; that from the Eastern Ore Mountains as the Ore Mountain Foreland. Between Freital and Pirna, the area is called the Dresden Ore Mountain Foreland (Dresdner Erzgebirgsvorland) or Bannewitz-Possendorf-Burkhardswald Plateau (Bannewitz-Possendorf-Burkhardswalder Plateau). Geologically the Ore Mountains reach the city limits of Dresden at the Windberg hill near Freital and the Karsdorf Fault. The V-shaped valleys of the Ore Mountains break through this fault and the shoulder of the Dresden Basin.

The Ore Mountains belong to the Bohemian Massif within Europe's Central Uplands, a massif that also includes the Upper Palatine Forest, the Bohemian Forest, the Bavarian Forest, the Lusatian Mountains, the Iser Mountains, the Giant Mountains and the Inner-Bohemian Mountains. At the same time it forms a y-shaped mountain chain, along with the Upper Palatine Forest, Bohemian Forest, Fichtelgebirge, Franconian Forest, Thuringian Slate Mountains and Thuringian Forest, that has no unique name but is, climatically, very uniform.

According to cultural tradition, Zwickau is seen historically as part of the Ore Mountains, Chemnitz is seen historically as just lying outside them, but Freiberg is included. The supposed limit of the Ore Mountains continues, southwest of Dresden, to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. From this perspective, its main characteristics, i.e. gently-sloping plateaus climbing up to the ridgeline incised by V-shaped valleys, continue to the southern edge of the Dresden Basin. North of the Ore Mountains the landscape gradually transitions into the Saxon Lowland and Saxon Elbeland. Its cultural-geographical transition to Saxon Switzerland in the area of the Müglitz and Gottleuba valleys is very indistinct

Notable peaks

The Fichtelberg-Keilberg Massif

The highest mountain in the Ore Mountains is the Klínovec (German: Keilberg) at 1,244 metres in the Bohemian part of the range. The highest elevation on the Saxon side and at the same time the highest mountain in East Germany is the 1,215 metre high Fichtelberg. The Ore Mountains has about thirty summits with a height of over 1,000 m above sea level, but not all are clearly defined mountains. Most of them occur around the Klínovec and the Fichtelberg. About a third lie on the Saxon side of the border.

See: List of mountains in the Ore Mountains

Important rivers

Stein Castle on the Zwickauer Mulde

From west to east:

Natural regions

The natural regions in the Ore Mountains

In the division of Germany into natural regions by Meynen and others, that was carried out Germany-wide in the 1950s, the Ore Mountains were major unit group 42:

  • 42 Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge)
    • 420 Southern slopes of the Ore Mountains (Südabdachung des Erzgebirges)
    • 421 Upper Western Ore Mountains (Oberes Westerzgebirge)
    • 422 Upper Eastern Ore Mountains (Oberes Osterzgebirge)
    • 423 Lower Western Ore Mountains (Unteres Westerzgebirge)
    • 424 Lower Eastern Ore Mountains (Unteres Osterzgebirge)

Even after the reclassification of natural regions by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in 1994 the Ore Mountains, region D16, remained a major unit group with almost unchanged boundaries. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the working group, Naturhaushalt und Gebietscharakter of the Saxon Academy of Sciences (Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften) in Leipzig added to the Ore Mountains the major unit group of Vogtland to the west and the major landscape units of Saxon Switzerland, Lusatian Highlands and Zittau Mountains to the east into one overarching unit, the Saxon Highlands and Uplands. In addition, its internal divisions were changed. Former major unit 420 was grouped with the western part of major units 421 and 423 to form a new major unit, the Western Ore Mountains (Westerzgebirge), the eastern part of major units 421 and 423 became the Central Ore Mountains (Mittelerzgebirge) and major units 422 and 424 became the Eastern Ore Mountains (Osterzgebirge).

The current division therefore looks as follows:[2]

  • Saxon Highlands and Uplands (Sächsisches Bergland und Mittelgebirge)

The geographic unit of the Southern Slopes of the Ore Mountains remains unchanged under the title of Southern Ore Mountains (Süderzgebirge).


The Stürmer in winter

The climate of the higher regions of the Ore Mountains is markedly harsh in character. Temperatures are considerably lower all year round than in the lowlands and the summer is noticeably shorter and cool days are frequent. The average annual temperatures only reach values of 3 to 5 °C. In Oberwiesenthal, which lies at a height of 922 m above sea level, there are an average of only about 140 frost-free days per year. That said, based on the reports of earlier chroniclers the climate of the upper Ore Mountains in past centuries must have been even harsher than it is today. Sources from earlier periods describe hard winters in which cattle froze to death in their stalls and even in April so much snow fell that houses and cellars were snowed in. The population was regularly cut off from the outside world.[3] The upper Ore Mountains was often given the nickname Saxon Siberia in the past.

The fault block mountain range that climbs from northwest to southeast, and which enables prolonged rain to fall as orographic rain when weather systems drive in from the west and northwest, gives rise to precipitation almost twice as high as that in the lowlands which rises to over 1,100 mm on the upper reaches of the mountains. Since a large part of the precipitation falls as snow, in many years a thick and permanent layer of snow remains until April. The ridges of the Ore Mountains are one of the snowiest areas in the German Central Uplands. Foehn winds, and also the so-called Bohemian Wind may occur during certain specific southerly weather conditions.

As a result of the climate and the heavy amounts of snow there is near Satzung, in the border region with Bohemia, at just under 900 m above sea level a natural Dwarf Mountain Pine region. By comparison, in the Alps these pines do not occur until 1,600 to 1,800 m above sea level.


Silver from the Freiberg district, Erzgebirge

Up to the Middle Ages, the Ore Mountains were virtually unsettled and covered with dense forests. However, when silver and tin ore deposits were discovered in the region in the 15th century, people started inhabiting the mountains and founding new cities. Because of its rich mineral resources including fluorspar, iron, copper, cobalt and uranium, as well as silver and tin, the German-speaking population has called the range Erzgebirge, which literally means "ore mountain range". Silver found in Joachimsthal was used to mint coins known as (Joachims)Thaler, from which the word "dollar" is derived.

The mountains were rich not only in silver, but also in uranium, as was discovered in the 19th century. After World War II, Soviet experts searched for remnants of the German nuclear energy project to support the Soviet atomic bomb project. A mining company called SDAG Wismut (named after bismuth, but the name was a cover-up for the Eastern Bloc's highly secretive uranium mining) operated until the fall of communism, causing environmental damage.

As the ore deposits and the related business often declined, former miners had to look for new ways to feed their families in an area largely unsuited for agriculture; also, as women historically could not work in mines, they had to find other ways of adding something to the family income. In addition to lace making and weaving, the inhabitants went into wood carving, producing toys and religious figures. Thus, the Ore Mountain region became famous for many Christmas traditions. Nutcrackers, "Räuchermänner", "Christmas pyramids" (carousels with figures of the Christmas story or from mining) and Schwibbogen (wooden arcs with candles in the windows, representing a mine entrance) are some of many Christmas goods made in the Ore Mountains. Seiffen in the Eastern Ore Mountains is a centre of the wooden toy industry.


The upper western part of the Ore Mountains, known in German as Erzgebirge, belongs to the Ore Mountains/Vogtland Nature Park. The eastern part, called the Eastern Ore Mountains (Osterzgebirge), is a protected landscape. Further small areas are nature reserves and natural monuments, and are protected by the state.

Mining and Pollution

Ever since the settlement in mediaeval times, the Ore Mountains were farmed intensively. This led to widespread clearings of the originally thick forest, also to keep up with enormous need for wood in mining and metallurgy and mining, including dumps, impoundments, and ditches in many places, also directly shaped the scenery and the biospheres of plants and animals.

The first evidences for local forest dieback due to the fume of cottages arose in the 19th century. In the 20th century, several crests were deforested because of their climatically bad location. Thus, in recent years, mixed forests are cultivated instead of monocultures of spruces because the mixed forests are more resistant to weather effects and pests.

The Ore Mountains/Vogtland Nature Park

Nevertheless, human interventions have created a unique cultural landscape in which a large number of typical biotopes which are worthy of protection such as mountain meadows and rare wetlands which partly had become rare. Today, even old leftovers from former mining offer a living environment for a lot of plants and animals. Mostly in the west of the Ore Mountains, there are huge woodlands on stretch in the highest position which are all used for forestry. So the major part of the natural park The Ore Mountains/Vogtland Nature Park is covered with woodland to 61 percent. Moreover, here are lying several lager moors which are only fed by rain water. In a lot of these different areas which are under protection rare and sophisticated species like different species of orchids and gentian, the Eurasian Pygmy Owl and kingfisher find a place of retreat. The existence of some alpine species of plants and animals is known in the heights of the mountains further proven existence of these species is only known to be found at the Sudeten mountains or the Alps. After the improvement of living condition once displaced animals such as eagle owls and the Black Stork came back in recent years.



The mountains are a popular winter sports resort.


View from the mountain Auersberg (1019m).

See also


  1. ^ Elkins, T H (1972). Germany (3rd ed.). London: Chatto & Windus, p. 291. ASIN B0011Z9KJA.
  2. ^ Map of natural regions in Saxony at www.umwelt.sachsen.de (pdf, 859 kB)
  3. ^ Athenaum sive Universitas Boemo-Zinnwaldensis von 1717, published by Peter Schenk.
  4. ^ a b c d Deutscher Wetterdienst, Normalperiode 1961-1990


  • Harald Häckel, Joachim Kunze: Unser schönes Erzgebirge. 4th edition, Häckel 2001, ISBN 3-9803680-0-9
  • Peter Rölke (Hrsg.): Wander- & Naturführer Osterzgebirge, Berg- & Naturverlag Rölke, Dresden 2007, ISBN 978-3-934514-20-1
  • Müller, Ralph u.a.: Wander- & Naturführer Westerzgebirge, Berg- & Naturverlag Rölke, Dresden 2002, ISBN 3-934514-11-1
  • NN: Kompass Karten: Erzgebirge West, Mitte, Ost. Wander- und Radwanderkarte 1:50.000, GPS kompatibel. Kompass Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-85491-954-9
  • NN: Erzgebirge, Vogtland, Chemnitz. HB Bildatlas, Heft No. 171. 2., akt. Aufl. 2001, ISBN 3-616-06271-3
  • Peter Rochhaus: Berühmte Erzgebirger in Daten und Geschichten. Sutton Verlag, Erfurt 2006, ISBN 978-3-86680-020-5
  • Siegfried Roßberg: Die Entwicklung des Verkehrswesens im Erzgebirge - Der Kraftverkehr. Bildverlag Böttger, Witzschdorf 2005, ISBN 3-9808250-9-4
  • Bernd Wurlitzer: Erzgebirge, Vogtland. Marco Polo Reiseführer. 5., akt. Aufl. Mairs Geographischer Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-8297-0005-9

External links

Coordinates: 50°35′N 13°00′E / 50.583°N 13°E / 50.583; 13

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ore Mountains — ▪ mountain range, Europe Czech  Krušné Hory , German  Erzgebirge        range of hills bounding the Bohemian Massif, extending 100 miles (160 km) along the German Czech border, and reaching an average width of 25 miles (40 km). The Bohemian… …   Universalium

  • Ore Mountains — …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Eastern Ore Mountains — Map of the natural regions in the Ore Mountains The Eastern Ore Mountains (German: Osterzgebirge) form a natural region that covers the eastern part (in area almost the eastern half) of the Saxon Ore Mountains. It is part of the major landscape… …   Wikipedia

  • Portal:Ore Mountains — Shortcut: P:ORE < Quick index < Portals < Geography < Europe < Germany < Ore Mountains Welc …   Wikipedia

  • Central Ore Mountains — Map of natural regions in the Ore Mountains The Central or Middle Ore Mountains (German: Mittlere Erzgebirge or Mittelerzgebirge) is a natural region that forms the central western part of the Ore Mountains in the German federal state of Saxony.… …   Wikipedia

  • Slovak Ore Mountains — The Slovenské rudohorie or Slovak Ore Mountains is an extensive mountainous region of Slovakia s Spiš region within the Carpathians. It is the largest mountain range in Slovakia. In the geomorphological system, the Slovenské rudohorie belongs to… …   Wikipedia

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  • Ore Mountain Club — Founded 5 May 1878 (Schneeberg); 19 June 1955 (Frankfurt/Main west); 21 April 1990 (Zschorlau newly founded in the east); 12 October 1991 (Eibenstock reunification) Based in Schneeberg …   Wikipedia