We had one of my sisters from the States visiting this week. This is her third time visiting us and we had tried to get to a beautiful gorge outside the nearby town of Dornbirn called the Rappenlochschlucht (Black stallion hole gorge). The gorge is one of the the largest in central Europe and is fed by the Dornbirner Ach (river). On her first visit it was closed due to the lingering winter conditions, and the second time it was closed due to an enormous rockslide that happens once a millennium. And what a rockslide it was! It was incredible to have seen the damage that a falling off of a large hunk of the rock slope created within the ravine. Luckily it happened when the gorge was closed and no one was injured. But nevertheless we were finally able to visit the lovely natural wonder. The pathways have been rebuilt at great cost and effort and the results are good. Unfortunately for one who has visited this site before the rockslide it’s a bit disappointing because the path has been diverted to run high up above the gorge and not down at the water level as it had been earlier. The gorge is at its best when one can view the towering rocks and waterfalls from the gorge floor. But there are still areas that one can view the the gorge at the base and can admire the enormity and marvel at the power of running water.
The force of the flowing water has been harnessed for hydroelectricity and its hundred year old power turbines are still in use today. The energy generated was originally used to power a well known textile plant that was located on the lower elevations of the gorge. In earlier times the textile industry was a great source of wealth within the region. And this is demonstrated by the Rolls Royce Museum and the Crib Museum that are located near the park entrance that earlier had belonged to the wealthy Hämmerle textile dynasty and is a testament to the money created from the water and textile combination. Today the collections are open to the public and are worth a peek. The energy generated in the present time is fed into the power grid of the state of Vorarlberg.
It was a good timing for a visit because it had been raining the past week and there was plenty of flowing H2O and it was especially dramatic. The gorge is all about water and more water. What’s really nice about this site is just how accessible it is. This proved to be helpful due to a ski injury my sister had suffered this past winter and her knee was still recovering but the path was very doable for her. The Rappenlochschlucht is a “show gorge” and has nicely laid out and clearly marked pathways with the occasional bench to rest or simply enjoy the view and it has two small kiosks where you can sit and have a coffee or a small snack. Also at the entrance of the gorge is a small restaurant with a beautiful view of cascading water that serves up good local fare. A visit to the natural beauty of the Rappenlochschulcht is a wonderful way to while away the afternoon.