Tour name: the Saale (Kaulsdorf – Orlamünde)
Degree of difficulty: easy
Tour length: 50km
GPS: route and track as GPX
“What is a canoe pass?”
During the research to plan our paddle tour on the Saale, we came across the term again and again. We did not find any answers and at some point stopped worrying about them.
It starts! In Kaulsdorf in Thuringia we let our two-seater kayak into the water. Actually, we wanted to start from the source of the Saale, but two short consecutive dams (Bleilochtalsperre and Hohenwartetalsperre) near the source would have resulted with a long walkaround, so we decided to star behind the dams.
The sky is cloudy. As we are sitting in the boat it starts to rain – and no, no warm summer rain! It pours from buckets! Rain jackets, as well as spray covers, fail miserably: in a few minutes, we are wet to the bone. We paddle faster so as not to cool down. Together with the flow of about 2km/h, we are doing pretty well.
Wild green sprawls on the riverbanks. We quickly forget that we are traveling in densely populated Germany and enjoy the silence of nature. The rain finally stops. Thick, white mist is rising. Occasionally we pass smaller towns and carry around a couple of times. All the landing stage are in a good shape, but because of the dense vegetation sometimes it not easy to find them.
Towards evening we reach Obernitz, a small village just before Saalfeld. Here we find a beautiful campsite next to a farm. After a nice conversation with the farmer, we set up our tent, dry our things and cook noodles.
We did not think much about the canoe pass … which will change soon …
The following day.
In bright sunshine, we crawl out of the tent. We hang the last things to dry up, make breakfast, filter water and then pack up. Our luggage disappears into the boat again. We are ready to leave!
After a short time, it is time! We reach our first canoe pass. Skeptical, I stare at the weir in front of us. So this is a canoe pass …
A narrow concrete channel is embedded in the weir, only recognizable from the kayak on the changed flow behavior at the edge. It allows kayakers to pass the weir without having to carry around.
Alternatively, there is always the possibility to get off the water on a landing stage just before the weir and still carry around. And that’s exactly what I’m planning! But sadly Christian had different plans … and unfortunately, we are sitting in a two-seat kayak … after some back and forth, I finally let myself be persuaded to have the very first canoe pass ride of my life …
We paddle towards the track. My heart is racing. Suddenly the boat nose stabs down. As in slow motion, I feel like we’re slowly tipping over the edge. I cling desperately to the paddle. Zack! A monster wave spills over us.
We made it and laugh like little kids !!
After we have pumped the water from the kayak, we go on. By the way, the large amount of water spilling into the boat when passing through a slipper is the reason why it is not recommended to pass by canoe.
The weather is nice today. Today we decided to just go with the flow and enjoy the sun. On the way we see Nutrias and a variety of birds – even a kingfisher is included! Overall, we pass on this day two more canoe passes and even if my adrenaline level rises again every time: Gradually I get used to the things!
We decide to spend the night in Uhlstädt (a bit behind Rudolstadt). Near the hydropower plant, we set up our tent and spread out for the night.
At half past five, it starts to rain again. Nevertheless, we break up the tent to continue. Unfortunately, the rain is getting stronger, so we are getting completely wet again. Although it is not very cold, we are cooling down more and more. The rising wind does the rest.
So we finally reach Ornamünde, from where Jarno picks us up by car.
The next day we drive into town and buy new, really water prove spraydecks – plus a new rain jacket for me.
More information about paddling on the Saale – The exact kilometer (with villages, campgrounds, landing stages and canoe passes) you can find here.