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The Sauerland is a hill chain in the south-west of North Rhine-Westphalia. It's an area covered with a lot of forests, and is rather sparsely occupied.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Geography
3 Economy
4 Geology
5 External Link


The name Sauerland does not originate from the German word sauer meaning sour, but from the word sur from medieval Low German, meaning difficult. This indicates that in older times this area was difficult to travel through this land due to the hills and valleys.

Part of the Sauerland did belong to the earldom Mark which did originate in Altena; another part to the earldom Westphalia, which was owned by the bishops of Cologne. The dukedom Limburg was did cover a very small area in the lower Lenne river valley. After the Napoleonic Wars all the area did come to Prussia, as the new province Westphalia, which after World War II was incorporated into the new federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Today it is split among the districts Märkischer Kreis, Olpe and Hochsauerland, and the district-free city Hagen. Hagen calls itself "Gateway to the Sauerland". The western part of the Hessian district Waldeck-Frankenberg also considers itself to be part of the Sauerland.


In the west the hills are continued in the Bergisches Land, to the south the Siegerland, in the north-east it's continued by the Teutoburg Forest. The major rivers of the Sauerland are the Ruhr and the Lenne. Several smaller rivers were converted into artificial lakes by dams to store water for the nearby Ruhr area. The biggest of these lakes are those of the Möhne and Bigge.

The highest elevations of the Sauerland are the Langenberg (843m) near Olsberg, and much better known because of a weather observation station is the Kahler Asten (842m) near Winterberg. Both belong to the mountain range called Rothaargebirge.


The Sauerland is an old industrial region, iron ore together with the abundand wood and enough water make iron production start there long before the Ruhr area did start to grow due to the coal found there. Today there are only few remains of this early industry, only the wire production is still big in Altena.

The Sauerland today is a very touristic area. The forests and small cities make it very popular for hiking, and several of the cities have the title spa for the very good air quality. The higher elevations are also a popular winter sports area especially for dutch people. Famous is the bob track in Winterberg as well as the ski jumping in Willingen.


The Sauerland is part of the bigger hill chain called Rheinisches Schiefergebirge ('rhinian slate mountains'), which include the Bergisches Land, Westerwald, Siegerland, and separated by the Rhine valley the Eifel, High Venn and Hunsrück. Most of the stone was created in middle and upper Devonian time when the area was a shallow sea, thus limestone and slate are their most abundant stone. Some areas are karstified, and it has several caves, especially in the northern part. The hills began to be created in late Pliocene, only the Rothaargebirge is of younger age. Today the area is no longer uplifting.

External Link

Tourism website (German)