What is behind the Ritzensee recreation area?
A small lake with a big history
Whether in summer or winter, the Ritzensee is a popular recreation area at any time of the year. The lake offers numerous possibilities for locals and tourists, for example swimming in summer or ice skating and cross-country skiing in winter. However, how did the Ritzensee arise and what makes it so special?
A dream comes true
In 1953 the Ritzensee was still a large moorland with acidic meadows and therefore hardly usable for agriculture. Further, it had no greater purpose apart from the outlet of the Kühbühel ski jump in winter. Fortunately, there is art, which allows us to dream. In 1953 Oswald Putzer painted a picture of what the landscape would look like with a lake and called it "The dream of the Ritzensee". After only one year it came true, a dam was built to impound the water coming from the boggy meadows. The inhabitants gratefully accepted the new opportunity to go swimming and soon there was a lot of activity at the Ritzensee. The lake was named after Haimeram von Ritz, who acquired Grub Castle in 1603, which from then on was called Ritzen Castle. Later, the Ritzensee was completely emptied once again and further dredged to create even more space. The expansion was immediately used to install a monk. This is an adjustable outlet structure. This allows the water level to be controlled and simplifies emptying it in the future.
From an acidic meadow to new living creatures
Not only people enjoy the acquired lake, but the Ritzensee has also become an important habitat for animals. One advantage for the fish is that the lake warms up on its own very quickly after the winter months and has a high nutrient content. They are provided with a rich food supply and can therefore easily reproduce. The carp feel most at home in the Ritzensee, but there are also zander, pike, tench, bream and numerous small fish species. Besides the fish, there are other creatures to be found. In the reed zone you can discover different kinds of ducks and grouse. Last but not least, you can find endangered species, such as amphibians and dragonflies.
The first impression is deceptive
As mentioned earlier, the lake provides many nutrients for the inhabitants. This comes from the fact that there is a lot of plankton in the water. Most of the plankton consists of suspended algae, and these algae make the water colour a lot darker. Therefore, many people in the beginning express the statement that the lake is dirty and polluted, however, this is wrong. Rather we should be happy that the lake provides so much food for the surrounding wildlife.
All facts about the lake
Twice a year, the Ritzensee is examined by the Hydrological Investigation Office Salzburg. This means, that we are guaranteed safe swimming. In 2021 the results were even "very good" to "excellent". Occasionally, the water must be renewed of course, which takes about 7 months. In total, the lake has an area of about 5.2 hectares and the water volume is 115,000 m³. The deepest point is recorded at 6 meters, and the average depth is 2 meters. The length of the shoreline is 1.2 kilometres. Immediately you will notice several small islands in the lake which appear again and again. These are made of swollen mud and come to the surface through gases. As beautiful as they are, you should not play with them or come too close. Diving below can be fatal due to the gases.
Around the lake
Lake Ritzensee has a lot more to offer than just swimming. There is a lot to experience around the boggy water. The lido offers sunbathing areas, a children's pool, a playground for the little ones and even a nudist beach. Culinary delights can also be enjoyed; in addition to the small beach buffet, there is the Restaurant Ritzen with a great waterfront view. For the culture enthusiasts, there is the Schloss Ritzen Museum. If you are looking for more family fun activities, the miniature golf course right next to the lake is just spot on, and if you want to get some exercise before the recreational fun starts, the trail around the lake is a great option. After all, what could be better after a strenuous day in the mountains than a refreshing swim in the natural lake Ritzensee?
Photos: Oswald Putzer "The dream of Ritzensee", Michael Geißler, Christoph Partsch, Mattia Bonavida, Vincent Croce, Saalfelden Leogang Touristik with GoPro