Lower Oder Valley National Park is a special place. Germany’s only wetland national park is filled with water, reclaimed land, incredible views, and unique wildlife. Nestled against the border of Poland, the park is one of the most incredible wild destinations in all of northeast Germany.
Unexpected eastern Germany
When most people think of east Germany, they think of Berlin, or Dresden, or the brooding forests and ancient rivers near the Czechia frontier. They rarely think of one of Germany’s most beautiful national parks.
Which is all the better, if you’re an adventurous traveler. Lower Oder Valley National Park is a gem, and you may just have the place to yourself if you’re there on the right day. Frequently flooded (with water, not visitors) during the spring, the park’s vast wetlands are made up of a mixture of salt and fresh water – which makes it unique in all of Germany.
Also fascinating: the park shares a border with Poland, and staff work with their Polish counterparts to manage the vast natural reserve (as you’ve probably notice, birds pay no attention whatsoever to borders). Visitors, too, can easily move back and forth between the two countries while visiting the park.
There is also wildlife, and lots of it. More than 280 species of birds (which make up about half of that number), mammals, and amphibians can be found in the park. In the spring and autumn, the place is filled with migrating ducks, cranes, and geese. Some days, it feels like paradise.
Wild Forest Trail
One of the highlights of Lower Oder Valley National Park is the aptly named Wild Forest Trail. This seven-kilometer parth roams through dense forest and past beautiful floodplains. You can (and will) feel completely alone and part of the natural environment, all at the same time.
The Wild Forest Trail is brilliant during any season, even winter. The best part? Depending on when you go, you’ll see different plants, flowers, birds, leaf colors, and much more. The trail also winds through the what are aspirationally called the Densen Mountains. They’re not really mountains – more like little rounded hills. But the place is so beautiful, you won’t mind.
Mescherin Observation Tower
Even if you would never consider yourself a birdwatcher, the Mescherin Observation Tower is a must-do. It’s an excellent feat of architecture (kids, especially, love running up and down the sort-of steep steps), and sits right next to the Oder, the river from which the park takes its name.
Once you stomp up to the top, stop and take in the view. The tower offers magnificent perspectives over the Staffede Polder (which is a piece of land that has been reclaimed from a natural body of water). From up top, you get an incredible feel for the richness and diversity of Lower Oder Valley National Park.
Warm weather tip: take a guided canoe tour
When the weather is warm (generally from mid-July to mid-November), visitors can take guided canoe tours of Lower Oder Valley National Park. This is an outstanding way to get up close and personal with all the wonders that surround you, and to learn a ton about them in the process. Sometimes, you’ll literally almost run into a beaver (though the birds generally don’t get too close).
For safety reasons, only guided tours are allowed. Because the marshland is maze-like, only park staff are allowed to put canoes in the water.
Getting to Lower Oder Valley National Park
By car, the park is 7 hours from Kaiserslautern or Stuttgart, and 6.5 hours from Wiesbaden. The park also makes for a great day trip from Berlin: it’s only an hour away by car.