de:Sauerland The Sauerland is a hill chain in the south-west of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is an area covered with a lot of forests, and is sparsely inhabited.



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 belonged to the earldom Mark which originated in Altena; another part to the earldom Westphalia, which was owned by the bishops of Cologne. The dukedom Limburg covered a very small area in the lower Lenne river valley. After the Napoleonic Wars all the area became part of 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. The western part of the Hessian district Waldeck-Frankenberg also considers itself to be part of the Sauerland.


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Hills of the Sauerland

In the west the hills continue in the Bergisches Land, to the south in the Siegerland, and in the north-east 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. Much better known, because of its weather observation station, is the Kahler Asten (842m) near Winterberg. Both belong to the mountain range called the Rothaargebirge.


The Sauerland is an old industrial region, iron ore together with the abundant wood and enough water allowed iron production to begin there long before the Ruhr area started to grow due to its coal deposits. Today there are only few remains of this early industry; only wire production is still important 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 because of their very good air quality. The higher elevations are also a popular winter sports area, especially for Dutch people. The bob track in Winterberg is famous, as is 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 the most abundant stone. Some areas are karstified Sauerland has several caves, especially in the northern part. The hills began to be created in the late Pliocene; only the Rothaargebirge is of younger age. Today the area is no longer uplifting.

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