The origin of the gorge
Before the Ice-Age, the Partnach still flowed in the valley of the present Ferchenbach eastwards, finding its way via Klais and Krün, and joining there the Isar. Geologists assume that a locking element made of shell limestone near Graseck then blocked the way into the Loisachtal – only a rivulet led in the present direction of the Partnach. With time, this rivulet dug deeper into the rock creating a pre-prepared bed into which the Partnach broke and in the course of thousands of years allowed the development of the rock layers and form of the present Gorge.
The origin of the Partnach lies in the Reintal which counts amongst the most beautiful high-lying valleys of the Northern Limestone Alps. From here, as a natural outflow of the Schneeferner – the remainder of the Ice-Age glacier on the Zugspitzplatt – it leads its icy water through the romantic Reintal. After having passed the Reintalangerhütte but before taking an underground course for several hundred meters in the “Steingerümpel”, the Partnach plunges steeply into depth at the Partnachfall. At the Bockhütte it streams through the back and middle Gorge, which both are however not walkable. Shortly before entry into the Partnach Gorge, it is still powerfully supplied with water.
Development for Tourism
From 1910 to 1912, under the most difficult conditions and with high financial expenditure, the development of the up to 80-metre-deep Partnach Gorge for tourism started. In the truest meaning of the word, the trailblazer for the development was in 1885 a devastating windthrow in the woods of the Partnach and Ferchen valleys as well as in the Schachen region above the Reintal. Back then, the first efforts were made to install footbridges through the inaccessible Partnacht Gorge to facilitate the wood driving. In 1886, a makeshift passage could be created by installing iron supports in the steep rock walls just above the river, which were covered with wooden planks. On this Triftsteig the woodworkers stood and guided with their Grieshaken the trunks floating through the Gorge. Remains of the former wood driving installation are still recognizable today. Before then, the dangerous driving track was mainly used by hunters and forestry workers.
With the continuously growing tourism, an increasing number of daredevil tourists also discovered the Partnach Gorge, so that in 1912 it was developed for visitors as a natural monument. In 1930, it became walkable in winter too, and thus the attractive ice formations in the winterly Gorge were accessible. Today the Partnach Gorge belongs to the most impressive gorges of the Bavarian Alps which fascinate over 200 000 visitors each year.
The Partnach Gorge gained great economic importance, when the deforestation for burning and construction wood from the Ferchental, Reintal and Stuiben regions was allowed by the Freising bishops, and the trunks had to be transported – floated or driven – into the valley through the Gorge.
The water wood, as it is called in contrast to the mountain wood which is transported with horse-drawn sledges, was transported in Spring, because at that time the water course was the strongest due to the melting of the snow. For this purpose, after felling the tree trunks were sawn into one metre lengths, thrown into the Partnach and the Ferchenbach and washed into the valley. When the trunks were slammed against the rocks or were wedged into each other, the woodworkers had to risk their lives to get the wood trunks going again with so-called “Grieshaken” (long wood bars with an iron spike at their tips). For this purpose, they were abseiled on a type of stool with a little roof which protected against falling rocks.
The wood trunks continued in a branch-off which had been created by a sluice near the wood oven at the upper Partnach Bridge and led into a sandy area, which stood partly under water. Here the trunks were pulled onto land, stacked and measured by the forestry officials.
This hard and dangerous work was carried out until the beginning of the sixties of the last century. Then the Reintal and its side valleys were opened up with large forest roads, on which the wood trunks could be transported by land. Today only the names “Triftstraße” and “Am Holzofen” remind us of the wood driving in the Partnach Gorge as “Kohlstattstraße” reminds us of the once existant charcoal pit at the Triftplatz. Here the charcoal burners produced charcoal in kilns.
A quite different type of economic use of the Partnach and its alpine tributaries was, by the way, seriously considered in 1949. At this time, the plan emerged to build a 110-meter-high dam so that a giant reservoir would have been created from the total front part of the Reintal and the Ferchenbachtal. In the Wildenau a power station was to produce electricity for the Bavarian power supply. There was massive opposition against this large-scale project, and it was never realized.
Rockfall of 1991
On the 01-06-1991 approximately 5,000 m3 of rock broke from a rock wall at the Southern end of the Gorge and blocked off the previous walkway system and the water course. Fortunately, nobody was harmed. Due to the rockfall, a small natural reservoir was formed, and the Partnach Gorge cleaved its way through the giant rock blocks. Since 1992, a 108 m long gallery, blasted into the rock, now leads past the rock masses and the reservoir and through windows provides a view of this natural event without any risk.
The water wood, as it was called in contrast to the mountain wood transported by horse-drawn sleighs, was drifted in the spring. There, due to the melting of the snow, the watercourse was at its strongest. When the logs were pushed up against the rocks or got wedged into each other, woodworkers had to be roped down into the gorges on a kind of chair that protected against falling rocks with a small roof. Thus, at the risk of their lives, the workers in the Mitter and Hinterklamm gorges in the front Reintal valley and in the Partnachklamm gorge, when there was still no path leading through it, tried to get the timber moving again using Grieshaken - these were long wooden poles with an iron spike at the tip.
At the Holzhof near the upper Partnach bridge (today it is the site of the state vocational school), a sluice blocked the course of the Partnach and diverted its water into a side branch. This was closed off with a rake and the timbers were washed onto a partially submerged sandy area. There they could be pulled ashore, stacked and measured by forestry officials. The importance of drifting was not lost until the beginning of the 1960s, when the Rein valley and its side valleys were opened up by large forest roads. Today, only the names "Triftstraße" and "Am Holzhof" remind us of the former timber yard. The Kohlstattstraße is a reminder of the coal site that also existed at the Triftplatz. Here charcoal burners produced charcoal in kilns.