Biosphere Reserve

For a long time the last refuge of the Elbe beaver, in 1979 the Steckby-Lödderitz Forest was designated one of the first German biosphere reserves. Expanded ever further over the years, today the UNESCO Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve, with its diverse floodplain landscapes, extends along the Elbe and Mulde rivers throughout Saxony-Anhalt.

Perhaps its most beautiful and diverse part can be found in Dessau and its surrounding area. Quiet lakes and flood channels, inland dunes and wet meadows, mighty oaks and rolling pastures, rare plants and animals characterise the landscape that forms the backdrop to the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz.

The Auenhaus, the visitor centre run by the Biosphere Reserve administration, provides information about the landscape and, in a spacious outdoor area, the opportunity to observe beavers in their natural habitat.

The grand tradition of river navigation and shipbuilding is still perpetuated even today, especially in Roßlau in the Navigation Museum and at the Schifferfest, or Boatmen’s Festival.

Of rivers, forests and beavers

The Auenhaus

How does the floodplain landscape that characterises Dessau-Rosslau “work”? What makes the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve so special? What animals live and what plants grow there? How has man changed the landscape? The Auenhaus, the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve visitor centre, provides the answers to these questions in demonstrative fashion.

In an exhibition pavilion, the information is presented in a vivid way both for children and adults. Outdoors, visitors can rest in an idyllic cottage garden, or explore a miniature version of a lake.

An adventure trail starting at the Auenhaus takes you through tactile paths and a pine maze right into the realm of the beaver. The extensive outdoor area does not restrict the animals. They can fell trees and build dams to their hearts’ content and, with a bit of luck, you might get a glimpse of family life in the lodge of the Elbe beaver.

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A near-natural river in the centre of Germany


Anyone familiar with other rivers in Germany will be surprised at the view of the Elbe at Dessau-Roßlau. Largely unspoilt, it flows in wide meanders through one of the last great floodplain forest ecosystems in Central Europe.

To get a first impression of the river, we recommend a visit to the Kornhaus. From its terrace, a broad vista offers itself up to you. In the summer, you can enjoy the most beautiful sunsets anywhere in the town here.

If you want to explore the rich natural and cultural landscape, the best way is by bike.

The riparian forests and meadows here in the Middle Elbe are unique in Europe for their mix of species and provide a habitat for a great diversity of plants and animals.

The nature conservation organisation WWF has worked since 1990 to develop this now rare habitat and protect it for the long term. Various cycle and hiking paths lead through the heart of the biosphere reserve, giving visitors the chance to see the results of decades of nature conservation work first-hand.

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, a combination of natural and cultural landscapes, also borders the river, constantly surprising visitors with its classical sculptures, outdoor seats and buildings – Prince Franz of Anhalt himself recognised the beauty of the landscape and set his Garden Kingdom in it.

And once you’re on your bike, it’s worth making the detour to the nearby towns of Aken or Coswig, to be silently ferried over with one of the current-powered reaction ferries.

But for canoeists especially, the river’s near-natural banks and low traffic offer ideal conditions. Here, you can simply let yourself drift along. Leopold Harbour offers recreational sailors moorings for sailing boats and for yachts large and small.

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Nature experiences in the middle of the city


The Mulde is the second major river in Dessau-Roßlau. It rises southeast of Leipzig as a merger of the Freiberg and Zwickau Mulde rivers and flows into the Elbe in Dessau-Roßlau.

The Mulde can be particularly enjoyed in the Tiergarten. The extensive floodplain landscape is characterized by old oak avenues and solitary oaks as well as many tributaries and oxbow lakes of the Mulde.

Below the Tiergarten Bridge, a fish ladder enables salmon, among others, to find their way to their spawning grounds.


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Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve Administration

Am Kapenschlösschen 1
06785 Oranienbaum-Wörlitz

Phone +49 34904 4061-0

Opening hours Auenhaus

To visit the information centre Auenhaus, you need to book a time slot in advance by phone (+49 34904 40610) or by mail  (

May to October

Mon — Fri
Sat, Sun, Public holidays
10.00 a. m. — 5.00 p. m.
11.00 a. m. — 5.00 p. m.
November to April 
Mon — Fri10.00 a. m. — 4.00 p. m.

Entrance free!